Grand Poobah

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Rutland Barrington, the original Pooh-Bah

Grand Poobah is a term derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado (1885).[1] In this comic opera, Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including "First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral ... Archbishop ... Lord Mayor" and "Lord High Everything Else". The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or locally high-ranking and who either exhibits an inflated self-regard or who has limited authority while taking impressive titles.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The term "Grand Poobah" was used recurringly on the television show The Flintstones as the name of a high ranking elected position in a secret society, the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes. The main characters, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, were members of the lodge. The lodge is a spoof of secret societies and mens' clubs like the Freemasons, the Shriners, the Elks Club and the Moose Lodge.[3]
  • The character Howard Cunningham on the TV series Happy Days was a Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee.[4]
  • A Fraggle Rock episode is called "The Secret Society of Poohbahs". Gillis Fraggle serves as the Beggler-Beg of the Poohbas, Convincing John serves as the Vanguard of the Poohbas and Red Fraggle serves as the Mind-Reader who sees if a potential member is worthy of joining the Poohbahs.
  • In the comic strip Pearls Before Swine, the character Rat deems himself Grand Poobah of the Benevolent Society of Angry Misanthropes.[5]

Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This character was based, in part, on James Planché's Baron Factotum, the "Great-Grand-Lord-High-Everything" from The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (1840). Williams (2010), p. 267
  2. ^ "Pooh-bah", Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, accessed June 14, 2009
  3. ^ "Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes", Grand Lodge Freemasonry site, April 8, 2004, accessed September 14, 2009
  4. ^ See, e.g. episode #150, "Burlesque", aired November 6, 1979
  5. ^ Magildahyde, Constantine. "The Misanthropic Humanist". April 2, 2009. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Borschel-Dan, Amanda. "Meet the Jewish grand poobah of the First Church of Cannabis", Times of Israel, June 9, 2015


  • Williams, Carolyn (2010). Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-14804-6.