the guitarists’ guitarist
Posted: 16 May 2007 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I remember the blues/rock guitarist Roy Buchanan being described in this way in the 1970s, meaning universally admired by fellow practitioners, maybe in the sense of technique rather than artistic achievement. (I’d have substituted Jeff Beck for Roy, but there you go.) Brando has been called the actors’ actor, etc.
Any ideas where the -----s’ ----- phrase originated?

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Posted: 16 May 2007 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I suspect the prototype is man’s man("a man whose qualities are appreciated by other men; a man who is popular with other men") cited by the OED online from 1897.

(Gentleman’s gentleman is older [1725] but the sense (a valet) does not parallel the sense you are talking about in the way that man’s man does.)

OTOH woman’s woman is cited from 1886.

[ Edited: 16 May 2007 10:15 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 16 May 2007 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dr. Techie - 16 May 2007 10:09 AM

I suspect the prototype is man’s man("a man whose qualities are appreciated by other men; a man who is popular with other men") cited by the OED online from 1897.

I’m curious if “man’s man” came before or after “lady’s man”

Hmm… A quick check of Google shows “ladies man” to be considerably more popular than “lady’s man”.

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Posted: 16 May 2007 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Lady’s man (later ladies’ man) is cited from 1784; it’s certainly possible man’s man was meant to imitate the form of that phrase in distinguishing a different type of man.

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Posted: 16 May 2007 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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X’s X at Language Log.  (Not especially illuminating for the origin, but on the same topic.)

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Posted: 16 May 2007 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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How old is “man among men” (?) which perhaps approximates the sense, a man whom other men look up to or who best typifies the ideal of the class, as I understand it. I’d have thought “prince among princes” would have been earlier, and perhaps it is, but it loses out on the Google scale by about 80 to 1.

[ Edited: 16 May 2007 04:40 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 16 May 2007 11:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The OED has:

(b) a man among men, a person regarded as epitomizing manhood or mankind; (esp. as a term of praise) one who is the equal of or an example to all others; an active, well-rounded member of society.
[a1533 LD. BERNERS tr. A. de Guevara Golden Bk. M. Aurelius (1559) sig. Mmii f. 134, In good sothe there is no man among men, no humain among the humains, but he is as a brute beast, and wilde among wyld beastes. 1667 MILTON Paradise Lost III. 283 Thou therefore whom thou only canst redeeme, Thir Nature also to thy Nature joyne; And be thy self Man among men on Earth, Made flesh.]

but nothing for “prince amoung princes”.

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Posted: 17 May 2007 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Edmund Spenser was known as the ‘poet’s poet’ (as well as the ‘Prince of Poets’). I think this dates back to the 18th century but I’m going to have to check some sources to confirm it.

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Posted: 17 May 2007 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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No, I was mistaken. It was Charles Lamb who called Spenser the ‘poet’s poet’, that would date it around the first few decades of the 19th century, certainly not the 18th.

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Posted: 17 May 2007 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Still well ahead of “man’s man”.  Well remembered, aldi!

Edit: The OED has an entry (under poet) for poet’s poet, but curiously, the first citation (neglecting a bracketed instance of “poet’s poetry") is reference to Lamb’s sobriquet for Spenser rather than a citation from Lamb himself: “1844 L. HUNT Imagination & Fancy 75 Spenser..has always been felt by his countrymen to be what Charles Lamb called him, the ‘Poet’s Poet’. He has had more idolatry and imitation from his brethren than all the rest put together.” One would think that it wouldn’t be that hard to turn up Lamb’s original use of the term, assuming this isn’t a “Play it again, Sam” situation.

Philosopher’s philosopher is stated to be formed after poet’s poet (and the first citation explicitly makes the parallel) and writer’s writer says “cf. poet’s poet”.

[ Edited: 17 May 2007 07:41 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 17 May 2007 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’ve been trawling Google Books and found plenty of references to Lamb having called Spenser that, but no actual citations, let alone an occurrence in a volume by Lamb.  And I just found a hit from Notes and Queries for April 23, 1938 (fortunately the date occurs in the snippet view; Google Books says “Published 1974"):

In the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ and in the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’ it is stated that Lamb first gave the title of “Poets’ Poet” to Edmund Spenser. What is tho authority for this statement?

So we’re not the first to wonder!

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Posted: 17 May 2007 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thanks for these interesting and edifying replies.
Looks like I screwed up on the apostrophe again (the bane of my life) and it should’ve been guitarist’s guitarist?

Clearly, the article makes a difference, too. ‘A man’s man’ could be anyone but ‘the poet’s poet’ is specific.

I’m pretty sure Buchanan was called ’the guitarist’s guitarist’ in the article I read which, now I think about it, is journalistic hyperbole as no jazz or classical guitarist would have called him that. ’A guitarist’s guitarist’ would have been more accurate and the same with Brando’s craft.

[ Edited: 17 May 2007 09:41 AM by venomousbede ]
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