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DIN, Nasr-ed

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50161.  Fri Feb 10, 2006 7:27 am Reply with quote

In 1873 the Shah of Persia, Nasr-ed-Din, visited Britain. Dressed “in an astrakhan cap and a long coat embroidered with gold and wearing as many diamonds and precious stones as his apparel would bear,” he became a big hit with the public. “Have you seen the Shah?” became “a popular catchphrase, endlessly repeated in everyday conversation and in songs performed on the music-hall stages.” (“’Have you seen the Shah?’ A query implying a hoax, popular with street Arabs when the Shah of Persia visited England,” says Brewer’s). Amazon UK offers a song of that name, by Bracey Vane (but no further details).

The catchphrase appears in what seems to be an online novel (‘A Peep Behind the Scenes’ by Amy C. Walton): “First came machines for the trial of strength, consisting of a flat pasteboard figure of the Shah, or some other distinguished person, holding on his chest a dial-plate, the hand of which indicated the amount of strength possessed by any one who hit a certain part of the machine with all his might.
“Come now! Have you seen the Shah?” cried the owner of one of these machines. “Come now, try your strength! I believe you’re the strongest fellow that has passed by today! Come now, let’s see what you can do!””

AA Milne wrote: “The Shah of Persia was in England, and all England was talking about him. Naturally, we were talking about him at my private school. I was about nine at the time; it is not the age at which one knows much about high politics, but it is almost the only age when one really knows where Persia is.”

Rumour had it that when the Shah stayed at Buck House, while the Queen was away, he was so annoyed by the incompetence of one of his servants that “had the man strangled and cremated in the palace garden.”

The Shah himself eventually died of acute assassination. Sic Sempris Tyrannis!

Strikes me that “Have you seen the Shah” would make a perfect catchphrase for QI; I can just hear street arab Sean Lock responding to one of the chairman’s unbelievable facts with “Have you seen the Shah?” (a “query implying a hoax”) in place of the more pedestrian “Get outta here!”

Sources: ‘Sherlock Holmes the Unauthorised Biography,’ by Nick Rennison (Atlantic, 2005)

172846.  Tue May 08, 2007 6:15 pm Reply with quote

Not to be confused with this Nasr ed-Din.


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