When you hear people refer to a sign of the times, for the most part, what they’re referring to is something that is thought of as symptomatic of present attitudes. Knowing this to be true, it’s a fact that a sign of the times is just as likely to be positive as it is to be negative.
Just a few years ago, on November 27, 2005 the Ottawa Citizen reported that the original “Hollywood” sign that sat high above Los Angeles had been listed on eBay with a reserve price of $300,000 US, it seemed almost unbelievable. The sign had originally read “Hollywoodland” back in 1923 when it was built, and until it was replaced in 1978, it watched as the U.S. film capital came of age. The story was aptly entitled:
Sign Of The Times: Hollywood History Up For Auction On eBay
Back on October 4, 1943 the Glasgow Herald the topic of one story was the post-war air transport limits that were being discussed. The concept of “free air” was felt to be sufficiently broad to meet all reasonable requirements of all the Allies for years to come, and came with President Roosevelt’s promise of planned development of world air routes. The news story, entitled “Freedom Of The Air” read in part:
There need be no time wasted now on speculation about American intention. The statement which Mr. Roosevelt made on Friday was not by any means the last word from the United States, yet it is a sign of the times. Experience has begun to put restrictions on American enterprise, and post-war projects are being trimmed to fit the framework of a new world order. And it is not at all ironical that the new trend in America thought has been quickened by Mr. Wendell Willkie, no less than the President.
The New York Times reported on the political climate in Washington State in a story entitled, “Washington Wants Cleveland And The Principle He Stands For” in the April 9, 1892 edition. The story began with this eye-opening bit of factual information blended with opinion:
The State of Washington went Republican in the last Congressional election and in the State election preceding, but there are many indications that the Democrats may win next November. One sign of the times is that the Democrats have carried every municipal election held during the past six months.
Stepping back a few more decades, the National Era newspaper carried a Letter to the Editor that was dated February 10, 1853. Although there was no name included, the Letter to the Editor was two newspaper columns long and was exhaustive in its presentation of the history and that history’s impact on the world at large. It lead off with this statement:
The failure of Count Orloff’s insidious mission is the best sign of the times. Opthalmia could not avoid seeing through the dust he tried to throw, and the unanimous rejection of his overtures must produce a very grave effect upon the statesmen of St. Petersburgh, and middle classes of the empire.
The expression has been used repeatedly over the centuries, and in tracing back its origins, the first published version Idiomation found was in the Bible in Matthew 16:3 where the following is found:
And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
The expression sign of the times doesn’t seem to be going the way of the dinosaur any time soon, and that may just be another sign of the times.