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According to Longman Dictionary the droll comeback...

and I’m the Queen of Sheba
(humor) used as a reply when someone claims that they are famous or that they have done something impressive, but you do not believe them

‘I’d like to reserve a table for tonight – this is Demi Moore.’
‘Oh yeah, and I’m the Queen of Sheba.’

     movie poster of The Queen of Sheba (1952 film)
A movie poster of The Queen of Sheba, an Italian drama/romance movie released in 1952

Amazingly, Phrase Finder has no information on this pithy rejoinder.

  • I believe that the catchphrase is a snowclone of “I'm the Queen of England” or "I'm the King of Siam" but which came first? And why is it the Queen of Sheba and not some other ancient or mythological kingdom?

  • I have a sinking feeling that it is terribly old-fashioned nowadays. What would be its modern-day counterpart?

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    That's the strangest drive-by I've seen in a while. – Phil Sweet Nov 13 '18 at 13:09
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    When you say 'snowclone of', do you mean 'is patterned after'? 'snowclone' just means 'pattern', eg "The [important person] of [some place]" – Mitch Nov 13 '18 at 14:49
  • I am surprised no one has mentioned yet (including your Longman entry!) That the Queen of Sheba comes from the Old Testament. Weird. – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 15:39
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    I’m not so sure it is actually based on the ‘Queen of England/King of Siam’ expressions. That is a different pattern that doesn’t really require any specific person, or even a person or thing that relates to the context at all (“If you’re a famous writer, then I’m a ham calzone!” is fine). “And I’m the Queen of Sheba” seems quite different to me; at least, I’d never use it with anything other than (a) a person that relates directly to the context, or (b) the Queen of Sheba specifically. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 13 '18 at 17:38
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    As for why it’s the Queen of Sheba specifically, I suspect it’s simply because Sheba, and in particular the Queen, is famed for its extreme riches – she has been a trope of exorbitant wealth and power for hundreds of years, so she’s a fairly obvious choice. Of course, there are others who enjoy a similar position (Cleopatra, King Midas, Genghis Khan), but I can’t really think of any quite as apt as her: known exclusively for her wealth and power, but without any nagging side issues of being evil, despotic, murderous, scheming, etc. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 13 '18 at 17:45
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At the turn of the previous century, the Queen of Sheba was a crowd-pulling spectacular traveling show, the most famous actress was a Russian "Queen of Sheba". Solomon and the Queen of Sheba was one of the many themes such as Cleopatra included in travelling shows. By the 1910s the Ringling Bros. Circus had more than 1,000 employees, 335 horses, 26 elephants, 16 camels and other assorted animals that travelled on 92 railcars. "The Greatest Shows on Earth" included pageantry and other performances in addition to the ring.

  • enter image description here

These and similar spectaculars would have been very well known to G. B. Shaw when he wrote his plays that retold historical events in modern settings. One of Shaw's most successful plays, Pygmalion, written in 1912 was staged in Vienna the following year and in Berlin shortly afterwards. By 1914 the author of Pygmalion has become the most popular writer in England.

The story was later presented to the masses first as Pygmalion on the screen

  • enter image description here

and later became M(a)yFair Lady.

ELIZA [curiously] 'Ere, what's that you say?

HIGGINS. Yes, you squashed cabbage leaf. You disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns! You incarnate insult to the English language! I could pass you off as, er, the Queen of Sheba.

ELIZA [laughing] Ah-how-ow!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_(play)#Different_versions

Around the early 1930's there were several movie adaptations and in movie magazines there were Woolworths Stores advertisements for Embassy Powder,

"A $1 quality face powder for 20c? If that's true, I'm the Queen of Sheba." enter image description here

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    This would be the best answer so far if you provided citations... – MT_Head Nov 14 '18 at 4:03
  • Excellent! - anything on the travelling Queen of Sheba? – MT_Head Nov 14 '18 at 5:33
  • I like the answer, really top notch but what do you mean by "Travelling show"? Like a circus? What was the Queen of Sheba act? Love the ad poster by the way, great find. – Mari-Lou A Nov 14 '18 at 9:31
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    That comment, more useful than the pic, should go in the answer itself. Do that and the answer is accepted by me :). Sorry for the rather low view counts wish more people could see your answer! – Mari-Lou A Nov 14 '18 at 10:48
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The first use of the expression

I am the Queen of Sheba,

by somebody who was not actually the queen of Sheba herself, that I can find on Google books is in the 1877 book

The Queen of Sheba, by Thomas Bailey Aldritch,

where it is used repeatedly by somebody who does not actually seem to be the Queen of Sheba. It doesn't appear to be used in the sense the expression is used in today—if that's true, then I'm the queen of Sheba. From skimming the book, it appears that she is mentally ill (at least, she has been put in an insane asylum).

So this probably explains why we generally use Sheba as the country in this snow clone, unless the expression was around before this book was written and the book is playing off it. I can't find any instances of this snow clone (either with the Queen of Sheba or with other people) in Google books before 1877, but I easily could have missed them.

  • The first mention of the Queen of Sheba is much earlier than 1877. It entered the lexicon from the Old Testament, not a 19th C novel. The more interesting Q to me is when did “and I’m the Queen of Sheba” enter the lexicon as a rebuff? – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 15:36
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    @DanBron doesn't my question ask that? Not when the phrase "Queen of Sheba" first appeared in print, but the rejoinder itself. Why is it the Queen of Sheba and not the queen of Egypt, France, or Babylon, etc. – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '18 at 16:23
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks to your comment and 1006a’s, I now understand better. Appreciate the help clarifying my thoughts. (Also I’ll respond to your other comments on Meta later today.) – Dan Bron Nov 13 '18 at 17:29
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    There must be a long history of cases that sort of fall in between the literal Queen of Sheba and the retort in this question. The retort exists in other languages too – I know it from Danish, at least – and a cursory search found at least one such instance, from Frederik Paludan-Müller’s Ivar Lykkes historie (1866): “A year ago she was considered quite the little fool in the tavern, and now they think her a wonder, a right Queen of Sheba”. That’s sort of halfway between a reference to the actual queen and her use as pure trope. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 13 '18 at 17:53
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As a point of interest, the reverse case,

or I am the Queen of Sheba

wherein the contrary-to-fact claim serves to humorously assert the truth (rather than the falsehood) of the preceding statement, appears at least as early as 1833, in The Stolen Child, by Scottish novelist John Galt:

However, give yourself no uneasiness, you are my lord's brother or I am the Queen of Sheba.

The speaker, a Mrs Servit, is characterized by her use of Scottish idioms in conversation:

...her accent, however, betrayed her Scottish origin, and yet she did not exactly speak the language of the country, though with a few deviations she evinced a perfect mistressy of its most recondite and common idioms.

These circumstances, along with the nationality of the the author, although they do not establish the point, suggest that the contrary-to-fact claim "and/or I am the Queen of Sheba" may have been a Scottish idiom in the early 1800s.

The earliest similar use of "I am the Queen of England" uncovered by my research appears in the 1849 romance Trials of Love, by Mrs H.M. Lowndes née Hannah Maria Jones:

He's about as much of a footman as I am the Queen of England....

For "I am the King of Siam", my research turned up no uses in the 1800s or earlier.

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