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MUCH ADO ABOUT EVERYTHING

MUCH ADO ABOUT EVERYTHING

Without further ado… Ugh! Stop saying that, demands Tony Barrell

APRIL 2020

I groan when I hear the words “Without further ado”. Public speakers use it as a kind of semi-apology for prattling on for aeons and boring their audience senseless, just before they introduce a supposedly exciting event. There has already been too much “ado”, and the punters certainly don’t want any more. “Finally, without further ado, here is the famous band you’ve waited three hours to see.” “Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, may I present the outright winner of the 2019 Women’s Institute gateau-throwing contest.” “Without further ado, my lady wife will now stand on one leg at the apex of a pyramid of baby zebras.”

How old is this cliché? I’ve discovered that it goes back centuries, in its various forms (which include “with no further ado” and “without any further ado”). There’s an example of “without more ado” in a text from the 14th century, though English looked like a foreign language then and the “without” looks more like “wyp-oute”. The phrase “without anye further adoe” pops up in a lengthy Tudor text by the Bishop of Durham, James Pilkington, concerning “The burnynge of Paules church in London in the yeare of oure Lord 1561” (this was the Old St Paul’s Cathedral, later replaced by the famous Christopher Wren building). And there are plenty of examples between then and now, including “without further ado” in a preface to a sermon preached in Aberdeen in 1737 and published in 1778 (see extract pictured here), which had enough ado in it to render its readers insensate.

The political windbags of the United Kingdom have used it incessantly in Parliament

Modern books, films and TV shows are stuffed with WFA, as I call it. If WFA doesn’t turn up in an Oscar ceremony or during the Brit Awards, it’s a miracle. And it’s no surprise that the political windbags of the United Kingdom have used it incessantly in Parliament. I’ve searched Hansard, the official record of that place, and there have been so many instances in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords that they should have considered passing a law against it. Hundreds of MPs and peers have said things like “I commend this vital street-furniture legislation to all assembled without further ado” and “I strongly suggest that my amendment to paragraph 258, section 46 of the Teabag Delivery Act be carried without further ado.”

I’m going to use it one more time, and one more time only. Without any further ado or delay or shilly-shallying, please can we lob WFA into the linguistic landfill site where it belongs?

© 2020 Tony Barrell

Tony Barrell is a writer, pop historian and etymologist who has investigated other popular expressions, such as “hanky panky“, “litterbug”, “hunky dory” ,”Planet Zog“, “over the moon”, and “laughing all the way to the bank”.

April 22, 2020

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About the Author

Tony Barrell is a pop historian, journalist, editor and Londoner who has spent much of his life interviewing musicians. He has written many major articles for The Sunday Times and other publications. His 2017 work The Beatles on the Roof is the first book to be published about the Fab Four’s famous 1969 rooftop concert.

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