notes on ‘queuemanship’

First recorded in 1950, the noun queuemanship denotes the exercise of ploys and tactics in order to minimise time spent waiting in a queue.
—Cf. also ‘queue-jump’, ‘to jump the queue’: meanings and early occurrences.

The noun queuemanship occurs in the account of the trial for murder of Guenther Podola (1929-1959), which was taking place at the Old Bailey, London—account published in The Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Thursday 24th September 1959:


When the court was cleared at 1 p.m. for the luncheon break the queue outside was more than sixty. As the public gallery holds only 30 many of them were having a fruitless wait. Earlier in the morning the main topic among the queuers had been the chances of getting in. It was clear the old hands at the game had developed a particular form of queuemanship.
The trial was not due to start until noon, so they had arrived at 8 a.m. instead of at 5 a.m. But when the door was opened no one at the front moved. This was the main ploy, for the experts knew that everybody who went in at 12 would be turned out at 1 and that the only way back would be by the end of the queue. They chose to wait another two hours so they could have three hours in court.

The noun queuemanship is composed of the noun queue and the suffix -manship. The U.S. linguist Geoffrey Nunberg (1945-2020) gave the following explanations in Ideas & Trends: A Surge in Saber-Rattling at the Precipice, published in The New York Times (New York City, New York, USA) of Sunday 12th January 2003:
—Context: John Foster Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, had used the expression brink of war in a January 1956 Life magazine interview, not long after the United States had come close to going to war with Communist China over the offshore islands of Quemoy and Matsu.

Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for president in 1952 and 1956, […] a few weeks after the Life article appeared […], reproached Dulles for “boasting of his brinkmanship—the art of bringing us to the edge of the abyss.” […]
In Stevenson’s mouth, the word [brinkmanship] had sardonic connotations. It echoed the words “Gamesmanship” and “One-upmanship,” the titles of popular books by the English humorist Stephen Potter, who expounded the techniques of looking good while you gamed the system or, as he put it, “The Art of Getting Away With It Without Being an Absolute Plonk.”
Mr. Potter even managed to bend the meaning of the suffix “-manship” itself. It no longer suggested the skills worthy of a role, as in “horsemanship” and “statesmanship,” but rather the ploys and artifice that people used to get the upper hand. (A 1962 report by the Senate Security Subcommittee was titled “Wordsmanship; Semantics as a Communist Weapon.”)
The success of “gamesmanship” and “oneupmanship” spawned imitations like “queuemanship” and “namesmanship.”

That is to say:
– In words such as horsemanship and statesmanship, the suffix -manship is used to form abstract nouns in which the first element is an object used or handled skilfully, or an action practised habitually or skilfully;
– Whereas, in words such as gamesmanship and queuemanship, the suffix -manship is used to form abstract nouns in which the first element is a means used to disconcert or take cunning advantage of a rival or opponent, or an environment in which such a means is used.

The earliest form in which the latter use of the suffix -manship was fully developed is gamesmanship. This term was coined after—and in ironical antithesis to—sportsmanship, and is first recorded in Friends in Aspic (London: John Miles, 1939), an autobiographical book by the New Zealand-born British journalist (Charles) Ian Dillwyn Coster (1903-1955), who credited the British poet and book designer Francis Meynell (1891-1975) with coining gamesmanship:

For seasons he [= Francis Meynell] captained the eleven of his Essex village, and he fitted them out with club caps. This sartorial extravagance was not just vanity. It was an example of what he calls “gamesmanship,” as distinct from sportsmanship. Gamesmanship is the art of winning games by cunning against opponents with superior skill.
Explaining the idea of the caps, Meynell said, “In every village cricket team there are always one or two excellent fielders, fellows who can throw the ball in accurately. Opposing batsmen get to know these men, and they can tell when they can take a chance on a throw-in. But by putting all of our team in big-peaked caps we stopped the sneaking of runs; the batsmen could not distinguish the good fielders from the bad, and so they were afraid to take risks.”

But it is with the British author and radio producer Stephen Potter (1900-1969) that the noun gamesmanship is particularly associated: he used it in The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: Or, The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1947). This, and the same author’s Some Notes on Lifemanship: With a Summary of Recent Researches in Gamesmanship (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1950), One-Upmanship: Being Some Account of the Activities and Teaching of the Lifemanship Correspondence College of Up-Ness and Gameslifemastery (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1950), and Supermanship: Or, How to Continue to Stay Top Without Actually Falling Apart (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1958), introduced a great number of forms in this suffix, which were widely imitated, especially in the period 1955-65.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.