What is the significance of Gatsby's famous phrase "old sport"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jay Gatsby continually uses the phrase "old sport" when addressing Nick or the other gentlemen he interacts with during his magnificent parties. The phrase "old sport" is a friendly term of endearment typically used by English gentlemen of high society in the early twentieth century. Gatsby uses the term to reflect the image of an English aristocrat who attended Oxford and hails from an affluent family. After Gatsby arrived home from the war and met Dan Cody, he changed his name, transformed his identity, and amassed wealth in the bootleg industry.

Gatsby is considered "new money" and lives in the West Egg but wants to give the impression that he comes from "old money," which is why he uses the phrase "old sport" and behaves like a wealthy English aristocratic. The phrase "old sport" also allows Gatsby to gain the trust and admiration of others. Nick finds Gatsby exhilarating and his famous phrase contributes to his charm and charisma.

Gatsby's primary motivation for behaving and acting as an English gentleman is to win Daisy Buchanan's heart. Gatsby thinks that if he can fool Daisy into believing that he comes from an affluent background, he will be able to convince her to leave Tom and marry him.

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Kelvin Brakus eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You'll notice that Gatsby frequently uses the term "old sport" to address male characters, especially Nick. To understand the significance of this phrase, it is worth noting its meaning. "Old sport" is a friendly term of endearment used between gentlemen in the early twentieth century.

On the one hand, then, Gatsby's use of the phrase "old sport" is used to show his affection towards characters like Nick. It shows that his friendly feelings are genuine.

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sarahlshepard | Student

Gatsby uses this phrase in order to establish his position in society. "Old sport" is an English term of endearment, though it is not used by many. He uses this term in order to convince his peers that he is the person he is pretending to be. He wants people to believe that he attended Oxford, so he enables many different manipulation tactics, including the use of "old sport". He has failed slightly in this though, as the phrase is not actually common among the English. It is all part of the facade he presents.