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the great unwashed
The general public, especially those of the lower and lower-middle classes. Critics are hailing the film as a modern masterpiece, though it doesn't seem to be causing too great a stir among the great unwashed The world of the super rich is one that we among the great unwashed can't even begin to understand.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
great unwashed, the
The working classes. The term showed up in print in the early nineteenth century in Theodore Hook’s The Parson’s Daughter (1833), where it appears in quotation marks. Exactly who first coined the phrase is not known, but in Britain it was used to describe the rabble of the French Revolution who rose up against the privileged classes. Although Eric Partridge said that its snobbishness had made it obsolescent by the 1940s, it is still used ironically.
See also: great
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
A disparaging term for the common man. The phrase first appeared in an 1830 novel, Paul Clifford, by the British novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton: “He is certainly a man who bathes and ‘lives cleanly,' (two especial charges preferred against him by Messrs. the Great Unwashed).” Among other cynics (although they would call themselves realists) who used the phrase was H. L. Mencken, who also referred to the majority of Americans as the “booboisie.”
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price