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Close But No Tomato

Lucy, a middle-school student in San Diego, California, is puzzled by a phrase her mother uses when something is not quite up to snuff or falls short of the mark: close, but no tomato. It appears to be a variant of close, but no cigar, a phrase...

Close, But No Cigar

The saying “close but no cigar” comes from the famous carnival game wherein a bold fellow tries to swing a sledgehammer hard enough to make a bell ring. The winner of the game, which was popular around 1900, would win a cigar. The game...

Calliopes

A calliope — that organ often found on steamboats or at circuses — ends like Penelope, not cantaloupe. The word originally comes from the Greek muse of eloquence and epic poetry, though the sound of a calliope today is associated more with carnival...

This and That Word Quiz

Our Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game using three-word phrases linked by the word and. For example, what idiom could be described literally as a country carnival found in the center of town? Hint: this phrase could also be used to describe a good...

joint

joint  n.— Note: The Historical Dictionary of American Slang dates this use of “joint” meaning “a carnival booth or concession” to 1894. «Dodson joined the Louisiana fair Wednesday.…Before working the games...

whining

whining  n.— «St Lucians usually only need the sound of two sticks beating together to start “whining”—around here that’s patois for “shakin’ your booty.”» —“Cricket carnival can’t cajole Castries” by Chris...