Over The Moon

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Over The Moon : Phrases


Very happy or delighted.



This phrase has been part of the language for more than a century. It has become more widely used in the past twenty or thirty years, since it was adopted by English football (no, not soccer please - the game is called football) managers when interviewed after 'the boys' managed a victory.

The increased use of televised post-match interviews and hours of studio commentary during the 1970s brought many football managers before the cameras. These days such men are likely to be cultured and erudite Frenchmen or Spaniards. Before that they were usually British ex-footballers who had left schools in the English or Scottish back streets early to play football. It's fair to say that many of them had a poor grasp of the finer points of English grammar.

Two of the best-known English football managers of recent years, who have maintained the English tradition with their engagingly entertaining way of mangling the language, are Ron Atkinson and Terry Venables. The list of quotations from them is long and includes:

"The Spaniards have been reduced to aiming aimless balls into the box." (Atkinson)

"If you can't stand the heat in the dressing room, get out of the kitchen." (Venables)

"If Glenn Hoddle said one word to his team at half time, it was concentration and focus." (Atkinson)

"I felt a lump in my throat as the ball went in." (Venables)

The humorous magazine Private Eye picked up on these and began publishing them in its Colemanballs column. The name was taken from the sports commentator David Coleman, who could give even the managers a run for their money:

"Nottingham have now lost six matches in a row without winning." (Coleman)

I was really Private Eye's lampooning that made this phrase popular. There is an associated phrase, 'sick as a parrot', which was used when 'the boys' lost. This has a much shorter pedigree and it's quite likely that it was invented by a writer at Private Eye rather than on the football pitch. It certainly gained currency because The Eye always printed the two phrases together in their parodies. 'Sick as a parrot' was probably influenced the the famous Monty Python 'Dead Parrot' sketch, which could be quoted verbatim by many in the UK at the time and which remains one of the most popular sketches ever shown on British TV.

Well, that's the last thirty years. The actual origin is from much earlier and, although not widely used before the 1970s, it would have been familiar to all who grew up in Britain in the 20th century. Why, because it comes from the well-known 16th century nursery rhyme Hey diddle, diddle - originally written as High, diddle, diddle :

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such fun
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

The rhyme is quite probably nonsense and has no agreed meaning. The 'over the moon' line did however soon came to be associated with excitement and energy. That's evidenced by one of the earliest citations of the phrase in print - Charles Molloy's The Coquet, or, The English Chevalier, 1718:

"Tis he! I know him now: I shall jump over the Moon for Joy!"
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