Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Archive for May, 2013

Mattress Actress

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 31, 2013

WARNING:
THE FOLLOWING POST MAY NOT BE
SUITABLE FOR MINORS DUE TO CONTENT.

Recently, a talk show radio host on WOKI in Knoxville, TN referred to a certain woman (who had spent a period of time as one of two former live-in girlfriends of Charlie Sheen back when he went off on a tangent a couple of years ago) as a mattress actress.  The idiom is sometimes considered synonymous with gold digger but with far more adult content.  In other words, a mattress actress is a female who fakes certain kinds of pleasure in exchange for financial gain or celebrity recognition.

On February 1, 2011, radio station 105.5 JYY in Gilford, New Hampshire reported on what they referred to as Sheen-anigans.  After having a go at the at-home rehab Charlie Sheen claimed he was undergoing, they took on another aspect of the actor’s life with this bit of information:

Mattress actress Kacey Jordan was on “Good Morning America” yesterday, talking about the so-called “porn family” that Charlie Sheen wanted to set up in a rented mansion in his neighborhood.  Kacey said Charlie just wanted to retire and spend his time partying with her and any other porno minxes he could convince to live there.

Kelly Gellatly, Senior Assistant Curator (Australian Photography) wrote “Re-take: Contemporary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Photography” which can be found on the National Gallery of Australia website.  The article appears to have been written in 1999.  Near the end of the article, the following can be found:

Deacon’s mock video cover Peach Blossom’s Revenge 1995 (a Mattress Actress Production) is a tongue-in-cheek satire of American war or mercenary-type action films that explores the positioning and objectification of the black female body in photography and film.

In 1993, Sophie Frank wrote and published a book entitled, “The Mattress Actress.”  The story is about a prostitute by the name of Ruby and her childhood friend who also works in the sex trade, Anita.  When Ruby’s violent ex-husband starts making death threats against them, the two women turn to an unlikely source for protection.

However, despite Idiomation’s efforts to find an earlier source than this for the idiom, the idiom remained elusive.  Idiomation can only believe that Sophie Frank coined the expression in 1993.  Of course, if that is incorrect, please feel free to provide proof of its earlier use along with the year.

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Crisp And Clean And No Caffeine

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 29, 2013

When American rapper Big Daddy Kane released his song “I Get The Job Done” in 1988, it included the phrase crisp, clean and no caffeine. The expression has been used by those who imply that they are, or what they are doing is, above-board and without artifice.

When PopMatters Film and TV Editor, Cynthia Fuchs reviewed the movie “Coffee and Cigarettes” in the May 20, 2004 edition of PopMatters, she wrote about the return of Jim Jarmusch, and the cast which included such recognizable names as Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina and Bill Murray. The reviewer shared that the movie was actually a set of 10 vignettes strung together, with coffee and cigarettes being the thread that ran through all of them. At one point in the review, she wrote:

Discussing his innovative combinations of alternative medicine and music (“two planets circling around the same sun”), RZA provides a clever gloss on his own numerologizing and Eastern philosophizing, by way of an acute sense of irony and good humor at his own expense (“Crisp and clean,” he rhymes, “No caffeine”). Both the ZAs are duly entertained by the arrival at their table of waiter Bill Murray (whom they repeatedly call by his full name, as a kind of punctuation to every address, as in, “Are you a bug, Bill Murray?”). When they warn him that caffeine brings on “serious delirium,” Bill Murray glugs the brew straight from the pot, as RZA and GZA watch, amazed.

On December 12, 1999 the Seattle Times published a news article written by Associated Press journalist, Ted Anthony entitled, “Little Utah Town Hits A Gusher: Pure Water From The Ice Ages.” In the second-driest state in the United States of America, an aquifer known as Humbug Well became the center of attention … and a possible source of income for the town in Summit County. The story reported that in September 1998, Weston Groundwater Engineering’s hydrogeologist hit pay dirt … or rather, pay water! 175 gallons per minute worth of water! And midway through the article, the journalist wrote:

City officials didn’t realize it was special at first. Sure, it was crisp and clean, no caffeine. But Ice Age water?

The Reading Eagle published a news story on March 21, 1982 entitled, “Seven-Up Launches Controversial Cola.” The opening paragraph stated that Seven-Up had upset its competitors in the soft-drink industry by running an aggressive ad campaign that helped re-brand it from the Un-Cola to something entirely different. With the FDA warning pregnant woman in 1982 to avoid products with caffeine on the basis that studies showed that heavy doses of caffeine caused birth defects in rats, Seven-Up seized on the opportunity to make the most of the FDA’s warnings. The article stated in part:

Seven-Up, which has lost $8.8 million in the past two years, raised the ire of the rest of the industry earlier this month when it launched a new advertising campaign attacking a basic ingredient of its competitors’ sodas — caffeine.

The ads, featuring popular sports personalities, proclaim, “Seven-Up … Crisp and Clean.  No Caffeine.  Feelin’ Seven-Up.”

Just 3 weeks before that article, the Beaver County Times published an article on March 2, 1982 that quoted Les Zuke, a spokesman for the Seven-Up Co., that the “Seven-Up … Crisp and Clean. No Caffeine. Feelin’ Seven-Up” commercials would be introduced nationwide over the next few days. One ad featured Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Randy White, with a traditional commercial featuring a high-profile sports figure. But it was the one with Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw that was the most controversial as he brushed aside cans of Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange, Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew and Mello Yello to grab a can of Seven-Up.

But it was the Seven-Up commercials featuring Geoffrey Holder that most people remember.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this idiom, and so 1982 is the year this first came into vogue as a slogan, and making its way into the English language shortly thereafter as an idiom.

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All Hat And No Cattle

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 27, 2013

When the nighttime soap “Dallas” hit the television airwaves again, viewers were treated to the expression all hat and no cattle.  For those who didn’t understand what the saying means, it means that someone talks big, but can’t back up what he says. In other words, the person is all talk and no action. The phrase is also sometimes heard as big hat and no cattle.

For those who think that it’s an obscure idiom, Bradley Blakeman (former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004, and currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University) would beg to differ. Writing for Fox News on May 5, 2010 he wrote about President Barack Obama’s handling of the BP oil disaster, quoting such journalists as Michael Shear of the Washington Post and Joseph Curl of the Washington Times. The title of the article was:

Oil Spill Proves It’s Obama Who Is All Hat And No Cattle

A decade before that, the New York Daily News reported on January 16, 2000 that John McCain and George W. Bush were hotly debating Bush’s proposed tax cuts and the lack of funding for Social Security, Medicare and the U.S. national debt. McCain believed that Bush’s $483 billion tax cut was too big and favored the wealthy. In the end, McCain called the plan “all hat and no cattle.”

Back on December 15, 1977, Carl Hilliard of the Associated Press wrote an article entitled, “Finley Finally Finds A Buyer For The A’s.” The story was carried by a number of newspapers including the Argus Press. In the news story, Insurance millionaire Charles O. Finley had this to say about Oil millionaire Marvin Davis:

“Mr. Davis is not like a lot of Texans – big hat, no cattle. That man’s got the cattle. Horse manure walks, money talks. All these other people were walking around with their hands in their pockets. Mr. Davis took his hands out of his pockets and put the money on the table.”

The Albuquerque Tribune carried a brief news story about members of the British Parliament who were demanding an equal voice with the United States in the conduct of the Korean War. The story was printed in the June 28, 1952 edition and was aptly entitled:

Big Hat, No Cattle

According to the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, the phrase is found in “Agricultural Leaders’ Digest 25, No. 3” for March 1944 within the context of a joke. While Idiomation hasn’t seen that particular publication, we can only assume that the claim is accurate.

Even Forbes magazine claims that the expression is an old Texas saying, however, Idiomation has been unable to track it back any further than to say that if it was used in a joke in 1944, it was understood by the majority of people and must have been around since at least the generation before that, placing it squarely in the 1920s.

Interestingly enough, Idiomation did find an idiom that wasn’t far removed from the sense of all hat, no cattle and that was found in the Gettysburg Star and Republican Banner edition of October 12, 1841 wherein a journalist wrote:

All talk and no cider is the case with some women.

It certainly gives to wonder if the the phrase all talk and no cider is the precursor to the idiom all hat and no cattle.

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A Woman’s Place Is In The House

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 3, 2013

Have you ever heard the expression: A woman’s place is in the house? If you hear that these days, it’s a good chance the speaker is either baiting you, or there’s a witty play on words about to happen.

On January 5, 2007 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story about Nancy Pelosi in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was an article that heralded her accomplishments as a politician, with the article aptly titled, “A Woman’s Place Is In The House: Pelosi Opens Doors On Her Life.” Partway through the article, the following was found:

Five hundred women wore badges with Ms Pelosi’s face, in pearl earrings, above the slogan: “A woman’s place is in the House … as Speaker.”

Feminists of the 1970s took offence to the expression and came up with their own version:

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

But the fact remains that the expression will always have a place in society.

Back on Jun 6, 1925, the Toledo News Bee newspaper published a United Press story out of San Antonio, Texas that had to do with elections for President of the General Federation Of Women’s Clubs. It was reported that by a convention vote of 555 to 434, the candidate from Baltimore had been elected President.

Mrs. John F. Sippel of Baltimore, whose campaign slogan that a “woman’s place is in the home” won her a victory over her “business woman” opponent.

Almost 100 years before that, back in 1832, the New Sporting Magazine, Volume 3 published an article that stated:

A woman’s place is her own home, and not her husband’s countinghouse.

When British physician and preacher Thomas Fuller (24 June 1654 – 17 September 1734) published “Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs; Wife Sentences and Witty Saying, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British” in 1732, the following was included:

A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried.

Since his book included ancient sayings and since Thomas Fuller was also a preacher, it’s not surprising that this was found in his book. After all, the phrase originated with the Greek, and more specifically with Greek playwright Aeschylus, who wrote this in 467 B.C.:

Let the women stay at home and hold their peace.

As much as some women may  not appreciate hearing the expression, the fact of the matter is that it has a history that stretches far back into Ancient Greece.  In the end, however, perhaps the expression is more of a compliment and acknowledgment of the great impact mothers have on their children than a slight against them.

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Sign Of The Times

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 1, 2013

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 “Hollywoodsign 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.

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