amateur hour

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A 1935 photograph of “Major” [Edward] Bowes, the host of Major Bowes Amateur Hour which was broadcast on the radio in the US from 1934 to 1945

Probably from the names of series of US radio and television programs such as Major Bowes Amateur Hour (broadcast on the radio 1934–1945) and The Original Amateur Hour (on the radio 1948–1952, and on television 1948–1970).



amateur hour (plural amateur hours)

  1. (chiefly US) An event, particularly on radio or television, showcasing the talents of amateur performers.
    • 2002, Nicole Denée Fontenot; Alicia Fontenot Vidrine, quoting Doris Poirrier, “Pastries, Pies, and Desserts”, in Cooking with Cajun Women: Recipes and Remembrances from South Louisiana Kitchens, New York, N.Y.: Hippocrene Books, →ISBN, page 239:
      "Momma was very talented. She liked to act in plays … She used to sing, do a lot of singing in French, you know. … They used to have amateur hours in those days. You didn't have that many places to go." She performed for the amateur hours at church fairs and at St. James High School.
    • 2017, Ivan Cury, “Reality Programming”, in Directing and Producing for Television: A Format Approach, 5th edition, New York, N.Y.; Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 275:
      [T]alent shows such as Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, which was patterned on the 1930s Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey[’s] Talent Scouts,[sic] went on the air. In fact, that goes back to the days of vaudeville and beyond. The talent contests and amateur hours that go back centuries are in fact very much like America’s Got Talent.
  2. (chiefly US, idiomatic) A situation or activity in which the participants show a lack of skill, sound judgment, or professionalism.
    • 1980, Alan Wolfe, “Reflection on Trilaterialism and the Carter Administration: Changed World Realities vs. Vested Interests”, in Holly Sklar, editor, Trilateralim: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management, Boston, Mass.: South End Press, →ISBN, page 533:
      Two years into its first term the [Jimmy] Carter Administration developed a foreign policy that seems in perfect continuity with its six predecessors. [] Little change has taken place during what has been called "the amateur hour" except for a slight quickening of the Cold War pulse.
    • 1993, Martha Banta, “Soldiers of Fortune”, in Taylored Lives: Narrative Productions in the Age of Taylor, Veblen, and Ford, Chicago, Ill.; London: University of Chicago Press, →ISBN, page 59:
      The First World War may have brought, as Dos Passos maintained, an end to "the bully amateur's world," but amateur hour was already closing down as American soldiers struggled up San Juan Hill. Three books written between 1897 and 1899 are flashes that streaked the sky at the moment "the boy culture" of volunteers was displaced (and absorbed) by the "dirtywork" of regulars committed to the culture of management.
    • 2011 August 3, Frank Deford, “NCAA: Still stalled by ‘amateur hour’ thinking”, in Morning Edition, NPR[1], archived from the original on 15 March 2017:
      Next week, at some place in Indianapolis where time has been instructed to stand still, Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association], will convene what is being called, without irony, a "retreat." Assembled will be about 50 college presidents, pledged, it seems, to make sure that college athletics continue to remain firmly in the past, in the antiquated amateur hours.
    • 2007 June 21, David Von Drehle, “Will Rudy’s Get-tough image backfire?”, in Time[2], archived from the original on 9 July 2014:
      "It's the kind of foul-up that suggests that his [Rudy Giuliani's] campaign team isn't functioning as well as it should," the G.O.P. source said. "Presidential campaigns are not the time for amateur hour."

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