Origina of "Local Boy Makes Good"
September 11, 2007 8:56 AM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the phrase "Local Boy Makes Good"? I Googled it and see that it was a Mervyn LeRoy movie from 1931, so it's at least that old.
posted by abbyladybug to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's old newspaper-speak for a genre of story that newspapers generally like to do. Sort of in the same vein as "Man bites dog" indicates what's newsworthy (while "Dog bites man" is not). Or like "Boy meets Girl" as a novel, short story or movie topic. So, as such, it probably originated orally some time during the evolution of the modern newsroom, latter half of the 19th century. This Google Books search will give you some pre-1931 citations (albeit in their lamentable "snippet view"). Do not assume the dates are correct -- for serial publications Google shows the earliest date of publication -- the citation could be from years later.
A search through the Newspaper Archive would probably be productive -- although (a) as noted, the phrase was and is a genre indicator and not typically an actual headline, and (b) the Newspaper Archive's holdings are still spotty for many areas and time periods.
posted by beagle at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Addendum: via this Google News search (which searches the Newspaper Archive), the earliest citation is this from the Washington Post in 1908. But as the archive expands, there will no doubt be earlier ones.
posted by beagle at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

beagle - thanks so much for the newspaper archive search. I hadn't seen that before and it rocks.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:49 AM on September 11, 2007

See headlinese, too. Its use as a movie title indicates that by 1931 it was already considered a cliché to some degree.

"Local ___" is of course a predecessor of the Onion's favorite topic, "Area Man".
posted by dhartung at 5:15 PM on September 11, 2007

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