I was reading Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy this morning, and he compares his characters to the 'pros from Dover'.

This was a phrase that I also remember hearing in the movie M*A*S*H - so it seems to be a phrase in use in 1970 (and possibly 1950s, although the historical accuracy of the movie could be put into question).

So - where is this Dover? And who are the pros and why are they held in such regard?

  • I honestly didn't expect the origin to be Googleable - the way it was thrown in the film made it seem that it was already established in usage then - but thanks for the links – HorusKol Feb 20 '11 at 22:44
  • Notice people trying to type the name M*A*S*H of the book in comments here? Those stars mess it up! Comments seem to be different than questions or answers for the mark-down. – GEdgar Jun 16 '15 at 21:37

According to Phrases.org.uk, the term originated in the book M*A*S*H, and was used again in the movie. In the book, Hawkeye would claim to be a pro (golfer) from Dover (in a variety of states) in order to be offered free play at a variety of golf courses; the line was used later on in the book, in a surgical setting, to demand more up-to-date information about a patient.

In the movie, the secondary plot about free golfing was not included, but the surgical scene was.

  • I remember the book well. MASH and MASH Goes to Maine were hillarious. They were written by a doctor named E. Richard Hornberger who went by the pen name of Richard Hooker (which he said described his golf game). Later sequels, which were less entertaining, were ghost written by William E. Butterworth III, writing there as Richard Hooker, but who is now better known as W.E.B. Griffin. – Bruce James Sep 10 '14 at 19:11

The problem with these postings is that they all refer to a 1968 origin from MASH. However, my grandfather was a senior aeronautical engineer working for Kelly Johnson during WWII and the Korean War in Burbank, CA. He would tell stories about material suppliers and parts vendors who would "send in the pro from dover" when they hit a technical snag....specifically he was referring to a material problem on the SR-71 prototype 'Ox-Cart' between 1948 and the mid-50's.

  • 1
    Did your grandfather actually claim "pros from Dover" was already in use in the 40s and 50s? Or did he simply use the phrase when storytelling? Two facts strongly suggest the latter. First, Richard Hooker, who popularized the phrase in his 1968 novel "MASH", has Hawkeye Pierce invent the phrase as part of a golf confidence game. If it had been WWII army slang I think Hooker would have presented it as such. Second and more telling, the phrase only starts to appear in print around 1968. Compare the WWII army slang "snafu", which starts to appear in print in the 1940s. – MetaEd Jun 11 '13 at 22:52

The first hit on Google for that phrase is “The pros from Dover is an American slang term for outside consultants who are brought into a business to troubleshoot and solve problems.” You can have a look at the full answer there. If you don't find this an authoritative enough source, others are available with the same search.


From The Phrase Finder entry:

The term comes from the 1968 book MAS*H by Richard Hooker. In the book, the character Hawkeye is described as using the guise of being the pro from Dover to obtain free entrance to golf courses.

  • 9 seconds! The Raven is too fast... – F'x Feb 20 '11 at 22:38

WWII slang. The pros from Dover, as in the white cliffs of Dover. A reference to the troops that flooded Europe from England to end the war.

  • 2
    Do you have a source? – HorusKol Sep 10 '14 at 23:08

"Hawkeye would walk confidently into a pro shop, smile, comment upon the nice condition of the course, explain that he was just passing through and that he was Joe, Dave or Jack Somebody, the pro from Dover. This resulted, about eight times out of ten, in an invitation to play for free. If forced into conversation, he became the pro from Dover, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, England, Ohio, Delaware, Tennessee, or Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, whichever seemed safest." - MAS*H

  • 1
    This answer has been given twice already: do you have any new information? – TimLymington Jun 16 '15 at 21:58

Local legend here (in Dover, NJ) is that the source is from the start of the novel when Hawkeye is playing a round of golf on a course located on the Picatinny Arsenal Army munitions testing base. This was before Rockaway, the Borough that now abuts the base, was a town and locals referred to Picatinny as being in Dover.

protected by tchrist Jun 4 '16 at 4:36

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