Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

In The Dark

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 27, 2011

If you’re in the dark about something, you haven’t any idea what’s going on with regards to that particular matter.  Very recently, the media reported on Operation Osama and how U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept the covert operation to capture Osama bin Laden a secret from everyone including her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton.  Many media outlets reported in part:

Recalling how he was kept in the dark by his wife who was privy to the secret moves, Bill Clinton said his calls to the Secretary of State went unreturned that fateful day.  “I placed two calls to my wife on that day, and all I was told is, ‘She’s at the White House and can’t talk to you,'” Clinton said in an interview to CNBC.

In the October 12, 1960 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, a news story entitled, “Whistling In The Dark At The United Nations” reported on comments made by the leader of the U.S.S.R., Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) who stated that some day in the future the U.S. would be a minority in the United Nations.   The news story also had this to say about other countries involved with the U.N.:

The fate of the neutrals’ motion put forward by Mr. Nehru shows that they can at present influence U.N. affairs positively only by obtaining help from East and West, presumably at a price.  For its part, the West is still smarting from the massive vote against our Mr. Menzies’ motion; and it can take small comfort from its temporary victory on the Chinese subject.  Mr. Wadsworth, hailing the victory, is whistling in the dark, too.

On June 18, 1900 the Baltimore Morning Herald published a news article that stated that not one Cabinet in Europe knew what had transpired in Pekin for 5 days and in Tien Tsin for 3 days.  No one knew that Baron Von Ketteler, German Minister at Pekin had been murdered.  There was no knowledge of the 5,000 rioters at Kwei Hsien in the Prefecture of Canton.  No one was aware that the foreign Consuls at Shanghai, the members of the Municipal Council and the officers of the volunteer forces had adopted a plan in the event it was necessary to defend themselves to the death against the local Chinese.  The news story was entitled quite simply:

All In The Dark

Morgan Peter Kavanagh (1800 – 1874) wrote and published a book in 1871 entitled, “Origin of Language And Myths, Volume II” in which he wrote on page 417:

This knowledge would have even prevented him from transmitting to other grammarians and other times his very imperfect view of the nature of adjectives and pronouns.  But in respect to these hitherto inexplicable points in grammar, Professor Latham does not appear to have been more in the dark than any of his predecessors.

Going back to 1848, a book was published that contained details about court cases in 1845 entitled “Reports Of Cases In Chancery, Argued And Determined In The Rolls Court During The Time Of Lord Langdale, Master Of The Rolls: Volume IX” by Charles Beavan, Esq., M.A., Barrister At Law.  The following is found on page 535:

Now, from that time, August 1811, down to 1845, after the Master had issued his warrant on preparing his report, there was not one word about this claim.  Did the solicitor take the advice of counsel or not?  Was that advice adverse to the claim or not? or was it this: “Wait till the Master makes his report, and then except to it.”  All this is left entirely in the dark; but in 1845, after the Master had issued his warrant on preparing his report, and notice had been given to the creditors to attend on settling it, the persons who now represent Young, appear before the Master and state a new case; they request him to take into consideration the interest of this sum, and also the costs, and to come to the conclusion that the principal and interest and costs are the amount of damages sustained.

In a letter dated January 23, 1829 from James Madison  (1751–  1836) to Virgina Senator William C. Rives, the following was written:

I am still in the dark as to the ground of the statement that makes Mr. Jefferson and me parties to the publication in 1801, signed, “The danger not over.”  Have you noticed in Niles’ Register of the 17th instant, page 380, an extract from an address in 1808, signed, among others, by our friend Mr. Ritchie, wishing Congress to encourage our own manufactures by higher duties on foreign, even if the present attack on our commerce should blow over, that we may be the less dependent?

In 1749, Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) wrote in a letter to John Franklin that when it came to considering the nature of light, starting with the assertion by Sir Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727) that light resulted from moving corpuscles, he was “much in the dark about light.”

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of the expression “in the dark” in this context and based on how the expression was used by Benjamin Franklin, Idiomation suspects that this is the first example of using the expression “in the dark” to mean the speaker had no idea what was going on with regards to the matter at hand.

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