Close, But No Cigar

Mrs. Hodgepodge nearly did it. Her cabbage jelly was almost the best at the fair – second place – but it didn’t win. ‘Close, but no cigar.’

It’s a phrase we’ll throw out there without thinking, but where does it originate?



‘Close, but no cigar’ is said to be rooted in 1920s American carnival games. Win the game and you win a cigar. All health, all the time.

Cigars were obviously not in the prize menu for wee kiddos. This was for adults who were trying their luck, say, throwing darts at balloons, rings over pegs, balls at milk bottles or into clowns’ mouths.

Cigar prizes were also available for those attendees whose superhero hammers smashes were strong enough to launch the puck up into the telltale bell.

Should any of these gaming adults miss their targets, the carnival workers would holler: “Close, but no cigar!”



Header Photo: Roberta Sant’Anna




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