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Why do we say 'Jump on the Bandwagon'?

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Meaning: to support a cause only because it is popular to do so.

If you ‘jump on the bandwagon’, you join a growing movement in support of someone or something when that movement is seen to be about to become successful.

The history of this expression can be explained in two parts, starting with the word ‘bandwagon’ itself... Phineas T. Barnum – often known as P.T. Barnum – was a world-famous showman and circus owner. It was he who coined the word ‘bandwagon’, simply as the name for the wagon that carried a circus band. The first usage of this word can be found in his autobiography ‘The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself’, which he wrote in 1855.

Circuses were very skilled at attracting the public by having an exciting parade through the town, complete with a highly decorated bandwagon. Politicians – not being the type to miss out on an opportunity – began using bandwagons for electoral campaign. It is unclear exactly when the expression switched from the literal meaning of ‘showing alliance to a politician’ to the figurative meaning we use today, but in his ‘Letters’, written in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt made a clear reference to the practice:

“When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the bandwagon”.