Booby Prize

Meanings of “Booby Prize”

The phrase ‘booby prize’ means a prize or an award given to the person or a team who lost a game or a contest. It is usually given to make fun of the person.

Origin of “Booby Prize”

The phrase “booby prize” is stated to have originated from an Ohio based newspaper, The Oberlin Review, published in 1881. It goes thus; “The gentlemen strove at skill in hemming aprons for the fair ones: the first prize was won by Mr. Jackson, the booby prize by Mr. Jones.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Booby Prize Or A Fine Romance? by David Harris

Every once in awhile,
you hear a funny story,
and sometimes you wonder
if what is written there
is fiction or true.
Normally you will not question,
in case it embarrasses or offends.
Well I what I am about to tell you
is it a fib or is it true?
Some thirty-eight years ago,
I went to a funeral of a friend
and ended up with the widow
as a booby prize.
So if I told you that
is exactly how I met my wife,
would you believe me
or would you think I am having you on?
You would be wrong
to think I was having you on.
Because it was at her first husband’s funeral that we met.
It was a few weeks later
a bunch of his friend met, in a coffee bar.
Someone suggested
one of us should take the widow out,
and I drew the short straw
and I got the booby prize
all those years ago,
or was it a fine romance.
I will leave it up to you to decide.

The poet narrates a personal story about his marriage with the widow of his friend. He states that after his friend breathes his last, they go to his funeral with his friends, where one of them throws a suggestion that some friend should marry his widow. So, he decides to take that step. It is up to the readers to think if the widow of his friend is a “booby prize”  or a true romance.

Example #2

Pretty Words by Elvis Costello

I ask you nicely
Get my face slapped under wraps
What’s going on precisely
Is there something wrong perhaps?
Surprise, surprise (surprise, surprise)
It’s more like a booby trap than a booby prize

The speaker is hurt or insulted by his friend in spite of being polite. He wonders if being nice is right or wrong. It comes to him as a surprise at first, as he concludes that its not a booby prize but a booby trap.

Example #3

The Booby Prize: My Journey Through Breast Cancer by Bonnie J. Wilson

This is the autobiography of Bonnie J. Wilson, who had to undergo the worst chemotherapy and mammogram for the treatment of her breast cancer. This ordeal almost lasted for five years, during which she suffered the most. The account is a telling tale of cancer treatment experiment and a chilling account of the journey of a person living with breast cancer to get the life back. Here, the title is not used with an intended meaning.

Example #4

Countdown to Winning Bridge by Tim Bourke, Marc Smith

Predictably, Door Two opens to reveal one of the two booby prizes.

‘I’ll give you one last chance, says Monty Hall. ‘You can have 40,000 for what’s behind Door Number One.’

Should you take it? It would seem that you know have a 50:50 shot at $100,000 and so you should refuse the $40,000. That would be true if Monty Hall had chosen a door at random. But he didn’t. Monty knows which door conceals the grand prize, and (showman that he is) he intentionally showed you a booby prize to heighten the suspense.

This novel revolves around the theme of the game of bridge. Monty Hall, a famous player, is now offering his opponent to select a door and win the grand prize or the booby prize. Here the phrase is used for the prize being offered as compensation to losing the grand prize of $100,000. That is why it is called a booby prize, or the prize that is being offered as consolation even after losing.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “The sheep that he found on the prairie is a booby prize for him because he lost his other prized possessions.”

Example #2: “During the award ceremony, the filmmakers decided to give booby prize for the worst films.”

Example #3: “While booby prize is insulting, said Fran, I take it positively. Next time, I’ll get the real prize.”

Example #4: “Every competition must organize giveaways for the participants. After all, they do deserve a booby prize.”

Example #5: “Both friends went through a grueling routine that I have never seen before in my life.  Sadly, they ended up receiving booby prize instead of the winner’s medal.”