One of the best, bar none

I just heard someone on NPR say “he is one of the best singers, bar none.”

It’s very easy to scramble your language when being interviewed live, as I know from experience.

“Bar none” means “with no exceptions,” so only one singer can be the best, bar none.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates this expression back to the mid-nineteenth century, but it was built on a meaning of “bar” that goes back centuries earlier: “to exclude.”

Shakespeare’s Mistress Quickly tells Falstaff “I will bar no honest man my house, nor no cheater, but I do not love swaggering.” She’s the hostess of the Boar’s Head Tavern, so the Boar Bar bars no honest customers. Of course it doesn’t bar Falstaff, either.

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