Origin/Slang It's "No Great Shakes"
Bill Toth
This expression originated in July of 1981
at an Arthur Murray Dance School in Wayne,
N.J. USA. In a conversation with a Chinese
Student, I created the expression out of
"thin air", a blurt. Meaning: No big deal. The expression spread like wildfire. The
expression was used on the "Who wants to
be a Millionaire" show as a question and
by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
For some strange reason, in creating this
slang, my brain reached for a TV commercial in the mid 60s "Great Shakes". (a soft drink)
Bill Toth
I found a 1964 reference to Great Shakes.
Another words, do research before posting.
Lewis Joplin II
NO GREAT SHAKES - "That monument of noncomputerized scholarship, the great 'Oxford English Dictionary,' suggests that this expression alludes to the shaking of dice. Someone who is 'no great shakes' is nothing extraordinary, like a gambler who shakes the dice and throws a low point - no sevens or elevens. Considering its first recorded use, the expression must have been known as early as the 17th century. Lord Broughton, recalling an 1816 art show in his 'Recollections of a Long Life' (1865), wrote: 'W. said that a piece of sculpture there was 'nullae magnae quassationes,' and the others laughed heartily.' The others, proficient linguists, got the joke immediately when they translated the Latin for 'no great shakes.' Another suggestion is that the expression derives from the provincial word 'shake,' 'to brag' - according to this highly improbable theory someone who is 'no great shakes' would be nothing to brag about." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997)

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