Long before Macy's sponsored parades of helium-filled Peanuts characters and motorized floats, circuses held parades filled with marching elephants, sideshow freaks, and horse-drawn wagons carrying live orchestras—also known as bandwagons. An infamous circus owner and clown named Dan Rice was a proponent of Whig Party candidate (and eventual U.S. president) Zachary Taylor. To support Taylor's campaign, Rice would invite him onto his bandwagon to parade through town and meet potential voters. Legend has it that other members of Taylor's political party realized the publicity this could provide and clamored to join him on the bandwagon. Other politicians soon began parading in their own campaign bandwagons, and according to author Rosemarie Ostler, "By the 1890s, jumping on, hopping on, climbing on, or otherwise boarding the bandwagon meant latching onto a winner." By the 1920s, horse-drawn bandwagons were no longer being used, but the term "jump on the bandwagon" was still as popular as ever, eventually spreading to uses outside the political arena. Learn more about idioms in English in the videos below.
There's A Real Bandwagon Behind The Phrase "Jump On The Bandwagon"
To "jump on the bandwagon" means to do something because it's popular, regardless of your own beliefs or desires. It's ingrained in modern language, though few people even know what a bandwagon is, much less why you'd want to jump on one. This unfamiliarity makes some sense: the expression dates back more than a century to the 1848 U.S. presidential election.
83 Old Slang Phrases We Should Bring Back
Don't let this video give you bright disease.
Key Facts In This Video
Sausages used to be referred to as "Bags O' Mystery" (1:17)
To "Hump the Swag" means to carry your luggage on your back. (4:19)
Cheating on your significant other was referred to as "Carrying Tackle," "Being on a Left-Handed Honeymoon," and "Groping for Trout in a Peculiar River" (5:43)
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The Psychology of Social Influence
"Jumping on the bandwagon" is just one way people are influenced by those around them.
15,000-Year-Old Words We Still Use
You think a 170-year-old phrase is ancient...
Key Facts In This Video
Many European languages derive from Latin, which originates from a language called Proto-Italic. (0:32)
Linguists believe that if you go back 9,000 years, you will find completely differently languages because languages evolve. (1:04)
Who, give, this, what, mother, hand, black, ashes, bark, not, and I are all words that are believed to be at least 15,000 years old. (1:48)