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Archive for March, 2016


Posted by Admin on March 31, 2016

Sometimes you’ll hear people say blimey or cor blimey as if they were residents of the UK.  The exclamation is one used to express surprise, excitement, or alarm.  The thing is, it seems to be used far more often by Americans and Canadians than by those from the UK.

Of course, part of the linkage is due to how blimey is used.  For example, in the March 27, 2016 Windsor Star in Windsor (Ontario, Canada), Sharon Hill reported on a British store and gift shop in Harrow, Ontario.  Set to celebrate its second anniversary in April, the shop is named Blimeys British Store and Gift Shop, and the article was titled, “Blimey: Award-winning British Shop In Harrow Still Surprising Customers.”

The previous week, Mike Tighe of the LaCross Tribune in Wisconsin (USA) wrote about the La Crosse Community Theatre auditions for their anticipated presentation of “Billy Elliot.”  The journalist made sure to use all kinds of British slang.  He made sure to mention that damp squib was British slang for total failure, and that gobsmacked was British slang for stunned.  He made sure readers knew that blinding was British slang for superb, and he made sure to include blimey in the headline, “Blimey: LCT Gets Smashing Cast for Billy Elliot.”

Even Sergio Ramos — who happens to be a Real Madrid defender — used the expression in an article published in Diario AS published in Madrid (Spain) on March 30, 2016.

Sometimes, when I’m in the shower, I start singing my head off. Lyrics just come to me and I think, ‘Blimey, what a lovely tune!’. For me, music’s a big part of my life and I take it into my professional life and share it with my team mates, and enjoy it.”

But do British newspapers and journalists use the word?  James Hall of the Telegraph used it in his  March 25, 2016 review of Ellie Goulding’s performance.  Near the end of his review titled, “Ellie Goulding Needs To Find Her Personality,” he wrote:

The other reason that Goulding needs a break was her banter. I got no sense of her personality from her between-song chat. Of course, Adele-style ‘cor blimey’ expletive-laden confessionals are not for everyone, but Goulding missed a chance to connect. There’s a fine line between saying you’re shy and appearing like you’re going through the motions.

In the 1997 play, “Home: A Play In Two Acts” by English playwright, screenwriter, award-winning novelist and a former professional rugby league player, David Storey (born 13 July 1933), the expression made its way into the Kathleen’s dialogue near the beginning of Act I.

Going to rain, ask me.

Rain all it wants, ask me.  Cor … blimey!  Going to kill he is this.

Going to rain and catch us out here.  That’s what it’s going to do.

Going to rain all right, in’t it?  Going to rain all right … Put your umbrella up — Sun’s still shining.  Cor blimey.  Invite rain that will.  Commonsense girl … Cor blimey .. My bleedin’ feet.

Out here and no shelter.  Be all right if it starts.

Cor blimey … ‘Surprise me they don’t drop off … Cut clean through these will.

Clouds all over.  Told you we shouldn’t have come out.

Get nothing if you don’t try, girl … Cor blimey!

Years earlier, as  American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature, Eugene O’Neill (16 October 1888 – 27 November 1953) began to make waves in the theater with his plays, what critics called his “most interesting play” hit its stride with a meteoric rise.

The Emperor Jones” told the story of an African-American who was an ex-Pullman porter who arrives in the West Indies, and within two years of arriving in the West Indies, Brutus Jones makes himself emperor.  The play begins during a difficult time, after Brutus Jones has been in power for several years, and has amassed a large fortune thanks to the heavy taxes he imposed on the islanders he rule.  But times are not easy as rebellion is brewing in the capital.  A Cockney trader named Smithers is responsible for using blimey in the play.

Then you ain’t so foxy as I thought you was.  Where’s all your court?  The Generals and the Cabinet Ministers and all?

Where dey mostly runs to minute I closes my eyes — drinkin’ rum and talkin’ big down in de town.  How come you don’t know dat?  Ain’t you sousin’ with ’em most every day?

That’s part of the day’s work.  I got ter — ain’t I — in my business?

Yo’ business!

Gawd blimey, you was glad enough for me ter take you in on it when you landed here first.  You didn’t ‘ave no ‘igh and mighty airs in them days!

Talk polite, white man!  Talk polite, you heah me!  I’m boss heah now, is you forgettin’?

No ‘arm meant, old top.

INTERESTING NOTE 1:  Eugene O’Neill was the father of Oona O’Neill (14 May 1925 – 27 September 1991), who was the fourth and last wife of English actor and filmmaker. Charlie Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977).

INTERESTING NOTE 2:  During WWI, there was a soft cap with ear flaps that was known as the Gor blimey.  It was replaced in 1917 by a soft cap without flaps that looked more like military wear than the Gor blimey.   Many soldiers held on to their Gor blimey caps for winter weather anyway, due in large part to the ear flaps that helped keep their ears warm.

In Volume I of “Slang and its Analogues Past and Present: A Dictionary, Historical and Comparative, of the Heterodox Speech of All Classes of Society For More Than Three Hundred Years” by John Stephen Farmer (7 March 1854 – 18 January 1916) published in 1890 (and of which only 750 copies were printed for subscribers only) this definition was given for blimey.

A corruption of ‘Blind me!’; an expression little enough understood by those who constantly have it in their mouths.

A year earlier in 1889, Albert Marie Victor Barrère (died 1896) and Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903) published, “A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant Embracing English, American, and Anglo-Indian Slang, Pidgin English, Gypsies’ Jargon and Other Irregular Phraseology.”  In Volume I, the definition for blimey is slightly different from that of Farmer’s dictionary.

Blimey (common), an apparently meaningless, abusive term.

Prior to this published entry, however, the only references to Blimey are those referring to a person’s last name such as John Blimey or Anna Blimey or some other Blimey.

It’s a fact that swearing was frowned upon during this era, and as such, substituting minced oaths was popular.  While Idiomation is unable to state definitively when blimey and cor blimey were first used, it’s reasonable to believe that they were both popular buzz phrases for the era in the 1880s, and continued to be used in the 20th century.

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The Camel’s Nose Is Under The Tent

Posted by Admin on March 29, 2016

A friend asked me where the saying the camel’s nose is too far under the tent originated as he’d recently heard it used in conversation between friends in public.  For those who aren’t familiar with the idiom, it means something small and seemingly harmless can lead to something much bigger and considerably more dangerous unless it’s stopped in its tracks.  It’s just another way of saying:  Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

Oddly enough, the slippery slope fallacy” in arguments is also called the “camel’s nose fallacy.”

The expression sounds very exotic and not very common, however, Idiomation soon learned that the expression isn’t as uncommon as one might think!

On March 26, 2016 the Think Advisor website published an article titled, “The Fiduciary Effect On Recruiting.”  The article addressed the issue of the advisor job market and the fiduciary standards that are part of that market.  The second paragraph in this article made use of a variation of the idiom.

Once the camel’s nose is in the tent, the rest of the camel can’t be far behind. It’s not feasible for an advisor to service accounts with two different sets of standards.

Back on August 12, 1998, American Patriot Friends Network website published “This Raises A Burning Question: Should Native Australians Pay U.S. Taxes?”  It seemed like an odd question in light of the fact that most people wouldn’t think a resident of one country should pay taxes to another country unless they had earned income in the other country over the past year.   The article, however, wasn’t about Aborigines at all.  It was about how churches in the U.S. should be perceived as invisible for purposes of taxation just as Aborigines are.  As the article began to wrap up, the writer included this quote with a slightly modified version of the idiom:

As Pastor Dan Little sees it, “Either way we win.” If the church loses, Little shared, they expose the American system to be anti-Christ. “If we win, we back the camel’s nose out of the tent a little.”

In 1958, U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater used the idiom when stating his opposition to the National Defense Education Act, a science initiative implemented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and signed into law on September 2, 1958.   It was described as being “an Act to strengthen the national defense and to encourage and assist in the expansion and improvement of educational programs to meet critical national needs and for other purposes.” Senator Goldwater waste no time in stating:

This bill and the foregoing remarks of the majority remind me of an old Arabian proverb: “If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.” If adopted, the legislation will mark the inception of aid, supervision, and ultimately control of education in this country by the federal authorities.

In Volume 37 of “Railway World” published on June 10, 1893, the idiom was used in the article, “Steam and Electric Railways.”  The weekly magazine was published every Saturday from its head office at 137 South Fifth Street in Philadelphia (PA) and commanded a hefty four dollars per annum subscription fee — five dollars if your subscription was mailed to an address abroad.  The agent for Great Britain was one Frederic Algar headquartered in London.  And this is what the magazine had to say about electric railways.

Electric railways are emulating the camel that humbly sought permission to put his nose inside the tent, and soon afterward ejected the unsuspicious owner of the tent aforesaid.  Under the plain title of “street railways” they are gaining possession of highways already opened at public expense.

As Idiomation continued to search for the origins of this phrase, a number of sources identified it as either part of a Bedouin parable or part of an Arab parable that asserts this to be a fact:  If the camel is allowed to stick his nose in the tent, before long, the whole camel will be in the tent.

Searching for this fable, one was found that had been published in 1858 that talked of an Arab miller who allowed his camel to stick his nose into his bedroom, followed by other parts of his body, until the camel was completely in the bedroom where he refused to leave even when asked to do so.

But most people — even those in Victorian times — thought of Arabs as living in tents and not in houses with traditional bedrooms, and so a second version of the fable found its way into people’s imaginations.  This is how it read.

One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a Camel thrust the flap of the tent aside, and looked in.

“I pray thee, master,” he said, “let me put my head within the tent, for it is cold without.”

“By all means, and welcome,” said the Arab; and the Camel stretched his head into the tent.

“If I might but warm my neck, also,” he said, presently.

“Put your neck inside,” said the Arab.

Soon the Camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said again, “It will take but little more room if I put my fore legs within the tent. It is difficult standing without.”

“You may also put your fore legs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was very small.

“May I not stand wholly within?” asked the Camel, finally. “I keep the tent open by standing as I do.”

“Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “I will have pity on you as well as on myself. Come wholly inside.”

So the Camel came forward and crowded into the tent. But the tent was too small for both.

“I think,” said the Camel, “that there is not room for both of us here. It will be best for you to stand outside, as you are the smaller; there will then be room enough for me.”

There was a scuffle and the much stronger and bigger camel pushed his master out of the tent.

Now the Camel slept comfortably in the warm tent while his Master shivered outside in the freezing cold.

The moral of this story is this:  Never let a camel get his nose in your tent. When you give the foolish a little, it is never enough. They are never satisfied until they have it all.

Despite Idiomation’s most ardent efforts, an earlier published reference about the camel’s nose under the tent couldn’t be found.  Idiomation assumes that the story with the exotic locale made it easier to promote the moral to those living in the Victorian era, and as such it pegs the idiom to about 1858.

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Tricked Out

Posted by Admin on March 8, 2016

When something or someone is tricked out, the thing or the person has been decorated in an extravagant way with conspicuous accessories meant to bring undue attention to whatever or whoever has been tricked out.

The July 2, 2008 edition of the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper ran a story about an Oskaloosa automotive high school teacher whose tractor-trailer was chosen to be on “Trick My Truck.”  The producers and sponsors added a 42-inch plasma screen TV, a video gaming system,  a computer system, and a 1,000-watt stereo among other items, and finished off the project with artwork showing an orange and gray hammer hitting a nail … and flames.  The article was titled, “Oskaloosa Teacher Gets Truck Tricked Out.”

Back in 1975, George A. Meyer published his book, “The Two-Word Verb: A Dictionary of Verb-Preposition Phrases in American English.”  In the Introduction, the writer stated that the two-word verb had been in use for over a century, and according to him, in 1975, it was “the most active and creative pattern of word formation in the American language.”  Among his two-word verbs was tricked out meaning “to dress, array, or deck, especially in a showy or decorative manner.

The 1911 edition of “The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia” included an entry for trick out that wasn’t much different from the definition by George A. Meyer in 1975.  It provided this meaning for the term:  To arrange, dress, or decorate, especially in a fanciful way.

The term trick out was even found in an Otto Holtzes Nachfolger edition of the “New Pocket-Dictionary of the English and Russian Languages” printed in Leipzig (Saxony, Germany) in 1895, with the meaning unchanged from what we know it to be today!

English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) used tricked out in his poem “The Prelude: Book Seventh: Residence In London” published in “The Poetical Works of Williams Wordsworth: A New Edition” in 1869.  Work on the poem began in 1799 and ended the summer of 1805; It was first published in his book “Excursion” in 1814.

When at a country-playhouse, some rude barn
Tricked out for that proud use, if I perchance
Caught, on a summer evening through a chink
In the old wall, an unexpected glimpse
Of daylight, the bare thought of where I was
Gladdened me more than if I had been led
Into a dazzling cavern of romance …

It was used in John Gay’s opera, “The Beggar’s Opera” published in 1728.  It was a ballad opera in three acts with libretto by John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732), and music arranged by German composer, Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667 – 20 July 1752).  It had its first performance on January 29, 1728.  In the scene where tricked out is spoken, Peachum and Lockit are seated at a table that has wine, brandy, pipes, and tobacco on it.

A lady’s tail of rich brocade — That I see is disposed of.

To Mrs. Diana Trapes, the tallywoman, and she will make a good hand on’t in shoes and slippers to trick out young ladies upon their going into keeping.

But I don’t see any article of the jewels.

INTERESTING NOTE 1:  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this opera, the main with whom Polly Peachum falls in love and marries is Macheath.  Macheath has a great many female friends whom he visits at the local tavern, including Jenny Diver and Suky Tawdry.  If this sounds oddly familiar, it’s because you’ve heard speak of all these characters in the Bobby Darin hit in 1959,Mack The Knife.”

INTERESTING NOTE 2:  Some readers and visitors will recollect that the song, “Mack the Knife” was from “The Threepenny Opera” written and produced in 1928.  The songs for this particular opera were written by German poet, dramatist, playwright, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) and german composer, Kurt Weill (2 March 1900 – 3 April 1950).

While Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of tricked out than the one in John Gay’s opera, the idiom was understood by the audience of the early 1700s.   There is reason to believe, however, that the idiom dates back at least another hundred years, and possibly more.

In the 1500s, trick meant to dress or adorn, while in the 1540s, out meant into public notice.  Someone or something that was tricked out was dressed or adorned into public notice.

Somewhere between 1540 and 1728 (when the opera was first performed), tricked out became an accepted two-word term in conversations.  Without proof, unfortunately, Idiomation is unable to tell when exactly tricked out was first used.  Idiomation therefore pegs this idiom to about 1634 as the halfway mark between 1540 and 1727.

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Posted by Admin on March 3, 2016

A dude is both a person, and a font.  As a font, it’s described as a reverse contrast cowboy font.  The creator of the font, Philadelphia artist Dan Gneiding describes the font this way.


When Jeff Bridges took on the lead role in the movie, “The Big Lebowski” he made the concept of being a dude popular among certain types.  His character was known as Jeff ‘The Dude‘ Letrotski  aka Jeffrey Lebowski aka Lebowski Pony.  The imdb.com site states that the premise of the movie is this: “The Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.

At one point in the movie, Jeff Bridges’s character says:

Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

Not long after the movie’s release, a new religion (of sorts) was born: Dudeism.  The religion (of sorts) embraces the old meaning of the word insofar as it advocates living the easy life without effort or ambition.  In other words — slackers.

Back on August 26, television station WBAL-TV 11 in Baltimore reported on an incident where a city police officer garnered national attention when video recorded in 2007 was posted to YouTube by a teen involved in an altercation with the officer.  The officer was fired based on the content of the video, and the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police was upset over the officer’s firing.

According to the television report, this officer was upset at the teen’s repeated disrespect towards him and his disregard of a lawful order given to him by a police officer.

In the video, the boy said he did not hear an order that the officer gave him about skateboarding at the Harbor. Rivieri repeatedly got upset at being called “dude” in the video.

“I’m not ‘man.’ I’m not ‘dude,’ I am Officer Rivieri,” he told the teen. “The sooner you learn that, the longer you are going to live in this world. Because you go around doing this kind of stuff and somebody is going to kill you.”

Over the decades, the word has been used in songs such as Mott the Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes,” Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude Will Tell You,” and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like A Lady.”  It’s been used in movies such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!) and Back To The Future III (where Bad Dog Tannen insults Marty McFly by repeatedly referring to him as dude).

In the book “The Faith Doctor: A Story of New York” written by American historian and novelist, Edward Eggleston (10 December 1837 – 3 September 1902) and published in 1891, an accurate description is provided at the beginning of the books, in the first chapter titled, “The Origin Of A Man Of Fashion.”

It was the opinion of a good many people that Charles Millard was “something of a dude.”  But such terms are merely relative; every fairly dressed man is a dude to somebody.  There are communities in this free land of ours in which the wearing of a coat at dinner is a most disreputable mark of dudism.

Even Mark Twain thought the term was worthy of inclusion in his book “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court” which he published in 1889.

It seems to show that there isn’t anything you can’t stand, if you are only born and bred to it. Of course that taint, that reverence for rank and title, had been in our American blood, too – I know that; but when I left America it had disappeared – at least to all intents and purposes. The remnant of it was restricted to the dudes and dudesses.

Of course, back in the 1880s, the term dude was very well-known and well-used by authors.  There were all kinds of books with the word in the title, from “Dude of the Diggings” to “The Dude, The Dunce, And The Daisy” and all the way on to “I’m A Dandy, But I’m No Dude.”  There was no shortage of short stories and novels that found a reason to toss the word dude into the tale’s title.

New York Socialite (and later American expatriate in France) Evander Berry Wall (1860 – 13 May 1940) was known as the “King of the Dudes” rising to the top spot at a time when it was understood that there was a ‘Battle of the Dudes‘ doing on.  In this battle, men tried to outdo each other with their fancy clothes in the hopes of being crowned the artistic and beautiful ideal of masculine fashion in New York City.

The term become very common, so much so, that in 1883 a political cartoon by Chester A. Arthur featured the President with the caption beneath that read:

According to your cloth you’ve cut your coat,
O Dude of all the White House Residents;
We trust that will help you with the vote,
When next we go nominating Presidents.

According to American children’s writer (and author of Hans Brinker published in 1865) Mary Mapes Dodge (26 January 1831 – 21 August 1905), the word dude was understood in every day conversations as early as 1873, and was first published in Putnam’s magazine in February 1876.

Idiomation was unable to trace the term to before the date provided by Mary Mapes Dodge.  As a side note, Idiomation *did* learn that the Middle English word Dudde referred to cloak, mantle, or sackcloth, and oftentimes dudery was used to refer to sellers of second-hand clothes.

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