Grand Poobah

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Rutland Barrington, who originated the role of Pooh-Bah

Grand Poobah is a satirical 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] The American writer William Safire wrote that "everyone assumes [the name] Pooh-Bah merely comes from [W. S. Gilbert] combining the two negative exclamations Pooh! plus Bah!, typical put-downs from a typical bureaucrat."[3]

Other uses[edit]

The title "Grand Poobah" was used recurrently 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. Similarly, Howard Cunningham, a character on the TV series Happy Days, was a Grand Poobah of Leopard Lodge No. 462 in Milwaukee.[4] These fictional lodges were a spoof of secret societies and men's clubs like the Freemasons, the Shriners, the Elks Club and the Moose Lodge.[5][6] The title has been associated ironically with real-world people, sometimes used facetiously in self-reference,[7] sometimes to praise someone,[8] and at other times to criticize an organizational leader for being overbearing.[9][10]

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 14 June 2009
  3. ^ Safire, William. "Whence Poo-Bah", Safire's Political Dictionary, excerpted in GASBAG, Vol. 24, No. 3, issue 186, p. 28, January–February 1993
  4. ^ Holmes, Linda. "RIP Tom Bosley, One of TV's Great Dads", National Public Radio, 19 October 2010, accessed 6 March 2018. See, e.g. episode #150, "Burlesque", aired 6 November 1979
  5. ^ "Loyal Order of Water Buffalo", Grand Lodge Freemasonry site, 8 April 2004, accessed 14 September 2009
  6. ^ "10 fictional fraternal lodges and secret societies from TV shows", Me TV, 11 December 2015
  7. ^ Scruggs, Gregory (6 December 2021). "Meet Seattle's 'Grand Poobah of Powder,' whose forecasts have powered snow sports for 25 years". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  8. ^ Vandenberg, Todd (24 November 2022). "Three reasons I'm thankful for Seahawks GM John Schneider". 12th Man Rising. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  9. ^ Segal, Jonathan (8 April 2019). "The Grand Poobah at Work". SHRM. Retrieved 23 September 2023.
  10. ^ "'Hypocrisy, Elon Musk be thy name': Mehdi Hasan as Twitter complies with Turkey's censorship demands". 15 May 2023. Retrieved 23 September 2023.


  • Williams, Carolyn (2010). Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14804-7.