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Archive for April, 2013

Up In Arms

Posted by Admin on April 29, 2013

Nothing conveys the concept of being upset or angry better than to say that someone is up in arms. It means that whoever is up in arms is so upset, he or she is willing to do something in protest.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph in England published a news story on September 16, 2004 about West Midlands firefighters being surprised to learn that their colleagues in Derbyshire were no longer allowed to play volleyball and football for fear of serious injuries. The article was entitled, “Why Firemen Had To Stop Team Games.” The Assistant Chief Officer, David Smethurts was quoted as saying:

“It was clearly unsafe, and was one of the greatest causes of injuries of any activity we took part in. If our staff thought we were allowing any other activity that was causing that many injuries they would be up in arms. No-one particularly liked it when volleyball was stopped but they could understand why. I was aware Derbyshire were taking this action. What surprised us was that they were still working in an environment where volleyball was normal.”

Jumping back in time to April 2, 1952 the Spokesman-Review ran an Associated Press story that dealt with Newbold Morris and his demand for detailed data on the personal finances of high government officials. Cabinet members were incensed by the demand and made certain their objections were heard loud and clear. The article was entitled:

Scandal Hunter Going Too Far: Truman’s Cabinet Is Up In Arms About Morris’ Prying

Wandering back to July 22, 1888, the New York Times reported on all the Italian societies, civic and military, of New York, Boston and Philadelphia making their voices heard with regards to the Pauper Immigration bill that was brought forward by Congressman Ford of Michigan. The complaint was that the American press had started a serious war against all Italians, and that this behavior was adversely influencing the American Government against Italians in America. The article was simply titled:

They Are Up In Arms

The American Heritage Dictionary claims that the expression dates back from about 1700 with the expression referring to armed rebellion in the late 1500s.  When William Shakespeare wrote 2 Henry VI in 1591, he was sure to include the idiom in the more than once to ensure that it would be heard and remembered.

The princely Warwick, and the Nevils all,
Whose dreadful swords were never drawn in vain,
As hating thee, are rising up in arms:
And now the house of York, thrust from the crown
By shameful murder of a guiltless king
And lofty proud encroaching tyranny,
Burns with revenging fire; whose hopeful colours
Advance our half-faced sun, striving to shine,
Under the which is writ ‘Invitis nubibus.’
The commons here in Kent are up in arms:

It showed up in his play Richard III published in 1592 where the following was written:

March on, march on, since we are up in arms;
If not to fight with foreign enemies,
Yet to beat down these rebels here at home.

So while the idiom did mean armed rebellion, the fact of the matter was that such armed rebellion was brought about because those involved in the rebellion were, indeed, so upset that they were wearing articles of clothing with heraldic arms embroidered on certain articles of clothing by the mid-1550s.

However, the word armor meant “means of protection” in the early 1300s, and came from the Latin word armatura which meant arms equipment. And indeed, if you were going off to fight a battle, you were definitely wearing armor and intended to swing your arms about wildly, weapon in hand, in defense of whatever you were fighting for in the first place. Hence comes the very literal meaning of being up in arms.

While the first published version of up in arms appears in the late 1590s, this is the official first use of the expression. However, nearly 300 years earlier, the spirit of the expression was understood and in use.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century, Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Creature Comforts

Posted by Admin on April 26, 2013

Have you ever heard talk about creature comforts? Those are things that make life comfortable and pleasant … food, clothing, housing, and other necessities that take care of the physical aspects of the individual. In other words, material comforts that are responsible in part for one’s physical well-being, but that are not considered luxuries by others.

Malabar Hornblower wrote an article that was published in the New York Times on February 21, 1999 entitled, “Creature Comforts for Homo Sapiens.” The article discussed the parks, game reserves and conservation areas in Africa and included this commentary:

There is an abundance of accommodations providing all levels of luxury. For visitors who, like my husband, Bill Brewster, and me, relish their creature comforts, the choice of lodges is almost as critical as picking game-viewing sites. When it comes to making the final selections, it feels a bit like Russian roulette.

Back on December 4, 1949 the St. Petersburg Times ran an article entitled, “Strength Through Unity In Arms Is Not Enough.” The story was about the unanimous agreement on defense plans that was reached by the North American Pact allies and whether this would provide achieve the goals the allies hoped to achieve. It read in part:

It follows, consequently, that this system must be economically sound. That is not simply because man’s basic creature comforts must be satisfied. Only when those basic comforts are provided — when freedom from want is reasonably assured — can there be true progress in the arts and sciences. Men do not reach for the stars with empty bellies; they grub in the earth for food.

In Chapter XI of Jack London’s book “The Iron Heel” published 1908, describes the fall of America to a fascist dictatorship composed of a group of monopoly capitalists.

Father must have had strong in him the blood of adventure. He looked upon our catastrophe in the light of an adventure. No anger nor bitterness possessed him. He was too philosophic and simple to be vindictive, and he lived too much in the world of mind to miss the creature comforts we were giving up. So it was, when we moved to San Francisco into four wretched rooms in the slum south of Market Street, that he embarked upon the adventure with the joy and enthusiasm of a child–combined with the clear sight and mental grasp of an extraordinary intellect. He really never crystallized mentally.

For those of you who may not recognize the name Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859), he is the 19th century American author and diplomat who wrote Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  He also wrote “Astoria or Anecdotes of an Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains” which was published in February 1836. In Chapter XLVIII the following is found:

The two Canadians, Vallee and Le Clerc, killed a young buffalo bull in the evening, which was in good condition, and afforded them a plentiful supply of fresh beef. They loaded their spits, therefore, and crammed their camp kettle with meat, and while the wind whistled, and the snow whirled around them, huddled round a rousing fire, basked in its warmth, and comforted both soul and body with a hearty and invigorating meal. No enjoyments have greater zest than these, snatched in the very midst of difficulty and danger; and it is probable the poor wayworn and weather- beaten travellers relished these creature comforts the more highly from the surrounding desolation, and the dangerous proximity of the Crows.

While all this is very interesting, the expression appears in all sorts of documents. A number of dictionaries claim that the expression dates to the early to mid 1600s when creature was used in the context that creatus (past participle of Latin creare) referred to anything that ministered “to man’s comforts.”

The term creature from the Latin creatus actually dates back to between 1250 and 1300, however, it took another 300 or so years to take on the meaning ascribed to it in the 1600s.

The American Heritage Dictionary claims the first published record of the expression was in 1659. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary claims the first published record of the expression was in 1652. Webster’s Dictionary claims the first published record of the expression was in 1650. The Oxford Dictionary claims the first published record of the expression was some time during the 1650s. But none of these dictionaries provided a source to support their respective claims.

In researching the 1600s in the hopes of uncovering who appears to have first used the expression, Idiomation uncovered a passage in the “Concise Commentary On The Whole Bible” by Matthew Henry (18 October 1662 – 22 June 1714) and published in 1708 makes use of the expression. The commentary pertains directly to Joel 1:8-13.

All who labour only for the meat that perishes, will, sooner or later, be ashamed of their labour. Those that place their happiness in the delights of sense, when deprived of them, or disturbed in the enjoyment, lose their joy; whereas spiritual joy then flourishes more than ever. See what perishing, uncertain things our creature-comforts are. See how we need to live in continual dependence upon God and his providence. See what ruinous work sin makes. As far as poverty occasions the decay of piety, and starves the cause of religion among a people, it is a very sore judgment. But how blessed are the awakening judgments of God, in rousing his people and calling home the heart to Christ, and his salvation!

Henry’s use of the expression implies that he assumes his readership will understand what he means by creature-comforts, which lends credence to the claim that the expression was first used sometime in the 1600s. Unfortunately, how much earlier that in use in Matthew Henry’s book is unknown at this time. Idiomation would like to peg it to at least 1659, if not much earlier.

With that in mind, the fact remains that the expression is implied in at least 2 different books in the Bible: 1 Timothy 4:4 – 8 and Joel 1:8-13.

Posted in Bible, Idioms from the 17th Century, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

At The Drop Of A Hat

Posted by Admin on April 24, 2013

Nothing says urgency quite like doing something at the drop of a hat. When someone does this, it means they will stop what they’re doing at the time and immediately go on to something else without preparation or warning … and sometimes without stopping to think about the possible repercussions of their actions.

Back on June 5, 2009 the New Hampshire Business Review published an article entitled, “Sorry, Wrong Number.” It recounted (in 4 short paragraphs) the situation of Peter Burling, former Democratic State Senator from Cornish whose telephone service provider had claimed in a report to credit agencies that a matter of $17 had not been paid. The fact of the matter is that the bill had been paid long again by electronic payment. The article included this sentence.

That report apparently was enough for American Express to lower the credit limit on Burling’s longstanding account, something that — as many of us are finding out first-hand of late — credit card companies are happy to do at the drop of a hat.

On April 30, 1940 the St. Petersburg Times reported the latest on what was happening on the war fronts in Europe in an article entitled, “Allied Troops Throw Back Nazi Attack On Norwegian Rail Line: This Happened In The Past 24 Hours.” Not only was the activity in Norway reported, but news of special diplomatic envoy, Adolfo Alessandrini’s anticipated visit to New York was reported as well. The article included this in the news story:

Nevertheless, it would be premature to conclude that Russia would remain non-belligerent under all conditions while Italy would dash into the war at the drop of a hat. In the utterances of the Soviet leaders and press it has already been stated that Russia could not remain indifferent to any disturbances that might transpire on the Balkan-Black sea zone. ON her side, Italy has lit it be known that she regards the Balkans as her especial sphere of interests.

Going back almost another 50 years, the Easton Free Press newspaper of June 8, 1894 published an alarming article entitled, “Cripple Creek’s War.” Reporting on what was happening in Manown in Pennsylvania, readers were informed that 4,000 miners were willing to surrender to the militia but not to deputies, where deputies were protecting what they referred to as “negro laborers.” The story read in part:

Sheriff Bowers was waited on by a large delegation of deputies, who urged him to allow them to accompany him to Bull Hill. This may precipitate a row. The town is still intensely excited, and there was little sleep in camp last night. The presence of the militia does not bring any relief. The deputies want non of their aid, and strikers stand ready for a scrimmage at the drop of a hat.

In the book, “Life And Adventures Of A Country Merchant: A Narrative of His Exploits at Home, during His Travels, and in the Cities; Designed to Amuse and Instruct” by American novelist, John Beauchamp Jones (March 6, 1810 – February 4, 1866) and published in 1854, the following dialogue is found:

“Hang it, Polly! Ain’t you going to have me, after all your propositions and entreaties? You said you’d marry me at the drop of a hat! Once we were half married! And again, when I pleaded my honour, you said you would see if I couldn’t be made to disregard it.”

Some reference books identify this as the earliest use of the expression but I found on that goes back even further to October 12, 1837 in the Register of Debates in Congress where the following is recorded:

They could agree in the twinkling of an eye — at the drop of a hat — at the crook of a finger — to usurp the sovereign power; they cannot agree, in four months, to relinquish it.

Based on how the phrase is used in this instance, it’s clear that the expression was understood by those who read the Register which means it was already a recognized expression back in 1837. Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to trace the idiom back any further than this date and can only guess that it probably came into vogue at the very least in at the turn of that century.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Seven Ways To Sunday

Posted by Admin on April 22, 2013

It’s not often you hear someone say they’ve tried seven ways to Sunday to get something done, but when you do hear it, you know that person tried a variety of possibilities before giving up on solving the problem. Not only that, the person was thorough in his or her pursuit of a solution or answer to the problem. Once a person has tried seven ways to Sunday, there isn’t much of anything else that can be done by that person although someone else might be able to pick up where the other person left off, and arrive at a solution or answer to that very problem.

In a January 10, 2011 news story by Christopher Keating entitled, “Connecticut Has Twice As Many State Government Managers As National Average” and published in the Hartford Courant newspaper, the situation with government managers in Connecticut was addressed. Among many things that were reported was this:

“I would never sign a tolling bill that did not, in seven ways to Sunday, lock box the revenue for transportation purposes,” Malloy said. “I think it is inevitable that it will be actively considered.”

But tolls are clearly a long-term issue that will not be decided immediately.

“I don’t assume that this budget will be based in any way on tolls,” he said.

Going back nearly 50 years before that, the Youngstown Vindicator published an article on December 4, 1963 by reporter, Joseph Alsop entitled, “Maybe Goldwater Isn’t Blocked.” The article was about the political situation in the U.S. and the possibility that Senator Barry Goldwater might be blocked from being a Republican presidential nominee. It read in part:

No effective obstacle to this scheme was visible anywhere prior to the loss of President Kennedy. This was the case although the hot-eyed Goldwaterites were in a decided minority among Connecticut Republicans, who generally lean to the progressive side.

The party as a whole was (and still is) split seven ways to Sunday, principally by the feud between the former and present chairmen, Edwin May and Searle Pinney. Besides being divided among themselves, even those Republicans who were most certain Goldwater would be poison in Connecticut were also certain no one could beat a Kennedy-led ticket here. Thus no effective opposition to Goldwater coalesced anywhere.

The fact of the matter is that the number in the saying seven ways to Sunday is a constantly changing number. Some say it’s six ways to Sunday while others say it’s a thousand ways to Sunday. Some say it’s forty ways to Sunday while still others say it’s only six ways to Sunday. Some people have been known to say every which way from Sunday. Sometimes the preposition changes and from or for is substituted for the word to, all the while maintaining the right to change the number of days it might take.

The proof is in the pudding (as the saying goes) as this example from the October 10, 1910 edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provided this humorous elegy allegedly found in a country church yard:

But all is over and his soul is borne
To that far away country of the wine and corn
To jump six ways for Sunday every time
The Angel Gabriel toots his horn.

And despite the fact that there are so many different avenues to head off on in researching this phrase (based on numbers alone), perhaps the most intriguing (although unconfirmed) origin of the expression is this one.

The story goes that the saying dates back to the second half of the twelfth century when disbelievers and heretics were targeted by the Pope in Rome. Allegedly, the Pope sent out orders to every Archbishop that the last person to show up for Sunday service was to have the devil beaten out of him … six ways to Sunday. The punishment was to be meted out every day for a week until the following Sunday when another parishioner was tagged as the last one to show up for Sunday service.

Now the punishment wasn’t the same day in and day out.  Variety was added so the penitent parishioner would remember what he or she had done wrong.  In order to create variety, the punishment was to be carried out with a different instrument each day: Stout Mace for Mondays, Iron-tipped Boot for Tuesdays, Broad Sword (flat edge, not the sharp edge) for Wednesdays, Wide Belt for Thursdays, Stones for Fridays, and on Saturdays, depending on the season, the weapon of choice was either Ice (in winter) or Cabbage (in summer).

While Idiomation cannot confirm or rule out this anecdote, it certainly bears sharing since the story is sufficiently steeped in historical references that one might be led to believe it’s accurate even if it proves to be a prank tale.

Posted in Idioms from the 12th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »


Posted by Admin on April 17, 2013

We’ve all watched movies and TV shows where one of the characters uses the expression badabing to imply that a specific task was easily completed or should be simple to accomplish. It also implies that certain bits of information have been omitted because they are matter-of-course parts of the story.

James Caan’s character Sonny says it to Al Pacino’s character Michael in the 1972 movie, “The Godfather” and as such, it’s thought of as being a stereotypical Italian-American expression.

Whatcha gonna do? Nice college boy, eh? Don’t wanna get mixed up in the family business? Now you wanna gun down a police captain because he slapped you in the face a little bit, huh? Whataya think this is … the Army, where you shoot ’em a mile away? You gotta get up close like this … badaBING! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. C’mere … you’re taking this very personal.

But the fact of the matter is, while the expression was embraced by many of Italian-American ancestry, it isn’t from that culture at all. The expression actually hails back to the days of vaudeville and music halls, and morphed from its original version of bada ching.

Back in the day, the ba represented the tom, the da represented the kick, and the ching represented the cymbal crash. In many ways, the bada ching was the equivalent of the modern-day laugh track, and indicated that the punch line had been delivered.  No matter how good or bad the joke was, everyone in the audience knew the joke had been told when they heard bada ching.

So whether you say badabing, or you say badabing badaboom or say badaboom badabing, in the end, it means the same thing. But isn’t it interesting to know where it came from originally?

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brick And Click

Posted by Admin on April 15, 2013

With the clear separation between online shopping and brick-and-mortar store shopping, it wasn’t long before the expression brick and click was heard more and more in business conversations. Offline (brick) shopping and online (click) shopping meant that corporations and entrepreneurs had to pay attention to the way they marketed their brand to their customers, since those who preferred brick shopping appeared to have a different mindset than those who preferred click shopping.

Now, not every business is click-friendly just like not every business is brick-friendly. When reporter Randall Stross wrote his news story “Why Bricks And Clicks Don’t Always Mix” for the September 18, 2010 edition of the New York Times, he wrote in part:

Blockbuster’s experience shows that executing a bricks-and-clicks strategy entails a high degree of difficulty, managing not just two very different kinds of businesses, with dissimilar domains of expertise, but also a third challenge: integrating two separate systems. An online-only service can remain a best-in-class operation because its executives focus, focus, focus on just the online business.

This was clear back in July 2001 when the eCommerce Times online magazine edition of July 7, 2001 published their story entitled, “Brick-and-Click Does Not Mean Overnight Success.” Of special interest in the article was mention that not every brick-and-mortar store should become a brick-and-click store as evidenced by this tidbit:

While Federated is only going to narrow its offerings and eliminate less popular categories on Macys.com, the company is shutting down the e-commerce aspects of its Bloomingdales.com operation. From now on, Bloomingdales.com will be nothing more than an informational and marketing site for the company’s brick-and-mortar department stores.

Now Chris Lester, Assistant Managing Editor for the Kansas City Star newspaper reported on February 1, 2000 reported on the struggle to create a term for shopping online. The article, entitled, “Not Brick, But Click And Mortar” it was clear that no one was sure what the expression would be. The article began with this insight:

Here’s a new equation for retail and real estate at the dawn of the Internet epoch.

Brick and mortar + click and order = click and mortar.

That’s the hopeful word coming from retailers, vendors, brokers and developers who gathered last week at the Ritz-Carlton for a day of brainstorming sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Sometime between February 2000 and July 2001, all that was worked out and the accepted term for stores that had both offline and online shopping for customers became known as brick and click.

Posted in Idioms from the 21st Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brick And Mortar Store

Posted by Admin on April 12, 2013

When you hear someone talk about buying from a brick-and-mortar store, they aren’t talking about visiting a building supplies warehouse. A brick-and-mortar store is a business with a physical presence in the community — with physical buildings and facilities — as opposed to an online store or a business that offers only remote services.

In other words, brick-and-mortar stores are traditional stores that are successful due to foot traffic, storefront visibility, interior design, face-to-face customer service and more as opposed to eCommerce businesses that have cropped up over the past 20 years. This doesn’t mean that a brick-and-mortar store won’t have an online presence because many do have an online presence. But the term separates them from the many successful internet-only businesses that populate the Internet.

The term brick-and-mortar store is referred to as a retronym, which means the new name differentiates its original form or version from more recent forms or versions. And believe it or not, the term retronym was coined by Frank Mankiewicz in 1980, and was added to the American Heritage Dictionary in 2000.

Getting back to the history behind the expression brick-and-mortar stores, back in 1979, English inventor and entrepreneur, Michael Aldrich connected a television set to a transaction processing computer using a telephone line. This allowed for shopping at a distance to become a reality, and he coined the term teleshopping. From there, the idea was to market the technology to corporations on the basis that they could connect their agents, distributors and customers to their corporate information systems for direct shopping and sales without the involvement of third parties. This private system became known as Business-To-Business or B2B online shopping, with the first B2B going live in 1981. And in May of 1984, Mrs. Jane Snowball became the first online home shopper when she bought groceries via the Gateshead SIS/Tesco system.

In the late 1990s, dot-com corporations were creating their own personal lingo to describe their businesses, services and products as well as activities on the Internet that were associated with doing business online. World economies were on the upswing, moving away from relying on a manufacturing-based economy and towards an economy centered on the exchange of ideas and information via technology. Despite this, all corporations and small businesses agreed that they had to be competitive in order to stay afloat, and this relied on attracting and retaining customers.

Sometime before Y2K wheedled its way into the lexicon, dot-coms successfully separated their businesses from traditional businesses (those that operated outside on the online world) by referring to non-Internet businesses as brick-and-mortar stores … based on the concept that most stores were made of brick and mortar, especially factories, warehouses and downtown shops.

On March 17, 1999 the Direct Marketing News published an article written by Ted Kemp entitled, “High-End Grocery Store Will Divert Brick-And-Mortar Traffic To Net.” The article revealed that high-end health food retailer Whole Foods Market Inc., was launching an online grocery store and how it intended to not only reinvent itself on the Internet, but to maintain a strong presence in the physical world of retail. The focus was on making their online store a massive hit with customers and moving it into the black within two years of launching without abandoning the 88 brick and mortar stores already found across the U.S. and without sacrificing the 32 brick and mortar stores that were in development at the time. The first paragraph began with:

Whole Foods Market Inc., is scheduled to launch an online grocery next week, and the company is determined to make it profitable quickly — even if that means diverting customers from its brick-and-mortar stores.

The previous Fall, on October 4, 1998, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a news story written by Christine Dunn of the Bloomberg News, entitled, “Weaving The Web: Internet Retailing Is Still A Niche Business.” The story reported in part:

They prefer their brick-and-mortar stores, skeptical that Internet sales will offset the cost of designing and maintaining Web sites and handling orders.

Interestingly enough, however, on September 6, 1996 John M. Wills, business editor for the Rome News-Tribune wrote about NationsBank’s acquisition of Atlanta-based Bank South — a bank that was known for its sophisticated operation that made use of high tech systems. Gary Redding, senior banking executive for NationsBank in Rome, Georgia was quoted as saying:

Brick and mortar is extremely expensive, and if we can deliver services in a more economical manner, we would look into it here,” he said. “We would certainly look at putting branches at Krogers in Rome if this works.”

Idiomation confirms that sometime between 1995 and 1997, the expression brick-and-mortar store was understood by most people to mean a business that did not have an Internet presence, that relied on doing business in the traditional way without involving either high tech or the Internet.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Admin on April 8, 2013

Bling aka Roxanne “Roxy” Washington is a fictional character in the X-Men comic books published by Marvel Comics and first appeared in August 2005. Her superpower is having bone marrow that produces diamond shards which means she has exceptional durability. But where did the word bling come from in the first place, and who coined it?

According to an article in the Seattle Times on December 27, 2005 the term bloom was off the flower where the expression bling was concerned.  Journalist Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote:

The word “bling” has been overused by every two-bit jeweler selling cubic zirconium. It has been worn out by virtually all fashion publicists — who for the past five months have been chirping, “Bling The New Year!” — and by every morning TV host trying to make the umpteenth holiday shopping segment sound fun and nifty.

She went on to write:

It used to be that “bling” was reserved for jewelry, decorative wheel rims or gold teeth — all of it excessively flashing and extraordinarily expensive. It was a terrific term because it had the quality of a sound effect.

In January of 2005, the Guardian newspaper took on the subject of noticeable jewelry being worn more and more often by celebrities in an article entitled, “How Bling-Bling Took Over The Ring.” The teaser with the article enticed people to read more about the bling being worn by boxing’s most noticeable personalities.

From Don King’s diamonds to Mike Tyson’s ostentatious gems, only boxing rivals in the bling stakes. Thomas Hauser and Marily Cole Lownes trace the rise of the carat crunchers — including one whose smile is worth a small fortune.

A year before that in January of 2004, the Lake Superior State University of Michigan committee had already deemed the expression bling as one of the most useless and overused words, winning the expression a place on the “List of Words Banished From The Queen’s English For Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” — a list that has existed since 1976.

On January 22, 2000 the Gettysburg Times published a news story by Associated Press Sports Writer, Ken Peters about the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA fans who loved them. The story was entitled, “Lakers’ Victory Parade Travels Through Scene Of Violence.” Along with the festive tone of the piece, the following sentence was included:

Bling Bling” was O’Neal’s explanation for the sound made when light bounces off a diamond NBA championship ring.

It’s a fact that the term bling was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006 and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 after rising in popularity in the English language thanks to hip hop culture.

Jamaican DJ Super Cat had a hit in 1993 with the song “Dolly My Baby” which was recorded for his 1992 album, Don Dada. It reached #64 on the R&B charts and #21 on the rap and dance charts. The expression appears midway through the song as follows:

[Third Eye]
Bling, bling! Who’s that with Supercat
(Third Eye!, Third Eye!)
Yes black, where all my troopers at
(Uptown!, Uptown!)
They got my back but I’m still strapped
Got the real phat, phat track for my ill rap
Black, ain’t no shame in my game, just because it’s real
You think I won’t scoop your girl, oh yes I will.

This makes Lil’ Wayne’s claim on the Outkast song, “Hollywood Divorce” specious at best when he raps:

Bling bling, I know and did you know I’m the creator of the term?

But in the end, credit has to go to the makers of Ultrabrite toothpaste who created a commercial campaign back in the 1970s that ran with the tag line: “Ultrabrite gives your mouth … [bling] … sex appeal!” Before the words “sex appeal”, a high-pitched bell would sound over the visual of a young man or woman smiling. It wasn’t long before comedians seized on what they felt was the silliness of the campaign, spoofing it in their routines by vocalizing the sound effect.

Posted in Advertising, Boxing, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »