Historically Speaking

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Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

TPing The Yard (or House)

Posted by Admin on October 29, 2019

Have you ever TP’d someone’s yard? If that expression is unfamiliar to you, it’s probably because you know the expression as rolling someone’s yard, house wrapping, or yard rolling.

You might think every grown-up in the world hates the idea of possibly waking up to their house or yard being TP’d but in 2019, one mother in San Clemente reveled in the fact that a group of unknown persons had done just that to her family’s home and front yard.

When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015, some fans celebrated by TP’ing head coach Joel Quenneville’s yard in Hinsdale (IL). No one really knows whether the coach was angry or impressed with the effort put into TP’ing his property.

Of course, in 2011, the police in the Wisconsin Dells had a thing or two to say about TP’ing yards and TP’ing houses. Offenders, if caught, could be subjected to any number of charges from littering to trespassing to harassment and disorderly conduct. If the offenders were minors, their parents could also find themselves facing a charge of allowing juveniles to violate curfew. The police in Wisconsin Dells take TP’ing seriously

The activity and the expression were cemented into pop culture in an episode of South Park on 2 April 2003 when the main characters decide to “TP” their art teacher’s home. The episode ends with one of the main characters making his way towards the White House armed with bags of toilet paper with a plan to “TP” the White House.

Now back in 1879, the Scott brothers founded the Scott Paper Company, and became the first company to sell toilet paper on rolls. But 8 years earlier, Zeth Wheeler patented rolled and perforated toilet paper which he sold through his company the Albany Perforated Wrapper Paper Company.

Over in England, British businessman Walter Alcock created toilet paper on a roll in 1879, using perforated squares instead of the common flat sheets in use.

The original inventor of flat sheet toilet paper, Joseph C. Gayetty, saw his first commercially packaged toilet paper go from flat sheets in 1857 to perforated sheets on a roll in under fifteen years!

But it was Johnny Carson, one of America’s most loved comedians and late night talk show hosts, who set off an odd panic in December of 1973 when he claimed there was a toilet paper shortage in the U.S.  You may doubt Idiomation on this one, but you can’t call into question what the New York Times had to say about Johnny’s roll in the toilet paper shortage of ’73.

It’s doubtful that anyone would have wasted toilet paper on trees or houses back in the early days of toilet paper on a roll, and for that reason Idiomation doubts the expression was in use during the first 50 years of its existence.

One way to trace back when the expression was first used in cases where it’s unlikely the expression will be found in many newspapers, magazines, or books, is to see what the lyrics of various popular songs of the time were.

SIDE NOTE 1: Who knew that there were so many songs with toilet paper in the lyrics? Over at lyrics.com, there were eight web pages devoted to lyrics with toilet paper specifically mentioned in songs!

In 1993, Weird Al Yankovic’s CD Alapalooza had a song titled, “Young, Dumb, & Ugly” that threatened to “toilet paper your lawn.”

However, as Idiomation continued researching this expression, a newspaper article written by Times Staff writer, Lisa Rogers, and published on 2 October 2011 in the Gadsden Times, pegged the activity in Alabama to the early 1960s at least.

One of the best known traditions is rolling the trees at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn after football victories. Even before the traditional tree rolling started in the early 1960s at Toomer’s it was a tradition especially at Hallowe’en.

But how much earlier did this activity, and the subsequent expressions, come into being?

Oddly enough, on 29 November 1928, a court case [14 Tax Case 490, (1929) Sc 379] was heard in Edinburgh (Scotland) regarding toilet paper and an appeal against an Income Tax assessment. The Appellant purchase a very large quantity of toilet paper from a bankrupt German firm, and had the toilet paper sent to his England where he was connected with the film business.

It was determined the purchase fit the description of “an adventure” but it was questionable whether it was “in the nature of trade” within the meaning of Section 238 of the Income Tax Act of 1918. By definition, it could not be considered a purchase for personal use, while at the same time, by definition, the trade would have to be one that would be more than a single transaction. That the inventory was for the purpose of resale with profit was not in question, however, an argument made that it would be used in a film venture cast doubt on the profit from resale if no resale was to happen.

It’s doubtful that toilet paper in 1929 would be used frivolously to TP houses and yards even if it was used in this manner by the 1950s and 1960s.

Toilet papering became a verb in the early 1960s. In fact, the 28 October 1961 edition of the Lincoln Evening Journal in Lincoln (NB) referred to it as a verb.

Halloween pranks have changed now, says Stan Miller of University High School, but the devilish intentions haven’t.

“T.P.-ing” has replaced tipping over outhouses as a major Halloween prank, he commented to correspondent Ramona Brakhage.

Idiomation therefore puts the idiom — whether it’s TPing a house or a yard or rolling a house or yard — to some time during the 1950s, although the exact date is unknown, and with the word toilet paper being used as a verb, the expression dates back to at least the mid 1950s.

P.S. As an added note, contrary to what Cottonelle tweeted back in 2015, no one has ever seen the need to introduce left-handed toilet paper. Toilet paper rolls are for those who are left-handed, right-handed, and ambidextrous.

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Mike and Ike

Posted by Admin on December 29, 2016

Nostalgia is big, and over the last few years, this nostalgia has included diners in the style of the 1930s through to the 1960s.  Mike and Ike is lunch counter slang for salt and pepper shakers, and while you may not hear it used often these days, when it is used, it brings with it all the nostalgia of days gone by when diners were the rage.  In fact, Idiomation hadn’t considered researching Mike and Ike until Howard and Suzie at The Diner in Sevierville (TN) mentioned it on The Diner’s Facebook page.

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As fast food restaurants moved in on diner territory, the need for calling orders eliminated the need for diner lingo until most of it either disappeared from modern usage or made a place for itself in modern language.  But while diners were in vogue, the lingo amused both the cook and the customers, so waitresses made the most of it.

Diner lingo got its start in the early 1930s.  It’s where the terms OJ for orange juice and BLT for a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich originate.   Over easy, sunny side up, hash browns, and mayo also made the successful jump from diner lingo to mainstream dialogue.  In other words, lots of diner lingo from back then has survived to be part of mainstream conversation today.  But where did Mike and Ike get their start?

On September 29, 1907 American cartoonist Rube Goldberg saw his cartoon strip “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike)” published in the newspaper, and the public immediately took to the antics of the two characters.  As the cartoon evolved, so did the publication of the “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike)” cartoons.

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Just like the salt and pepper shakers found on tables at diners, the characters Mike and Ike were always side by side in their exploits.  By the 1930s, Mike and Ike was firmly entrenched as the lingo for salt and pepper shakers, and in 1936, the American Dialect Society noted the idiom and its definition on page 44 of Volume 11 that year.

The expression also appeared in the book, “Salads and Herbs” compiled by Cora Lovisa Brackett Brown (3 January 1861 – 1939), Rose Johnston Brown (1883 – 1952), and Robert Carlton “Bob” Brown II (14 June 1886 – 7 August  1959), and published in 1938 by J.B. Lippincott Company.  The book was packed with heirloom recipes for salads and herbs (of course), as well as seasoning, flowers, berries, herbal teas and vinegards, and wild herbs.  On page 125 of this book, the author wrote:

Salt and pepper shakers are dubbed “the twins” and affectionately referred to as “Mike and Ike.”

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The term has fallen into disuse over the last few decades, but should you ever find yourself having a meal at a diner that’s still uses diner lingo to spice up the atmosphere, you’ll be in the know when you check to see if Mike and Ike can be found at your table.  The idiom dates back to the early 1930s but wouldn’t it be fun for you and a friend to order Adam and Eve on a raft, drop one on the brown, and a pair of drawers the next time you’re eating at a local diner?

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Hitting On All Sixes

Posted by Admin on November 11, 2014

When you’re working on something and everything’s going well, you might hear your grandpa tell you that you’re hitting on all sixes.  It’s a compliment, and it means you’re doing everything right.  So what does the number six have to do with doing things right?

It’s a car reference of course, referring to six cylinders.  When everything was aligned, there was no back firing, no jerking, no sudden stopping, and the car made its way down the street with no troubles at all.  In fact, a car that fired on all cylinders was a marvel to behold.

Back in 1948, in the Electrical Workers’ Journal, Labor Union 420 in Waterbury, Connecticut started their column off with some happy news about their union president.

Our venerable president, Walt Wright, has been laid up with midwinter illness, but by now should be out hitting on all sixes.

The Depression era of the 1930s saw a number of difficulties, not the least of which were between the police and criminal types.  Not to worry though because this was published in the 1933 edition of the “Police Yearbook” published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The defy that the average hoodlum has given to the country has been accepted by the law enforcing officers.  We here in the city feel that we can and will cope with the situation. We feel that we have a police force that are hitting on all sixes.

We know that we are having a little bad luck in losing some of our policemen.  That is an indication that every policeman is on his toes; he is willing to shoot it out with the fellow that heretofore was willing to take a chance with the judge.

The Michigan State Dental Society bulletin Volume 9 printed in 1927 found a creative way to use the idiom as well as evidenced by this announcement.

Speaking of mongrels, let me introduce Ed. Giffen; enuf Scotch to spend little and sufficient Hebrew to take all.   Ed goes to a Thanksgiving Keno party, guys a card for the usual two bits and walks off with a turkey, a good and a duck.  I claim that’s hitting on all sixes.  Ed certainly knows his proteins.

Some sources claim that the expression is from the 1920s, however, Idiomation found the idiom used in the a professional engineer magazine dated January 1918.  The magazine was known as “The Monad” and was the official published magazine from the American Association of Engineers, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.  It was billed as being devoted to the social and economic welfare of the technical engineer.  The column dedicated to the Valparaiso chapter included this comment.

“Montana” Calkins then proceeded to apply his highly specialized mechanical touch to the picture machine with the result that it finally got tired of stalling and started hitting on all sixes.

A year earlier, on March 29, 1917, the National Underwriter — the official weekly newspaper of the insurance industry — published this advertisement.
The National Underwriter_Volume 21_1917The advertisement was published in the April 3rd, April 12th, April 19th, and May 10th editions as well.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of the idiom than those found in 1917, however, since the reference is rooted in automotive history, note that cars hail from the 1860s when they had up to four cylinders!

Cosmopolitan magazine published a car guide in 1906, which listed a number of cars with specs.  This is where the first six cylinder — forty horsepower — car is mentioned, manufactured by Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan.  At this point in time, it should be noted that gaskets hadn’t been perfected yet, and so the seal between cylinders and cylinder heads was a real hit-or-miss situation that relied on T-heads resulting in valve life that lasted only a few hundred miles before it repairs were needed.  By 1909, there were about eighty car manufacturers who used the six cylinder engine in their cars.

It’s easy to see then how hitting on all sixes was a reference to all going well, and based on car history, Idiomation can state that the expression came into being some time after 1906.

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Giving Tuesday

Posted by Admin on December 3, 2013

Right after Cyber Monday, there’s a new idiom being shopped around and  it’s called Giving Tuesday.

According to the Los Angeles Times of December 2, 2013 this is the second year that Giving Tuesday has made an appearance. It hasn’t quite caught on yet (in that it’s not a recognized buzz phrase yet) but people are doing their best to give charities a boost with this bit of marketing. The hope is for Giving Tuesday to become as big as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The article stated in part:

Giving Tuesday, which will be held December 3, is a daylong national event designed to help charities raise money online.

In an article in USA Today written by Jon Ostendorff and published on December 1, 2013, the beginnings of Giving Tuesday were explained in this comment:

Giving Tuesday started last year as a charitable answer to the retail shopping days of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday with help from such big names as Sony and Microsoft.

This quickly pegs the idiom Giving Tuesday to November 2012 … no doubt about it!

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Cyber Monday

Posted by Admin on December 2, 2013

After Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, retailers kick off the following week with Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday refers to the sales that can be had exclusively online and while many stores offer online savings on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday is just another one of those clever marketing ideas that seems to have popped up online in recent years.

Before Cyber Monday was successfully marketed, the Monday after Black Friday was the 12th busiest of the year … or in the top 3.5% for most profitable days.

A press release dated December 3, 2012 from PR Newswire Europe stated the following in part:

Cyber Monday is also called “Mega Monday” by some UK retailers. However, “Mega Monday” is a trademarked term of The Hut.com Limited. Cyber Monday is a generic term created by Shop.org in 2005. Today, nearly all U.S. Retailers hold Cyber Monday sales on the Monday following Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The term Cyber Monday is now used internationally by online stores in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Portugal.

In the St. Petersburg Times newspaper dated November 25, 2006 Times Staff Writer, Mark Albright shared some insights into Cyber Monday in an article entitled, “Cyber Monday Mostly Hype, Experts Say.” In this article’s opening paragraph, he wrote:

Now that Black Friday is history, online retailers are bracing for their own version called Cyber Monday that kicks off in two days. In 2005, it was the busiest day of the year for online retailers, whose sites were jammed with 27.7 million unique site visits, according to Neilsen/Net Ratings.

The title of the article came from this quote in the article:

Cyber Monday is more hype than reality,” Marshal Cohen, analyst for market research firm NPD Group, told the New York Times.

And the term can definitely be pegged to November 2005 with a news article by Robert D. Hof and published in Business Week on November 28, 2005 that begin with this paragraph:

Do a Google search on “Cyber Monday,” and you get as many as 779,000 results. Not a bad haul for a term that was created just a week and a half ago to describe the jump in online shopping activity following the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. While Black Friday is the official kickoff of the traditional retail season, the story goes, online retail really takes off the following Monday.

The article also stated that the term was created during a brainstorming session where other variations were suggested and quickly discarded: Black Monday (too much like Black Friday), Blue Monday (not very cheery), and Green Monday (too environmentalist).

That being said, the idea kicked around for a year before the label Cyber Monday surfaced, according to Shmuel Gniwisch, chief executive of the online jewelry site Ice.com. Shmuel Gniwisch claimed in the Business Week article that in 2004 Shop.org sent an email to member retailers suggesting that online retailers needed to come up with a marketing hook of their own to compete with Black Friday.

Idiomation pegs the idiom to November 2005 with a nod to the year it took to come up with the label that stuck: Cyber Monday.

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Small Business Saturday (not an idiom)

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2013

Today is Small Business Saturday — sandwiched between big businesses’ Brown Thursday and Black Friday on one side and big businesses’ Cyber Monday on the other.  Yes in the midst of the marketing and promotion at large corporations and big box stores, Saturday is a quieter, gentler event that shines the spotlight on entrepreneurs.

So today, on Small Business Saturday, I’d like to remind everyone that books and music make for excellent gifts, and with Christmas less than a month away, books and music would be wonderful gifts for friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.

For young readers between the ages of 8 and 12, there’s the Missy Barrett Adventure series that debuted this past summer.   Missy Barrett is an amazing child who has a knack for being at just the right place when adventures and mysteries break out.  Check out “Guess Where I Am, Mommy” and “Houston, We Have No Problem” for the inquisitive child in your life!

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If you have a young adult reader that’s looking for something interesting to sink his or her teeth into, then “Grand Theft: Cookie” is a great choice!  Adult justice and television show reality collide with childhood innocence in ways that will have readers crying and laughing at how society can impact on children raised in today’s world.

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If the someone you’re buying books for loves quick reads with a message and lots of fun getting to the message, then you should pick up a copy of “Barracudas and Impalas” where readers are caught up in the excitement of Missy Barrett’s telephone conversation with her grandfather about the Classic Car Show she attended.  Part of the Missy Barrett Conversation series, watch for new titles in 2014!

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Sometimes people like to read short stories, “A Summer Of Somebodies: Cautionary Tales For Modern Times” is a collection of nine cautionary tales for modern times that gives readers a glimpse into the future that all of us are hurtling towards at an alarming rate.  Starting with “FluxInTime and the Batman Blacklist Boogie Band” and right through to the last story, readers will enjoy the spectrum of stories in this collection!

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Glass On A Stick” is the story of Jenna Barrett (and the book where Missy Barrett makes her first appearance) —  a single parent of three children, some who are diagnosed with serious health conditions.  When people in the autism community start contacting her about a group of advocates, she can’t begin to imagine the degree to which some will bully and harass others just to make a name for themselves.  With 374 pages spread across 24 chapters, this book is guaranteed to keep readers turning pages just to find out what happens next.

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Idiomation: Historically Speaking is a blog I’ve owned and authored since January 2010.  That first month, there were 16 hits to the blog … and all of them from my teenage son.  Nearly four years later, the blog gets hundreds of hits every day and has been linked to by such esteemed places as The Smithsonian!  Earlier this year, I published 75 of the most popular idioms from my blog in a resource book entitled, “Idiomation: Book 1.”   Whether you’re buying for a literature or history buff, or someone for whom English is a second language, for a friend who is a literal thinker or a someone with learning disabilities, this first book in a series of Idiomation books is a great way to show that you care about what interests them.

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And for the audiophiles on your list, there are these three CDs to choose from.  “Countdown To Midnight” was released on November 29, 2007 with 12 songs.  “Armistice Day” climbed to #3 on the World: Native American song charts and quickly became a favorite of those who support the Idle No More movement.  The beautiful ballad “Infinity Squared” reached #16 on the Adult Contemporary Pop chart and “How Do I Begin To Believe” made it to #7 on the Southern Rock chart.
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If it’s instrumental music you’re looking for, then you may find “Quietudes” released in June of 2005 or “Dreamtime” released in August of 2011 to be just right!  “Quietudes” is a steal at just under $6 USD for 6 extended play instrumental compositions.

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Meanwhile, the critically acclaimed “Dreamtime” CD  is priced at just under $9 USD for 9 extended play instrumental compositions.   Beginning with “Moon Chimes” and ending with “Such Splendor” the CD is a journey through emotions that leave the listener feeling relaxed and refreshed.

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Whether you’re visiting this page on Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday or any of the other 363 days in a year, be sure to click through and add these books and CDs to your shopping cart.  You’ll be glad you did.

Elyse Bruce

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Brown Thursday

Posted by Admin on November 28, 2013

If you’re wondering about Brown Thursday, wonder no longer as it’s the latest idiom hooked into the Black Friday mythos. Brown Thursday is supposedly the shopping day before Black Friday. In other words, Brown Thursday is the day formerly known as American Thanksgiving.

On November 28, 2013, CBS Pittsburgh posted an article to their website entitled, “Brown Thursday Shoppers Line Up To Cash In On Deals.” The article began with this paragraph:

Shoppers looking for bargains set their alarms for 6 a.m. when some stores like Kmart opened for Brown Thursday.

Even CBS television station affiliate, Channel 5 WCSC in Charleston, South Carolina was looking for stories from viewers on their Brown Thursday shopping experiences, On their Facebook page they posted:

Some stores are already open for “Brown Thursday” deals. Are you out shopping, or standing in line for sales?

In the November 22, 2013 edition of USA Today, an article entitled, “The New Black Friday Is Brown Thursday” the new idiom was referred to thusly:

As most have probably heard, more retail outlets are diving into what they hope will be an even bigger money-making trend this year. Instead of opening their doors the Friday after Thanksgiving, they are trying to pull shoppers in even earlier, at 6 a.m. on the holiday. Another growing trend? Calling the holiday Brown Thursday. One comedian said that people who use that phrase should be choked on sight.

Even the Las Vegas Express edition of November 24, 2013 had this to say about the new idiom in an article entitled, “Thanksgiving Now Being Called Brown Thursday By The Media.”

First off, that just sounds disgusting. Who in their right mind will be going around saying “It’s Brown Thursday!”? It sounds like they are excited to go poop. But, the problem is how the media loves to try to make up buzz words to catch on.

But believe it or not, the earliest reference for Brown Thursday was found on Jezebal.com in a blog article written by Jenna Sauers on November 21, 2011  entitled, “Forget Black Friday, This Season It’s All About Brown Thursday” where she wrote:

Sears, which opened on Thanksgiving day in 2010, won’t do so again this year. (“There was a sentiment from customers to keep Thanksgiving as a holiday,” admitted a sheepish-sounding spokesperson.) But the overall trend is still for longer hours, hence why shopping on Thanksgiving, by the way, now has a name: Brown Thursday

It wasn’t just the fodder of blog, however.  It was also written about on the InStyle magazine website (a registered trademark of Time Inc.) in an article published on November 22, 2011 entitled, “Brown Thursday 2011: The New Black Friday?

Just as retailers originally didn’t like the idiom Black Friday, consumers aren’t enamored with the idiom Brown Thursday.  Still the media seems to be pushing this idiom as the replacement name for American Thanksgiving, and so Idiomation pegs this unfortunate idiom to 2011.

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Black Friday

Posted by Admin on November 27, 2013

Black Friday is almost upon us again this year and the yearly mythos about where this idiom originated is in full swing already. Most people are of the mistaken belief that Black Friday was a term coined by retailers to describe the one day each year when they turned a profit according to the accounting records.

While that’s an interesting and plausible explanation for the expression, it’s not exactly accurate.

Back in the 1960s, if you lived in Philadelphia, you know that the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving was a day of snarled traffic, overcrowded parking garages, and overworked police officers if you dared go into the downtown core. It got to be so much of a problem that police officers began to refer to the post-Thanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday.

On Black Friday, officers were forced to work 12-hour shifts where most of that shift was spent directing traffic to help unclog the car and pedestrian jams that impeded the flow of traffic. Retailers, who were looking to encourage shoppers to come out on that Friday despite the terrible traffic, tried (and failed) to have the day called “Big Friday.” But the effort failed.

Back in January 1966, in the American Philatelist newspaper, a Philadelphia merchant by the name of Earl Apfelbaum, a dealer in rare stamps, wrote this about the day:

Black Friday” is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. “Black Friday” officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

Even earlier than that, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin used the idiom to describe the day after Thanksgiving. In the November 25, 1994 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joseph P. Barrett told a story about how the Friday after Thanksgiving came to be known as Black Friday.

In 1959, the old Evening Bulletin assigned me to police administration, working out of City Hall. Nathan Kleger was the police reporter who covered Center City for the Bulletin.

In the early 1960s, Kleger and I put together a front-page story for Thanksgiving and we appropriated the police term “Black Friday” to describe the terrible traffic conditions.

Later in the article he added this:

The following year, [Police Commissioner Albert N. Brown] put out a press release describing the day as ”Big Friday.” But Kleger and I held our ground, and once more said it was ”Black Friday.” And of course we used it year after year.

The funny thing about that is that the issue of traffic congestion on the Friday following Thanksgiving wasn’t an issue back in November 1951 when Black Friday was described by Industrial Relations Editor M.J. Murphy for the magazine “Factory Management and Maintenance” in an article entitled, “Tips to Good Human Relations for Factory Executives.” What M.J. Murphy wrote was as follows:

“Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis” is a disease second only to the bubonic plague in its effects. At least that’s the feeling of those who have to get production out, when the “Black Friday” comes along. The shop may be half empty, but every absentee was sick — and can prove it.

The story of Black Friday being a term coined by retailers to describe the one day each year when they turned a profit according to the accounting records is after-the-fact marketing spin that started showing up decades later to put a positive shine on a negative phrase.

Of course, there have been other Black Fridays throughout history, and most of those have had to do with financial matters and massacres. But Black Friday — the one that falls the day after American Thanksgiving — has its roots firmly planted in Philadelphia.

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Blue Light Special

Posted by Admin on June 5, 2013

Do you remember the days when you could hear a disembodied voice say over the loudspeaker system: Attention Kmart® shoppers. There’s a blue light special in aisle …?

If you do, then you know that a blue light special is a surprise price-cut offered for a limited time (usually about 15 minutes in length) on specific merchandise. But as with all good things, it fell into the abyss of great ideas and disappeared for a while before coming back to life. How does Idiomation know this?

Greg Hudson posted an article on August 25, 2009 to the Better Business Bureau blog site entitled, “Kmart Is Bringing Back The Blue Light Special.” For those who couldn’t believe the headline, the first paragraph read:

No, it’s not 1965, but the discount retailer Kmart is bringing back its legendary blue light special.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was reported that some Kmart stores still had their “original, decades-old blue lights” while other Kmart stores made do with blue balloons!

Some may think that this was the first time Kmart revived the blue light special concept, but they’d be mistaken. in fact, in December 1999, Kmart opened up their online website, and named it BlueLight.com. If you type that into your browsers these days, you’ll be redirected to Kmart.com.

For trivia lovers, few people know that Johnston-Crowder Manufacturing Co published the “Blue Light Special” board game in 1986. Yes, people, this was a traditional board game for 2 to 4 players.

Blue Light Special Board Game

Now, it’s unfortunate but the expression became the brunt of countless jokes, so when the Youngstown Vindicator of December 9, 1978 published Joan Ryan’s column, “On Sports” and she wrote about Pete Rose and his family, you had to wonder if she was going to take pot shots at the expression.   It read in part:

What happens to a family of four (Petey is 9; Fawne is 14) when their income suddenly escalates to within millions? “Well, I still stop at K-Mart,” says the flamboyant Karolyn, who wears diamonds with her blue jeans.

“I love those discount stores. The only thing it that the cashiers all know me and they say, ‘Honey, we turned off the blue-light special when you pulled in in your Rolls.'”

Earlier that year, on March 2, 1978 the Nashua Telegraph newspaper published a news article entitled, “Carter Directive Calls For Secret Commando Force.” The story dealt with the formation of a secret Army commando unit President Jimmy Carter had ordered. Its primary focus was to combat terrorist acts outside the US. Headed up by Col. Charlie Alvin Beckwith, it wasn’t long before it was nicknamed “Charlie’s Angels” by its first members. The article stated:

The force has been given the code name “Project Blue Light” for its formative stages. Sources said a nucleus of Green Berets from the Army’s Special Forces have already quietly set up headquarters in a post stockade that has until now been used to house prisoners at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

The fact of the matter is that a Fort Wayne, Indiana Kmart store manager used a police car light to draw attention to Christmas wrapping paper that he was clearing out of his store back in 1965. It was such a success that it was adapted to draw attention to any clearance item, and it found its way into the chain before moving on to become an American icon idiom.

So the next time you hear someone joke about the blue light special, smile. It’s not every day that you hear a purely American comment still current in today’s pop culture.

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Crisp And Clean And No Caffeine

Posted by Admin 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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