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Archive for October, 2021


Posted by Admin on October 30, 2021

With all the rain in the weather forecasts these days, it’s no surprise that some meteorologists are letting audiences know which ones are regular rainstorms and which ones are gullywashers. But what exactly is a gullywasher? A gullywasher is a short-lived but intense rainstorm.

The interesting thing about gullywashers is that they don’t happen outside of the U.S., and many northern states and Pacific coast states don’t deal with gullywashers. They may deal with turtle floaters or duck drowners or or toad stranglers, and they might deal with bridge lifters or mud senders or even Baptist dam breakers, but in the Southern, Western, and Midwestern states and all the way up into Wisconsin, gullywashers are what people worry about when the clouds roll in.

In an article in The Oklahoman titled, “Birthplace of the Gully Washer” by journalist and sports writer Frank Boggs (1 May 1928 – 10 August 2017) and published on 30 September 1986, the author claimed:

Oklahoma is where the gully washer was invented.

That alone was reason enough for Idiomation to set off researching this interesting word.

A gully is a large ditch or small valley that usually runs along a hillside, and that ditch or small valley happens when running water erodes the soil to the point where a ditch or a small valley is created. Every time it rains, more water moves soil out of the gully which leads to a deeper and wider gully. But the thing is, it takes a lot of water gushing through that ditch or small valley for it to fill up to the point where soil is dragged away.

The word gully first appeared in the English language in the 1650s and is from the Middle English word golet which means water channel.

In 1999, gullywashers weren’t just happening in the U.S. Editor Gardner Dozois included the Bruce Sterling (14 April 1954 – ) story “Taklamakan” in “The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Sixteenth Annual Collection.” Texas-born Sterling’s stories had appeared in ten of the previous fifteen annual collections, and was a favorite of many scifi readers. In his short story “Taklamakan” the following was written.

Pete scanned their surroundings on spex telephoto. They were lurking on a hillside above a playa, where the occasional gullywasher had spewed out a big alluvial fan of desert varnished grit and cobbles.

In April 1963, the statement of J.H. Hanson, Co-Chairman of the Western Montana Citizens Committee and president of the Security State Bank at Polson (MT) represented 63 organizations as well as 500 individuals who were against the Knowles Project was recorded in the publication of “Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Flood Control of the Committee on Public Works.” The Co-Chairs were Charles A. Buckley (23 June 1890 – 22 January 1967) of New York and Clifford Davis (18 Novembwer 1897 – 8 June 1970) of Tennessee.

MR. SCHWENGEL: Do you want to testify about the population decline?

MR HANSON: We are not concerned about the population declines. Over the years, we have had a population increase, We have had a firming of the industry. In our little town alone U.S. Plywood came in there and within the last five years our little area has been the recipient of some $7 million in capital expenditures. The thing we don’t need is this economic gullywasher. We can do more with $1 of private money spent than we can with $10 on Federal funds.

MR. SCHWENGEL: Say that again.

MR. HANSON: We would rather have private development on the river for one-tenth of what the Federal Government could spend.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: The Knowles Project was also known as the Knowles-Paradise Project and we recommended by Army Engineers as a key dam of a comprehensive plan for harnessing the Columbia River and its tributaries in the Lake and Saunders Counties.

Barrel and Box and Packages was published by the Lumber Buyers’ Publishing Corporation, and Edgar Harvey Defebaugh (3 September 1869 – 22 November 1924) was the owner and publisher of that magazine as well as Lumber and Veneer Consumer and a number of related publications. In the 1947 edition of Barrel and Box and Packages, a fable was shared that allegedly has its origins in North Carolina among mountaineers. It read in part:

The farmer he sez, “King, if’n you ain’t aiming to get them clothes wetted you’d best go back home, because its a-comin on to rain, a trash-mover and a gully washer.”

And the kind says, “I hired me a high-wage prophet to prophet the weather and he allows it ain’t even coming a sizzle-sozzle.”

So the king went ahea and it came a trash-mover and a gully washer, and the king’s clothes was wetted and his best girl she seed him and laughed at him. And the king went home and throwed out his prophet.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: Edgar Harvey Defebaugh visited Europe in 1900, visiting all the principal markets, and become knowledgeable in the exportation of staves and other timber products. Upon his return to the United States, he partnered with a number of organizations in other lines of industry to launch trade newspaper publications. By 1902, he was the head of an important organization of trade publications which were known around the world as the “Defebaugh publications.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3: This fable was also printed in The Plainsman edition of 18 February 1947. The Plainsman was a weekly student publication from Alabama Polytechnic Institute of Auburn (AL). That year former WWII GI Jimmy Coleman was the Editor-in-Chief (he was studying Applied Art and was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity) and former WWII GI Ralph “Stringbean” Jennings was the Managing Editor. Both had put their college careers on hold to fight in the war effort.

In the December 1908 edition of The Helping Hand magazine published by the Women’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Societies of Chicago (IL), the publisher pleaded with people to subscribe to their magazine. For 100 new subscriptions, seven reference library books would be sent to supplement the year’s study book, “The Nearer and Farther East.” If you only secured 75 subscriptions, one could look forward to receiving a 7 foot by 12 foot “Missionary Map of the World” with every Baptist station clearly marked. With 50 subscriptions, a year’s subscription to “Outlook” was added. To encourage followers to help with the subscription drive, the publisher wrote:

Perhaps the term “shower” is a misnomer, leading some to think that our aim is a gentle flow of subscriptions, when on the contrary we are willing to see the subscriptions pour in like the rain in The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come prayer for — “a regular sod-soaker and gully-washer.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 4: The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come was a book written by American journalist, novelist, and short story writer John Fox Jr. (16 December 1862 – 7 July 1919) and illustrated by artist and illustrator, Frederick Coffay (F. C.) Yohn (8 February 1875 – 6 June 1933), and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1903. It was written in April 1898 and the dedication page read: To Currie Duke – Daughter of the Chief among Morgan’s men. The novel told the story of a rags-to-respectability story of an Orphan and was the first novel in the U.S. to sell a million copies.

In 1898, John Dickey’s book “The Genealogy of the Dickey Family” was published. After the author’s passing at Leominster on 25 July 1894, his widow approached F.S. Blanchard and Company of Worcester (MA) and asked them to publish the genealogy so that what her late husband had written “might not be lost to future generations and all might share alike the fruits of his labor.”

The publisher stated in the Publisher’s Note that John Dickey (13 February 1824 – 25 July 1894) had not contemplated the publication of the work until the latter part of his life, and the wealth of material gathered was a rich legacy that would benefit others, not just descendants of his great-grandfather, Samuel Dickey, and his great-grandfather’s brother Elias and sister Elisabeth.

The genealogy began with William Dickey (1683 – 9 October 1743) and his wife Elisabeth (1678 – 21 October 1748) who immigrated from the north of Ireland to America, landing sometime between 1725 and 1730 since there was no exact date of their departure from Ireland or their arrival in America. What was known was that by 1730, the Dickey family had settled in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

At entry 1084, Edward Parker Keach (4 November 1851 – 30 December 1918) He graduated from theological courses in 1878, and married Julia Maria Russell in November of that year. They moved to Marble Hill (MO) where he began work as a Presbyterian home missionary. In the entry, which shows the term was known in 1878, John Dickey wrote:

It was a dry time, when a union service was held to pray for rain; a brother of another denomination arose, and after telling the Lord how dry it was, said, “And now, Lord, send us rain: none of your drizzle-drozzle, but a regular grand soaker and gully washer.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 5: Edward Parker Keach was repeatedly elected to represent his congregation at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 5.1: He is known as Edward Parker Keach as well as Edwin Parker Keach based on the genealogy.

One dictionary puts the first published version to 1825 without providing any indication as to where it was published. That it was used in conversation in the 1870s means it was already an accepted and understood expression so it is possible the expression dates back to 1825 but without proof it’s hard to definitively say it was around in 1825.

Idiomation therefore splits the difference and pegs the expression to the 1850s. Research continues in the hopes of tracking down the 1825 reference and perhaps an even earlier published version.

And in case you were wondering, Idiomation found no evidence that Oklahoma was where gullywashers were invented. They have gullywashers in Oklahoma — no doubt about that — but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to substantiate the claim they invented gullywashers.

Idiomation is also including other names for gullywashers and where you might hear these expressions used.

Toad strangler: Alabama, Louisiana, Texas
Goose drowner: Midland states
Mud sender: California, Maryland, Virginia, Mississippi
Bridge lifter: North Carolina
Nubbin stretcher: Kentucky
Palmetto pounder: Miami

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


Posted by Admin on October 23, 2021

If someone offers up a fauxpology, they aren’t apologizing at all.  What they are doing is making a statement that sounds like an apology without expressing any of the emotion that goes with a sincere apology and where there is no acknowledgement of any wrongdoing on their part.

In other words, whereas an apology is when someone expresses remorse or regret for something that was said or done that harmed one or more people, a fauxpology is a “false” (because the word faux in French means false) apology or, rather, an anti-apology that excuses what was said or done by the offending party that harmed one or more people.

Think of a fauxpology when you hear someone say, “Sorry, not sorry.”  That is a fauxpology.

A fauxpology is sometimes also referred to as a nopology or a manpology, although in the case of a manpology, Idiomation has found evidence of people from either gender offering up fauxpologies, so to refer to a fauxpology as a manpology is misleading. In a few instances a fauxpology has also been referred to as a past exonerate however that has been in more academic settings.

Canadian linguist, Laura Beaudin Lakhian who holds a Master of Science degree in the Cognitive Science of Language from McMaster University even has a website dedicated to the topic, titled Fauxpolo.gy where she shares her deconstruction of very public apologies using critical discourse analysis and the speech act theory.

In January 2021, there was an uproar about a product named The Mahjong Line.  When the backlash for the company hit the fan, the company offered up a fauxpology for their mistake, and once again, they were called on their actions.

Arizona State University newspaper reporter, Marshall Terrill interviewed Dawn Gilpin, associate professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications for a piece published the ASU News on 6 December 2017.  The interview was published as a Q&A piece and took a close look at what was going on with public apologies made by public people in the media.  As part of the introduction, he wrote:

The types of “fauxpologies” can backfire with audiences as Americans contemplate the damage caused by public figures facing harassment claims.

In response to being asked to provide a good example of an apology by a public figure, Ms. Gilpin responded that most apologies were terrible and vaue, and “stop[ped] short of verifying the truth of the allegations.”  She also stated:

This kind of “fauxpology” can backfire with audiences, especially on social media.

A few years earlier, on 13 September 2011 TODAY reporter Courtney Hazlett, reporting for NBC News, wrote that Madonna’s treatment of volunteers working the Toronto International Film Festival.  Allegedly she asked that they be made to turn their faces to a wall so they wouldn’t get a look at her as she made her way to her news conference about her film “W.E.”  In the news article, Courtney Hazlett wrote:

Stay tuned to see if Madonna gives the fans the faux-pology treatment the hydrangea received.

A year earlier, in Time magazine, in an article by Belinda Luscombe published on 20 October 2010 and titled, “Thank You, Ginni Thomas” the author wrote:

The old “sorry if I upset you” route is the go-to tactic of politicians, celebrities, media corporations and spouses for a reason. It looks and smells like an apology, but acknowledges no wrongdoing. It’s a fauxpology.

Jumping back another three years to 29 August 2007, The American Prospect (a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation headquartered in Washington, DC) published an article by former assistant web editor Sam Boyd titled, “Faux-Pology Watch.”  He described what a fauxpology was, and wrote about Larry Craig and his fauxpology.

With the hyphen between the word faux and the abbreviated word apology (which appears as pology), it appears this may be one of the earliest published uses of the word where the hyphen aided in the comprehension of the word.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this word, and because of the hyphen and the year (2007), Idiomation is confident in believing the word was a very recent construct from around that year.  If, however, one of you has an earlier published news article or story or cartoon that uses the word fauxpology, please feel free to share this in the comments section below.

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

Rule Of Thumb

Posted by Admin on October 16, 2021

The rule of thumb is an approximate way to measure or do something based on practical experience instead of exact measurement or science.

The urban myth that is better know for that idiom is the one that claims the rule of thumb was a law that allowed a man to beat his wife so long as the switch (or rod) he used was no thicker than his thumb. However, facts are that it has never been part of English common law that a man may beat his wife with a switch so long as it is no thicker than his thumb. What was part of English common law was that a man could legally chastise his wife in moderation but there is no mention whatsoever as to what that entailed.

Some people claim such a ruling was made in England in 1782 by Judge Sir Fancis Buller (17 March 1746 – 5 June 1800) which earned him the nickname of Judge Thumb after a newspaper published a cartoon that attacked a ruling the judge had made. However none of the records of his rulings even hint at him stating that beating a wife with a switch no thicker than a husband’s thumb was ever made.

The myth was something that first shows up in relation to domestic violence in the mid-1970s thanks to feminist Dorothy Louise Taliaferro “Del” Martin (5 May 1921 – 27 August 2008) who used it in a report on domestic violence that was published in 1976. She mentioned a husband’s right to whip his wife in English common law and went on to say this was allowed so long as the switch used was no bigger than his thumb. She then wrote:

… a rule of thumb, so to speak.

The following year, Feminist Terry Davidson further pushed the incorrect concept that a Rule of Thumb existed in English common law which gave rise to the expression.

That’s how the myth got started, and as with many myths, once ingrained in people’s minds, it’s hard for that myth (even once it is debunked) to die.

Idiomation found this particularly intriguing and while researching the idiom, a great many twists and turns were taken to get to the earliest published version of this idiom.

In the 1987 book by James H. Konkel, “Rule-of-thumb Cost Estimating for Building Mechanical Systems” published by McGraw-Hill, it’s obvious the term has nothing to do with anything but estimating, rough measurements, and approximations.

And in the 1969 book “Scientific or Rule-of-thumb Techniqiues of Ground-water Management” by Charles Lee McGuinness, the repeated use of the word rule-of-thumb as a measurement is obvious as the writer speaks of rule-of-thumb decisions and rule-of-thumb judgements and rule-of-thumb evaluations.

Even the 1921 book “Forest Mensuration” by Herman Haupt Chapman states on page 251:

A rule of thumb represents an attempt to formulate a simple rule which can be memorized and by the use of which the contents of trees of any diameter and height may be found.

Mr. Chapman goes on to state that the rules of thumb must be based on either the cubic or board-foot unit, and he provides examples of where to use these different rules and the reasons for doing so. What is interesting is that he also states this:

Both of these rules of thumb are good only for trees of a given height and form factor. They are similar to the European rule of thumb — volume in cube meters equals the diameter squared divided by 1,000.

Further on, he writes:

A more scientific application of a universal rule of thumb is that devised by F.R. Mason (Ref. Rules of Thumb for Volume Determination, Forestry Quarterly, Vol. XIII, 1915, p. 333).

What Idiomation did uncover is that in German there is a similar phrase with regards to the rough approximation which is pi mal daumen which means pi multiplied by the thumb (pi being, of course, 3.14).

It is highly unlike that the German expression referred to making rough measurements while the English expression referred to wife beating. But stranger things have been uncovered while researching idioms, and so Idiomation continued the search.

In the 17 October 1857 edition of Notes and Queries, Thomas Boys wrote about the idiom and how it was also known as the Rule-o-er-thoum and rule o’ the thumb. He mentioned the use of the idiom as meaning an approximation back in 1814 as used in Bordeaux (France). The author also referred to an earlier discussion in Notes and Queries, and indeed, one was found in the 22 August 1857 edition wherein a Mr. H. Draper of Dublin (Ireland) wrote in part:

The origin of this phrase, as applied to anything made or compounded without a precise formula, is to be found in Yorkshire.

In Yorkshire (England)? Was this claim true? In Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal of 1841 on page 172, the following is found in an essay about the rule of thumb.

A more commendable employment of this member in past time was that which gave origin to the phrase, “Rule of thumb.” It was once a common enough practice in Scotland to measure objects in a rough way by calculating a thumb’s-breadth as an inch. Of course, no great accuracy could attend this sort of mensuration, and our more precise times apply the phrase jestingly to every case of rude or careless computation.

John Mactaggart has something to say about the rule of thumb in his 1824 tome, “The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia or The Original, Antiquated, and Natural Curiosities of the South Scotland.”

Rule O’Thumm – Rule of Thumb, the king of all rules. The rule of three, and Pythagorus’s golden rule are nothing to this; it is that rule whereby a person does something which no other can. The Burns wrote Tam O’Shanter by the rule o’thumm; this is the rule of genius, or the rule of nature, which surpasses all the rules of art; every soul knows less or more of this rule, and yet no two know exactly the same.

Even John Jamieson’s “Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language” published in 1825 confirms that Rule of Thumm means to do work nearly in the way of guess-work, or at hap-hazard at the very least.

No wife beating references other than the feminist references of the mid-1970s had been found as Idiomation continued going back in time. Perhaps we would find the wife beating reference in earlier references.

In the Francis Grose (11 June 1731 – 12 June 1791) book, “A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” published in 1785, he explained that rule of thumb was something “cone by dint of practice and referred to is as a way to kiss one’s thumb instead of the book.”

We found “A Voyage to the Coast of Africa in 1758 Containing a Succinct Account of the Expedition to, and the Taking of the Island of Goree” by the Reverend John Lindsay  (1686 – 1768), Chaplain of his Majesty’s Ship Fougueux published in Volume 8 of “The Critical Review or Annals of Literature” and dated 1759. The story spoke of the bungling manner in which the charts of a particular well-known port had been laid down. At one point the author wrote:

We should be glad, however to learn how a man is to be landed on the banks of eternity, which is metaphorically an ocean without bounds. Nor are we less curious to be acquainted with the ancient rule of thumb, by which it seems, the charts of Cork harbour have nitherto been finished, though in a bumbling manner.

Surely if any wife beating was involved, the Reverend would have made mention of it, but alas, he did not. Instead he wrote about the confusing manner in which Cork’s harbor had been mapped out. If you can’t trust a Reverend, who can you trust?

In 1692, Sir William Hope, First Baronet of Balcomie (15 April 1660 – 1 February 1724) published the second edition of a book he wrote titled, “The Compleat Fencing-Master in Which is Fully Described the Whole Guards, Parades, and Lessons Belonging to the Small-Sword.” It also included the rules for playing against either artists or others, with blunts as well as with sharps, and as a bonus added feature, there was a section with directions on how to behave in a single combat on horseback.

I know very well that those who understand this Art will be of my opinion, because they know that the Judging of Distance exactly is one of the hardest things to be acquired in all the Art of the small-Sword; and when once it is acquired it is one of the usefulest things, and a Man’s Art as much as a lesson in it, but I am no Man’s retiring too much, unless upon a very good Design, and that hardly any Ignorant of this Art can have, because he doth (as the common Prover is) he doth by rule of Thumb, and not by Art.

And by the fact that the idiom is a common Proverb, that means the roots of this idiom are not found in English common law at all.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: The second edition of this book was a re-issue of his 1687 book which was originally titled, “The Scots Fencing-Master.” It was also the first book on this topic to be published in Britain.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1.1: He was the younger brother of the First Earl of Hopetoun. He was made a Baronet in March 1698, first of Grantoun, then of Kirkliston, and in 1705, of Balcomie in Fifeshire. Because of his service in the army, he was also made the Deputy-Governor of the castle of Edinburgh.

The earliest known use of it in print appears in a sermon given by the English puritan James Durham  (1622 – 25 June 1658) and printed in “Heaven Upon Earth” in 1658:

Many professed Christians are like to foolish builders, who build by guess, and by rule of thumb and not by Square and Rule.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: In 1640, a book titled, “Witt’s Recreations – Augmented with Ingenious Conceites for the Wittie and Merrie Medicines for the Melancholic” contained this rhyme spoke of a rule of leg or a rule of foot, but not a rule of thumb.

If Hercules tall stature might be guess’d
But by his thumb, the index of the rest,
In due proportion, the best rule that I
Would chuse, to measure Venus beauty by,
Should be her leg and foot.

But the idiom rule of thumb can still be traced back a little further especially in light of the fact that Sir William Hope referred to it as a common Proverb back in 1687.

In the 15th century (which takes us to the 1400s) there was a law in place in Scotland that referred to a unit of measure using the Latin word pollex which means thumb. It was particularly important when creating statues of monarchs such as Robert III of Scotland (1390 – 1406) The law read thusly:

Thumbs are to be measured by the thumbs of three men, namely one large, one medium, and one small, and should stand in accordance with the medium thumb, or in accordance with the length of three grains of barley without tails.

That’s a pretty specific description albeit still not a specific definition of what consitutes a thumb as a unit of measure. Later, Randle Cotgrave wrote in his French-English Dictionary of 1611 that an inch measure was the breadth of a thumb.

To this end, the rule of thumb concept was around in the early 1400s, and it was an accepted general measure at that point in time. It also appears to have originated in Scotland hence the reference to this idiom being a Scottish proverb.

Idiomation therefore pegs this idiom to some time in the early 1400s and reminds people that the idiom has nothing to do with beating your spouse with a switch or rod that is no thicker than the beater’s thumb.

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Dime Store Hood

Posted by Admin on October 2, 2021

You have probably heard the idiom dime store hood used in gangster movies and television episodes, and you know from hearing that idiom that it refers to a low-level gangster. The idiom is made up of two different things that go together but how long have they been together is the question.

A hood is short for hoodlum, and a hoodlum refers to a criminal, particularly a young street criminal who is part of a gang. The word has been used in this context since at least 1868 when the San Francisco Golden Era newspaper of 16 February 1868 reported:

The police have recently been investigating the proceedings of a gang of thieving boys who denominate themselves and are known to the world as the Hoodlum Gang.

In the 1930s, criminals began referring to jail terms of between 5 and 10 years as being dime store sentences, and a dime a pop was the colloquial term for a police officer.

Now dime stores weren’t always cheap places with cheap merchandise. In fact, in Volume 1 of the New York City Guide published in 1939, on page 218 in the section titled, “Manhattan: Middle and Upper East Side” some very nice things were said about two particular dime stores.

This section was part of the “Fifth Avenue Shopping District” segment of the New York City Guide.

Symbolic of the newer trend in the granite-faced home (opened in 1935) of S.H. Kress and Company, at the northwest corner of Thirty-ninth Street, which boldly faces the terra-cotta edifice of its competitor F.W. Woolworth and Company (1939). The simple lines of these buildings, two of the most sumptuous dime stores in America, undoubtedly will influence future fronts along the avenue.

It is apparent that dime stores and five-and-dime stores aren’t quite the same thing at all. In fact, in Volume 38, Issue 2 of the Implement and Tractor Trade Journal the difference was made clear in 1923.

Consider the dime store; it has many a lesson for many merchants. The dime store isn’t as cheap as it sounds. Goods are sold almost invariably at a profit. They are intensively “merchandised.”

But salesmanship is there, just the same. Every item is shown in plain sight and within easy reach. The customer can pick it up and handle it. Psychology tells us that the act of feeling an article gives us a sense of possession. The thing works out that way in the dime store. Everything is done to encourage the customer to sell himself.

The clearest delineation between all the stores is found in the 1945 document “Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Agriculture and Mining: Special Committee on Post-War Economic Policy and Planning: House of Representatives Pursuant to H. Res. 408 and H. Res. 60” where the following exchange is recorded.

MR GEORGE: I had this aspect in mind: The borderlines. The dime store goes up to the 50-cent store, and the 50-cent store goes up to the dollar store, and on up, and actually the lines of all of them overlap extensively. Now those stores that carry the low-end items — there have to be calculated risks at some point. I was worried about the low-end items being so generally affected as to give rise for a general pressure for the release of things that were important to the public.

MR FLANDERS: There is, after all, a point which is not a point, it is not a line, but when you get, say, beyond the dollar store, you are in the department store area, and below the dollar store, you are in this area, and if I were administering prices, which God forbid, God forbid, I would feel, well, that was a little problem; it wasn’t the worst problem I had by any means.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: Mr. Flanders was a mechanical engineer and draftsman, industrialist, and politician Ralph Edward Flanders (28 September 1880 – 19 February 1970), 6th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, President (on leave) of Jones & Lamson Machine Company in Springfield (VT), and Chairman of the Research Committee of the Committee for Economic Development.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1.1: He was elected to office as a Senator and served from 1 November 1946 through to 3 January 1959. Prior to that, he served in the Machine-Tool Section of the War Industries Board during WWI, and afterwards, he became the Chairman of the Screw-Thread Committee of the American Standards Association. In 1933, Secretary of Commerce, Daniel Roper — part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration — appointed him to the Business Advisory Council where he rose to the position of Chairman of the Committee on Unemployment.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: Mr. George was Edwin Black George (31 July 1896 – 14 September 1963) who was a consultant to the committee, and was employed by Dun & Bradstreet as an economist in New York (NY). Beginning in 1941, he was part of the Special Studies for the Chairman of the War Production Board, focusing on the question of controls.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2.1: He was the American Trade Commissioner to Far Eastern Countries from 1922 through to 1926, then moved on to the Chief Marketing Service Division of the Department of Commerce from 1930 through to 1932, and to the Chief Domestic Commerce Division from 1933 – 1934 as he continued to move up the ladder of success. He rose to the position of the Director of Economics for Dun & Bradstreet in the 1950s, and in February 1961, he was named Deputy Director of the Legislative Reference Service in the Library of Congress.

All this information led to researching the origins of the dime store. It all began with Frank Winfield Woolworth who adopted the concept of running a five-cent booth while working for William Harvey Moore (1841 – 1916) at his W.H. Moore store in Watertown (NY). When F.W. Woolworth opened his own store in Lancaster (PA) in 1879, he eliminated wholesalers and set up direct buying arrangements instead which allowed him to price every item at a cost of no more than ten cents (a dime). This allowed his stores to lower prices on housewares and other products which allowed customers to be able to afford to buy merchandise such as sewing supplies, china, stationery, shoes, candy, toys, toiletries, andmore, at a low price.

Sales personnel were also instructed in how to properly wrap packages, what to say when serving a customer, what to say when giving change, and how to present themselves with regards to attire, hairstyles, and, dare we mention it, make-up.

By 1896, a number of well-known names emerged in the dime store business, among them being Woolworth, Kress, Kresge, and McCrory. What this means is that prior to 1896, there could not have been any dime store hoods.

Now, dime stores were very popular through to the mid-20th century, and in the earliest part of the 20th century, they became a staple along the Main Streets of towns and cities where they popped up. General stores and department stores kept their stock behind the counter or in bulk bins, but dime stores displayed everything on tables and racks so customers could get close to the items for sale.

What we know is that after the Depression era, inflation caused prices to increase beyond a dime, and because of this, most became dollar stores in order to stay afloat. That meant that the dime stores that stayed dime stores had to find a way to make things work, and that usually led to offering cheaper quality items than dollar stores offered.

This narrows the window of opportunity for the idiom to somewhere between 1896 and 1939. Upon closer inspection, a dime store referring to a retail outlet selling eveyrthing for 10 cents was well-estalished by 1928.

The fact that the word hoodlum — meaning a gangster — was shortened to hood at the start of the 1930s means only one thing: Dime store hoods should be something that began in the early 1930s.

In the 1937 book by American circus performer, publicist, journalist, and writer Courtney Ryley Cooper (31 October 1886 – 29 September 1940), “Here’s To Crime” the following passage is found on page 112.

Hoover had called him a hoodlum.
“I’m no hood!” he snapped, his cruel mouth tightening. “And I don’t like to be called a hood. I’m a thief.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re a hoodlum,” answered the practical John Edgar Hoover.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3: Courtney Ryley Cooper wrote his first bok “Under the Big Top” in 1923 and later on, with the cooperation of William “Buffalo Bill” F. Cody’s widow, he wrote the biography titled, “Memories of Buffalo Bill.” He also wrote a biography of Annie Oakley, and during the 1930s, he worked with J. Edgar Hoover to write numerous articles detailing the crime fighting activities of the FBI.

The Abridged Style Manual of 1935 published by the United States Government Printing Office included hood as an alternative thief, so we know that by 1935 the word hood was known and recognized by at least one government department. Two years earlier, The Police Yearbook published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police spoke of the lowest order of thugs as being a sneak thief, a pander, a cheap gambler … a hood. There was no earlier mention of hood by the Association prior to 1933 which means just as there could be no dime store hoods prior to 1896 as dime stores first came into existence in 1896, there could be no dime store hoods much before the 1930s as the word hood referring to criminals was not in use before the 1930s.

With dime store firmly established by 1928 and hood meaning a low-life criminal by 1933, there’s a five-year span in which the words could be tied to each other.

This led Idiomation to question whether Stephen King was the first to coin the expression in his novella, “The Body” in the collection “Different Seasons” — which was adapted into the movie “Stand By Me” — published in 1982. To this end, Idiomation has reached out to Stephen King via his website asking if this is an idiom he coined specifically for his story.

While Idiomation continues to research this idiom, it will have to be marked as unknown on this blog. Until then, maybe you would like to check out the history behind the idiom drop a dime.

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