‘it is all over bar the shouting’: meaning and origin

The phrase it is all over bar, or except, (the) shouting is used when the result of a contest or the outcome of an action appears certain.

In early use, this phrase often occurred as it is all over but (the) shouting.

 

ORIGIN OF THE PHRASE

 

In several 19th-century texts, the phrase is associated with the image of throwing up one’s hat, which indicates that the noun shouting denotes a loud and enthusiastic show of appreciation.

These are three texts in which the phrase is associated with the image of throwing up one’s hat:

1 & 2-: From advertisements for Candour, published in Bell’s Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle (London, England):

1-: Of Sunday 28th September 1851:

TIP for the MILLION.—CANDOUR will send you a horse now at 50 to 1 for the Cesarewitch *, which is sure to beat Mokanna and Newminster, and in a few days will be first favourite; also a first-rate horse for the Cambridgeshire. The Cesarewitch is over, all but shouting and throwing up your hats. Commissions executed, and the money laid out with such men as Davies (the Leviathan), Snewing, Maclure, Mather, Becton, George Read, Knowles, &c. The money deposited with the one having the highest price, and the ticket sent by return of post. Five per cent will be charged for any sum under £5; above that amount 2½ per cent. Post Office orders payable at Charing-cross to R. Chifnay, 17, East-place, Kennington-road.—N.B. Send seven postage stamps for Cesarewitch, and the same for Cambridgeshire tips.

* The Cesarewitch is a horse race run at Newmarket, in Suffolk.

2-: Of Sunday 12th October 1851:

TIP for the MILLION.—The handicapper has made a mistake in weighting a horse for the Cesarewitch. In fact, the race is virtually over; but to satisfy the public the horse must start. The horse is well, doing good work, and the stable think it all over but shouting and throwing up their hats. CANDOUR has also a quietus for the Cambridgeshire, and as these are free trade times he will only charge you seven postage stamps for each event. [&c.]

3-: From the column A Squeak from “The Stable Mouse, published in The Era (London, England) of Sunday 5th May 1861:

It will be remembered, Sir, that little more than the brief period of one year has elapsed since the report was current that my Lord of Glasgow’s colt, Tom Bowline, had beaten The Wizard in his “trial,” and, consequently, “a rush” was made to “get on” Tom Bowline. Well, Mr. Editor! and what was the result when they came together in the race for the Two Thousand, within a few hours of this “trial?” Admiral Rous stated, in my hearing, that “It was the easiest won Two Thousand he ever saw,” and, in this opinion, I fully concurred. So much for Tom Bowline’s “trial!” Not many days since, Sir, Klarikoff was “tried” with this very Wizard, at 18lbs for the year, and, to the delight of the Whitewall Stable, his Time Keeper was beaten in a canter. All was over, except shouting, and Yorkshire threw up her hat in ecstasy!

Further evidence that, in the phrase, the noun shouting denotes a loud and enthusiastic show of appreciation is provided by the following about the University Boat Race, from Vigilant’s Note-Book, published in The Sportsman (London, England) of Friday 16th March 1883:

The defeat of the Cambridge crew was a sad blow to those who deemed the affair all over, except the shouting part of the business.

 

EARLY OCCURRENCES OF THE PHRASE

 

All the texts containing the early occurrences of the phrase that I have found are from the horse-racing sections of British newspapers.

These are, in chronological order, the other early occurrences of the phrase that I have found:

1-: From The Turf, published in Bell’s Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle (London, England) of Sunday 10th April 1831:

HEDGEFORD “PRIVATE” MEETING.

A Handicap Sweepstakes; one mile and a half.
Colwick, 9st . .      . .      . .   1
Independence, 8st 7lb . .  2
Birmingham, 8st . .      . .   3
The Judge placed three. Colwick made the running, and won in a canter. The Colwick party seem to think the Derby a certainty, and it is all over except “shouting.”

2-: From the following, published in several British newspapers on Monday 7th July 1834—for example in the Morning Advertiser (London, England):

NEWMARKET JULY MEETING.

Newmarket, Sunday Afternoon.
The races commence to-morrow, and terminate on Wednesday. The principal events to be decided are the July Stakes to-morrow, and the Chesterfield Stakes on Wednesday […]. On the former, generally so interesting, scarcely any anxiety is felt in the betting circles […]. By the few bets that have been made on it (the July) Kate Kearney has been established as first favourite, and, from the avidity with which 3 to 1 has been taken in two or three quarters, it would really appear to be “all over but shouting.”

3-: From the account of the Gold Cup, run at Goodwood, in Sussex, published in several British newspapers on Saturday 2nd August 1834—for example in The True Sun (London, England):

The result of this race not only proves Glencoe excellent, but makes Plenipotentiary one of the most extraordinary horses that has been known for many years. If he continues well the Doncaster St. Leger is “all over but shouting.”

4-: From Sporting Intelligence, about the Doncaster St. Leger, published in The Manchester Times (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Saturday 16th August 1834:

The London journals politely tell us that the race is “all over but shouting.”

5-: From Sporting Intelligence, published in The Liverpool Mercury, and Lancashire General Advertiser (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Friday 26th September 1834:

On account of 5 lots from the Earl of Wilton’s stud being announced yesterday for sale on Saturday next, at Kensal moor, many imagine that it is “all over but shouting” for future meetings.

6-: From Liverpool October Meeting, published in The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, Yorkshire, England) of Saturday 8th November 1834:

Gray-face was backed against the field at evens, from his having run a very good second at Southport, and the general impression that the same “crack horseman” would steer him. However, all was mystery. Two or three of our best amateurs being in the habit of riding his gallops, and making repeated trials with fast ones, and his being left entirely to the management of a gentleman of sporting celebrity, actually frightened most people from betting against him; and this race was considered like the late Leger—all over but shouting.