Posted by: episystechpubs | January 17, 2017

Editor’s Corner: “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.”

Today’s idiom (or colloquialism or proverb) is “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Rather than my own simple definition of this phrase, I thought I’d give you Wikipedia’s version, complete with a photo of an “ample” lady, post-song.

From Wikipedia:

It ain’t over till (or until) the fat lady sings is a colloquialism and has been classified as a proverb. It means that one should not presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress. More specifically, the phrase is used when a situation is (or appears to be) nearing its conclusion. It cautions against assuming that the current state of an event is irreversible and clearly determines how or when the event will end. The phrase is most commonly used in association with organized competitions, particularly sports.

The phrase is generally understood to be referencing the stereotypically overweight sopranos of the opera. The imagery of Richard Wagner’s opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and its last part, Götterdämmerung, is typically the one used in depictions accompanying reference to the phrase. The "fat lady" is the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, who is traditionally presented as a very buxom lady with horned helmet, spear and round shield (although Amalie Materna played Brünnhilde during Wagner’s lifetime (1876) with a winged helmet). Her aria lasts almost twenty minutes and leads directly to the end of the whole Ring Cycle. As Götterdämmerung is about the end of the world (or at least the world of the Norse gods), in a very significant way "it is [all] over when the fat lady sings."

Amalie Materna as the Valkyrie Brünnhilde (1876)

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services


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