This picturesque expression, meaning 'not a very good shot with a rifle' or (of a footballer) unable to score any goals, has cropped up a few times recently in my reading. Does anyone know where it originated?
I believe it is an Irish slang phrase.
Below are some Google findings which make me think this way:
I also came accross an interesting forum thread which mentions this phrase. Here is an excerpt:
With further research, I found out that banjo is a shovel type indeed.
Banjo (as a shovel):
Banjo (as a musical instrument):
I hail from the Highlands of Scotland and this phrase has been in common use throughout my life. It was a favourite of my dad's. I'm 56 now so it's been around at least since the 1950s. Though, I must point out that, in front of my mum he always used the form backside rather than arse.
A 1936 Blackwood's magazine:
There are plenty of other early examples of things people can't hit with a banjo/shovel/spade, quite common are elephants, balloons, barn doors and nails.
Using Google's daterange feature, I did a search for pages dated 2000 to 2003 , and found the earliest verifiable mention of this phrase in a story in The Independent called My Side By David Beckham with Tom Watt dated 3 October 2003:
Google finds no mention of this phrase from 1970 to 2000 .
With more time and more refined searches you may be able to find earlier mentions of this phrase.
Technical note: I used http://www.onlineconversion.com/julian_date.htm to convert Georgian to Julian dates:
protected by tchrist Oct 4 '12 at 3:04
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