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Enough To Feed Coxey’s Army

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 8, 2016

When someone says there’s enough to feed Coxey’s Army or enough to feed Cox’s Army, it means there’s an excess beyond what’s needed.  The expression is a southern expression that originated with American reformer and eccentric Jacob Sechler Coxey (16 April 1854 – 18 May 1951) and has its roots in the march he led to Washington (D.C.) in 1894.  The history of this expression is one that’s true Americana, and ties in with Tuesday’s entry soapbox.

The November 26, 2016 edition of the NFTV News Online published a story by Correspondent, Briana Vanozzi titled, “Celebrating Thanksgiving With A Tribute For Troops Abroad Battleship New Jersey.”  The idiom was used in this paragraph.

It’s often said on thanksgiving that we cook enough to feed an army.  It turns out when you’re tasked with just that, it takes many volunteer groups, county organizations and an entire catering company to make it happen.  “We have well over 50 battleship volunteers, I believe another 20 volunteers form our caterer,” continued Willard.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  Willard is Jack Willard, Senior Vice-President, Marketing and Sales, of the Battleship New Jersey.

The Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Florida published an article on September 4, 1985 titled, “Chefs In Tampa Expand On Standard Cuban Dishes.”  Food Editor, Charlyne Varkonyi included this paragraph in her story.

Adella Gonzmart, owner of the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, says her grandfather used to serve the broth and beans as a soup. The meat and potatoes were served separately on a platter. But the soup was enough to feed an army so customers stopped ordering entrees.

In 1955, Ford Motor Company published a book titled, “Lincoln and Mercury Times Combined with Fine Cars.”  A story accompanied by paintings by American artist Rhoda Brady Stokes (1902 – 1988) including this passage:

She had it all done and was shelling peas, and it looked like she had enough to feed an army. We all went to church in the surrey.

The Spokesman-Review of December 20, 1910 carried a story out of Ritzville, Washington that told of Mrs. Katie Holland’s testimony in court.  Her son, Paddy Holland, was accused of murdering the young school teacher, Miss Josephine Putnam.  Part of her testimony included this:

Mrs. Holland told of the checkered career of her boy, of his birth during a supposed fatal illness of her husband, the boy’s dumbness in school, joined Coxey’s army, discharged from the army after the Spanish-American war, boyhood injury, and his love for his mother.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2:  Others who took the stand were of the opinion that Paddy was insane as evidenced by the fact that he rode five miles on horseback in his shirt sleeves on a raw, cold day; he looked at a book for an hour and a half with the book upside down; he had a habit of saying goodbye three times when he went to the fields to work; he proposed marriage to a German girl who consistently refused to speak to him; attempted to ride a reputed vicious horse in spite of the fact he was a very poor rider; he would apologize up to fifty times whenever he breached etiquette;  and more.

On page 7 of the Lewiston Evening Journal of April 17, 1894 spoke of Coxey’s Army and how hardworking Americans grew weary of having their generosity abused by members of the ragtag army of homeless unemployed men.

This week finds Coxey’s hosts down in Maryland – so much nearer Washington.  The disease which affects Coxey has become epidemic and sporadic cases are coming to notice all over the country.  A detachment of the “Industrial Army” is making its way through California en route to Washington; another branch is in Nebraska, and Morrison Swift, the Boston crank, is to start out Saturday from the Hub.  Meanwhile everybody in the regions through which they pass is tired of feeding them and allowing their barns to be used as bed-chambers.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3:  The men in Coxey’s Army were called bums, tramps, hoboes, fuzzytails, ringtails, and jungle buzzards.  Men who were part of Coxey’s Army stated clearly that there was a difference between hoboes, tramps and bums.  According to them, a hobo will work, a tramp won’t work, and a bum couldn’t work if he wanted to work.   On this basis, they claimed to be hoboes although most were content to refer to them as stiffs.

When the Daily Argus News of May 10, 1894 was published, it spoke of a branch of Coxey’s Army under the leadership of General Randall, and of the anticipated march through South Bend, Indiana.  Here is what was reported in part:

They came from New Carlisle, sixteen miles west.  The New Carlisle people treated them well.  Sullivan says they will move to Elkhark, fifteen miles east, passing through Mishawaka, Randall will proceed to this city this afternoon.  He will be hurried through the city, fed, camped, and passed on to the next point.  No public speaking will be permitted.

General Randall had been incarcerated in La Porte, Indiana days earlier and upon his release he threatened to sue the Mayor for alleged malicious prosecution.  By the time he was released from his six-day stay in jail, the men in his camp were starving as the citizens of La Porte refused to help the men in any way and their meager provisions had run out.  At a meeting the evening of his release, he appealed for townsfolk to feed his men.

Coxey’s Army wasn’t above committing crimes.  In fact, one branch of his army stole a train from the Northern Pacific Railway near Butte, Montana.  It took and order from President Grover Cleveland and a number of U.S. Marshals to recover the train and subdue Coxey’s Army.

Everywhere branches of Coxey’s Army marched, they expected to be fed and housed by the inhabitants of the towns through which they marched.  Southern states were more accommodating than northern states to this end, however, none appreciate the imposition these men placed on their communities.

Give Me The West” by Scottish-born American financial journalist and author B.C. Forbes (14 May 1880 – 6 May 1954) was published in the May 16, 1920 edition of The American Magazine, and this is the first published version of enough to feed Coxey’s army .

In 1910 he took Sam Blythe and Will Loeb and myself with him.  The cavalcade that crossed the Gibbon and the Fire Hole and went on down into the Madison looked like a mob of land stampeders piling into virgin territory.  The first stop we made was at Grayling, a beautiful little suburban post office which has since been taken over by the Montana Power Company and now lies under fifty feet of water.  We pitched our tents in Red Canyon, three miles distant from the town site.  We had thirty-one horses, five wranglers, two cooks, six Japanese waters and enough grub to feed Coxey’s army going and coming.  Harry, known along the frontier as ‘Harry Hardup’ for the reason that he owns only one hundred and fifty thousand acres of land and twenty thousand head of stock, ordered up a pitcher of lemonade and superintended the laying out of the camp site.  As soon as night falls, Harry east three troughs, a couple of elk steaks, drinks another quart of lemonade, smokes another box of cigars and climbs into the hay.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 4:  Bertie Charles (B.C.) Forbes was the founder of Forbes magazine.

Believe it or not, while the current idiom enough to feed an army can sometimes be traced back to enough to feed Coxey’s Army or enough to feed Cox’s Army, it can also be traced back to much older origins.  But enough to feed Coxey’s Army or enough to feed Cox’s Army (its variation) links directly to 1920 and Bertie Charles (B.C.) Forbes’ story!

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Scribbledehobble

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 8, 2016

It’s not often you hear some words but when you do, they stick in your mind either because they’re unique or because they’re amusing and entertaining as well as unique.  Scribbledehobble is one of those words.  It can mean hurried, messy writing, or it can be a reference to the workbook with ideas written down quickly with little to no concern for appearance.

Irish novelist and poet James Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941) decided to give the notebooks in which he jotted down names, words, ideas, turns of phrase and anecdotes a name.  The name he gave to one of them was scribbledehobble.

There’s some question as to the exact date James Joyce came up with this word.  It’s a fact that when Thomas E. Connolly transcribed and published one of James Joyce’s notebooks in 1961, it was under the title, “Scribbledehobble” in keeping with the first word in the book’s text.

This notebook held the notes for his book “Finnegans Wake” that was published in 1939, and was seventeen years in the writing after his book “Ulysses” was published in 1922.

SIDE NOTE 1:  “Finnegans Wake” is a book that few have read due in large part to the enormous complexity of the text that was written, for the most part, with idiosyncratic language.

Some scholars believe the word was a hybrid of the words scribble and hobbledehoyHobbledehoy is a word that dates back to the early 1500s, and refers to someone or something that is clumsy and awkward.  The word has appeared in many novels over the generations.

It was used in Chapter 47 of the book “Little Women” by American novelist and poet, Louisa May Alcott (29 November 1832 – 6 March 1888), published in 1868.  The book was about four sisters who lived at home with their mother in New England while their father was away fighting in the Civil War.  The family had lost its fortune, but the family managed to make do and to continue living in the house they had always known.

“Now don’t be a wet-blanket, Teddy. Of course I shall have rich pupils, also–perhaps begin with such altogether. Then, when I’ve got a start, I can take in a ragamuffin or two, just for a relish. Rich people’s children often need care and comfort, as well as poor. I’ve seen unfortunate little creatures left to servants, or backward ones pushed forward, when it’s real cruelty. Some are naughty through mismanagment or neglect, and some lose their mothers. Besides, the best have to get through the hobbledehoy age, and that’s the very time they need most patience and kindness. People laugh at them, and hustle them about, try to keep them out of sight, and expect them to turn all at once from pretty children into fine young men.”

It was also used by English writer and humorist Jerome K. Jerome (2 May 1859 – 14 June 1927) in his collection of humorous essays, “Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow” published in 1886.  This was the second published book for the writer, and it established him as a leading English humorist.

The shy man, on the other hand, is humble–modest of his own judgment and over-anxious concerning that of others. But this in the case of a young man is surely right enough. His character is unformed. It is slowly evolving itself out of a chaos of doubt and disbelief. Before the growing insight and experience the diffidence recedes. A man rarely carries his shyness past the hobbledehoy period. Even if his own inward strength does not throw it off, the rubbings of the world generally smooth it down. You scarcely ever meet a really shy man–except in novels or on the stage, where, by the bye, he is much admired, especially by the women.

SIDE NOTE 2:  Jerome K. Jerome’s quotes are well-known even if they may not be propertly attributed to him.  Two of his most noteable quotes are, “It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless, of course, you aren an exceptionally good liar” and “I like work; it fascinates me.  I can site and look at it for hours.”

Even James Fenimore Cooper (15 September 1789 – 15 September 1851) spoke of “the hobbledehoy condition” in which America found itself in his book “The Pioneers, or The Sources of the Susquehanna; a Descriptive Tale” published in 1823.  This book was the first of five novels which became known as the Leatherstocking Tales.

This period in the history of a country may be likened to the hobbledehoy condition in ourselves when we have lost the graces of childhood without having attained the finished forms of men.

It isn’t difficult to see how James Joyce would feel compelled to mesh scribble with hobbledehoy to come up with scribbledehobble to describe either hurried, messy writing or the workbook with ideas written down quickly with little to no concern for appearance.  Idiomation pegs this to the around 1920 with thanks to James Joyce for his creativity in coming up with this new word.

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Icing On The Cake

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 1, 2016

The best part of any cake is the icing, or so most people say.  When the icing on the cake is something other than the sugary topping we all know, it means a pleasing situation was made even better due to an unexpected bonus.  Of course, there are those who are pessimists and who will use the expression sarcastically but most people seem to be optimists when it comes to using this idiom.

This year, the Chicago Cubs are battling it out with the Cleveland Indians for the title of World Cup winners for 2016.  After Game 5, Chicago was trailing two games to Cleveland’s three.  The idiom was used in the New York Daily newspaper article, “Eddie Vedder, Jon Lester Help Give Retiring Cubs Catcher David Ross A Night To Remember At Wrigley Field” published on October 31, 2016.

That Ross was able to contribute to the Cubs’ first World Series home win in 71 years was icing on the cake. His fourth-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the game-winning RBI, while he also threw out Francisco Lindor trying to steal second, doing his best to counter Jon Lester’s well-documented issues with holding runners on base.

Canadian-born character actor and playwright John McLiam (24 January 1918 – 16 April 1994) wrote and published his play, “The Sin Of Pat Muldoon” in 1957.

PAT:
You’re wasting your time.  The things you call sin have been to me the beauties of life.  They’ve helped me to know more of myself and people and the world I live in.

FATHER:
Sin is death to the soul.  Sin is an insult to God.

PAT:
There are sins and there are sing, but the sins I speak of are the chocolate icing on the cake of life.  Father, you ought to be more careful, if nobody sinned, you’d be out of a job.

FATHER:
Since you won’t recognize me as your priest, you may perhaps accept me as a man and friend of your family.  There is something I must say to you.

PAT:
Go ahead.  Shoot the works.

In Victorian times (20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901), the more refined the sugar used in making icing for cakes, the whiter the icing.  Because it was difficult to secure very fine sugar and because it was a costly luxury, the whiter the icing on a cake, the wealthier the family was thought to be.  Of course, if you were already enjoying cake, this was a good thing.  If you were enjoying cake with icing, this was an even better thing.  And enjoying cake with very white icing was the best thing imaginable.   But how far back does icing actually go?

The previous century, in 1769, Elizabeth Raffeld published her book, “The Experienced English Housekeeper.”  In this very helpful tome, the author shared the first published recipe for confectionery icing for cakes.  That being said, icing for cakes had been around for over 200 years at the time of publication even if this was the first published recipe for icing.

According to this recipe book, sugar and icing were part of making a Good Great Oxford-shire Cake.  Here are the directions as they are found in “The Compleat Cook, Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, For Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry” published in 1658.

ice-the-cake_1658

To make a very Good Great Oxford-shire Cake

Take a peck of flower by weight, and dry it a little, & a pound and a halfe of Sugar, one ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of Nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of Mace and Cloves, a good spoonfull of Salt, beat your Salt and Spice very fine, and searce it, and mix it with your flower and Sugar; then take three pound of butter and work it in the flower, it will take three hours working; then take a quart of Ale-yeast, two quarts of Cream, half a pint of Sack, six grains of Amber-greece dissolved in it, halfe a pint of Rosewater, sixteen Eggs, eight of the Whites, mix these with the flower, and knead them well together, then let it lie warm by your fire till your Oven be hot, which must be little hotter then for manchet; when you make it ready for your Oven, put to your Cake six pound of Currans, two pound of Raisins, of the Sun stoned and minced, so make up your Cake, and set it in your oven stopped close; it wil take three houres a baking; when baked, take it out and frost it over with the white of an Egge and Rosewater, well beat together, and strew fine Sugar upon it, and then set it again into the Oven, that it may Ice.

But nearly 200 years before that recipe, frosting (or icing — whichever term you prefer) was already happening to cakes.  Marchpanes became frosted marchpanes in 1494 when a paste of almonds and granulated sugar was used to add a decorative topping to them.

Even with all this information about icing and cakes, when did the icing on the cake become the saying we know it to be and not just something that pastry chefs did, and continue to do, to cakes?

Hostess Bakery was mass producing cupcakes by 1919, but it wasn’t until the early 1950s that buttercream frosted cupcakes made with confectioner’s sugar, butter, cream, and flavorings began to appear.  So those yummy Hostess cupcakes weren’t just yummy cupcakes in the 1950s.  They were yummy cupcakes with frosting.  They were iced!  BONUS!

Oddly enough, Idiomation was unable to find the expression published prior to John McLiam’s play “The Sin Of Pat Muldoon.”  This means that the icing on the cake meaning an added bonus to an already good thing happening has only been happening for about seventy years.  Idiomation therefore pegs this expression to the mid-1950s, and it may just be John McLiam who coined that phrase.

So does icing on the cake mean the same thing as frosting on the cake, frosting your cookies or cherry on the cake (from the French idiom la cerise sur le gâteau)?  Idiomation is looking into the historical backgrounds of these three expressions, and will publish findings in the near future.

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Cool Beans

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 22, 2016

When you hear someone comment with cool beans (aka kewl beans, kool beans, and cool beanz), it means that the speaker approves of the comment or the situation that prompted him/her to say cool beans.  Not only is this an idiom, according to Time magazine, it’s been in the Oxford dictionary since 2014.

For fans of the sitcom, “Full House” which aired from 22 September 1987 through to 23 May 1995, DJ Tanner used the expression so often that fans and followers of the show followed suit.  But the writers of “Full House” weren’t the originators of the expression.

The idiom shows up in Marlene Fanta Shyer’s book “Grandpa Ritz and the Luscious Lovelies” published by Scribner Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster) in 1985.  There on page 30, this appears:

“It’s cool beans!” That’s what Betsy always says when she thinks something is fantastic, and I couldn’t help wondering what she’d say if she could see me now.

In the 1960s, quaaludes, amphetamines and barbituates known as uppers and downers were referred to as cool beans because they resembled jellybeans. They were also known as beans, wacky beans, and cool beans.

The drug-induced positive reaction would therefore be attributed to cool beans thereby creating a positive impression of cool beans.

The reference to cool beans didn’t appear elsewhere in Idiomation’s research. While cool beans as an item is from the 1960s, the expression indicating approval is from sometime between the 1960s and 1985 when it appeared in Marlene Fanta Shyer’s book.

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Step On A Duck

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 15, 2016

To step on a duck is to fart, but not just any old fart.  The step on a duck fart is said to be one that is so loud that it sounds like the squawking of a duck in distress.  The idiom is usually spoken by a bystander wishing to point out the fart to everyone nearby and not an attempt by the person to deflect his or her embarrassment at the indelicate passing of gas.

The expression seems to be so well-known that Jim Dawson published a book in 2010 titled, “Did Somebody Step On A Duck: A Natural History of the Fart.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  Jim Dawson is a California-based writer who specializes in American pop culture.  A decade before publishing “Did Somebody Step On A Duck” he published “Who Cut THe Cheese: A Cultural History of the Fart” which went on to become a top-seller.

Oddly enough, thirty-five years ago, Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, asked if somebody stepped on a duck when he broke wind loudly at dinner in the 1980 movie, “Caddyshack” starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and Scott Colomby.  The movie was written by Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, and Douglas Kenney of National Lampoon magazine fame.

The history of this expression is difficult to trace.  Idiomation’s research found a recipe for a duck fart shot consisting of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Crown Royal (and poured in that order) hailing from Anchorage, Alaska.  It was created by bartender Dave Schmidt while working at the Peanut Farm Bar and Grill (on the corner of Old Seward Highway and International Street) in December 1987.  The media covered the story of the shot in an article in the Anchorage Daily News newspaper.

Oddly enough, before White Sox announcer and former professional baseball player Hawk Harrelson (born September 4, 1941) made the term more family friendly in the 1980s, the duck snort was called a duck fart.  And what is a duck snort or a duck fart in baseball terms?  It’s a ball that softly hit ball that goes over the infielders and lands in the outfield for a hit.

And in the 1940s, according to “Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang” compiled and published by Jonathon Green, a duck fart referred to the plopping sound a stone made when it fell into the water.

But there doesn’t seem to be any indication how stepping on a duck came to mean farting loudly.  To this end, the expressions seems to reach back only as far as 1980.  However, there’s a lot of history behind the concept, not the least of which is a political connection.

As many of us know, there’s a certain juvenile humor when it comes to farting, not the least of which is a popular poem that was written as a result of an unfortunate incident on March 4, 1607 involving Henry Ludlow in the House of Commons.  The poem (which was endlessly copied, recopied, and shared liberally) published in 1607 was titled, “The Censure of the Parliament Fart.”  The incident happened as Sir John Crooke was giving a speech, and he took the fart as a personal insult.  For readers’ amusement, this is the opening volley of the poem.

Never was bestowed such art
Upon the tuning of a Fart.
Downe came grave auntient Sir John Crooke
And redd his message in his booke.
Fearie well, Quoth Sir William Morris, Soe:
But Henry Ludlowes Tayle cry’d Noe.
Up starts one fuller of devotion
Then Eloquence; and said A very ill motion
Not soe neither quoth Sir Henry Jenkin
The Motion was good; but for the stincking
Well quoth Sir Henry Poole it was a bold tricke
To Fart in the nose of the bodie pollitique.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2:  Sir John Crooke sat in Parliament in 1584, 1597, and 1601.  Henry Ludlow sat in the 1601 and 1604 Parliament as a member of the Inner Temple.  In other words, the two were in Parliament together in 1601.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3:  The poem became so famous by 1610 that it was cited in Ben Jonson’s play, “The Alchemist.”  The play (which opens with a fart) includes a reference to the poem by Sir Epicure Mammon.

All this being said, the connection between stepping on a duck and loud farts is one that escaped Idiomation’s research.  Perhaps one of Idiomation’s readers has proof as to who first wrote or said this, or where it first appeared in print.

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Bat Shit Crazy

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 25, 2016

Heather E. Johnson asked Idiomation where bat shit crazy came from, and what made bat excrement crazier than any other rodent’s.  The expression means that the person accused of being bat shit crazy is acting in a threatening manner that is devoid of all reason and that borders on insanity.  In other words, someone who is bat shit crazy so irrationally (and possibly violently as well) that reasonable, sane measures of dealing with the situation at hand are ineffective.

Scientifically speaking, the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum is found in bat guano and when the fungus infects the brain (a possibility, not a given), it leaves the infected person or animal behaving in a psychotic manner.

Until the early 1950s when Histoplasma capsulatum was finally being diagnosed correctly, sufferers were usually misdiagnosed with tuberculosis.  Placed on antibacterial antibiotics, the medication worsened the disease.  Why?  According to medical studies, once the bacteria in the body was killed off, the fungus had nothing to stop it from taking over completely.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 1:  Histoplasmosis can even be fatal in some cases.   This article by S.T. Darling published in 1906 provides insight into this.  Darling, S. T. 1906. A protozoan general infection producing pseudotubercles in the lungs and focal necroses in the liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. JAMA 46:1283-1285.  This article by R.J. Parsons and C.J.D. Zarafonetis published in 1945 supports this as well.  Parsons, R. J., and C. J. D. Zarafonetis. 1945. Histoplasmosis in man, report of seven cases and a review of seventy-one cases. Arch. Intern. Med. 75:1-23.

Economically speaking, bat guano has been an international commodity as a fertilizer for about 200 years, and the best source is from Peru’s islands:  The Chincas, the Ballestras, the Lobos, and the Macabi and Guanape Islands.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2:  There are other islands off Africa, in the Carribean, and some Pacific Islands that also have excellent and abundant stores of guano, however, guano from Peru is believed to be superior to all other guano.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3:  Guano is high in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium which are essential nutrients for plant growth.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 4:  Archeologists have discovered that guano has been used as an agricultural fertilizer by the Andean people over 1,500 years.  Documentation by Spanish explorers indicate that Incans restricted access to guano and considered guano a valuable commodity to be protected from overuse and misuse.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 5:  It’s believed that Peruvian seabird guano (since guano isn’t always from bats) used in 1842 in Ireland and Great Britain was responsible for the virulent strain of potato blight that was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine (1845 – 1852).

In 1909, Peru established the Guano Administration (we kid you not) to preserve their reserve of guano, and to continue to use guano for agricultural purposes in Peru.

Last month, the CBC reported on Emmanuel Kahsai, 30, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 54-year-old mother, Selma Alem, and second-degree murder in the death of a 25-year-old female.  Those who know the accused have stated to the media that they believe the accused is faking a psychiatric illness to escape criminal responsibility.  The article, published July 18, 2016 was titled, “Emmanuel Kahsai playing ‘bat-shit crazy card,’ says Selma Alem’s friend.

Batshit was used in the June 1983 movie, “Trading Places” starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.  The movie tells the story of a snobbish investor and a street savvy con artist who see their fortunes reversed as a result of a bet made by two millionaire brothers, Randolph and Mortimer Duke of the fictional commodities brokerage firm, Duke & Duke.

RANDOLPH DUKE
Exactly why do you think the price of pork bellies is going to keep going down, William?
    
BILLY RAY VALENTINE
Okay, pork belly prices have been dropping all morning, which means that everybody is waiting for it to hit rock bottom, so they can buy cheap and go long. Which means that the people who own the pork belly contracts are going batshit, they’re thinking, “Hey, we’re losing all our damn money, and Christmas is around the corner, and I ain’t gonna have no money to buy my son the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip! And my wife ain’t gonna f… my wife ain’t gonna make love to me if I got no money!” So they’re panicking right now, they’re screaming “SELL! SELL!” ‘cos they don’t wanna lose all their money, right? They’re panicking out there right now; I can feel it.
    
RANDOLPH DUKE
He’s right, Mortimer! My God, look at it!

It would seem that while the word crazy is implied, it wasn’t part of the idiom in 1983.

In 1971, William J. Calley Jr. published a book with the help of John Sack titled, “Lieutenant Calley: His Own Story.”  The book was marketed as “America’s most infamous soldier tells all.”  In his book, he used the expression batshit without tacking on the word crazy but as with the movie, “Trading Places” it’s implied.

Most of America’s males were in Korea or World War II or I. They killed, and they aren’t all going batshit.

This seems to show that bat shit, up to at least 1983, wasn’t coupled with the word crazy.

In 1988, the term appeared three times in the book, “Runaway” by author and English professor, Stephen Gresham — on pages, 85, 91, and 122.  The story is about 13-year-old Mark Blackwood who comes from a rich family but because he’s a runaway,he finds himself living at Redemption House under the watchful eye of Brother Bob who is far more dangerous than his name or title implies.

Man, what’s wrong with him?
He’s crazy.  Bat-shit crazy.

Stephen Gresham retired from Auburn University in 2008 as a full professor and currently resides in Auburn (AL).  Since Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of bat shit crazy, Idiomation has sent a communiqué to Stephen Gresham asking him where he first heard the idiom or if the expression originates with him.  As soon as we know, Idiomation fans and followers will be the next to know.  Stay tuned!

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Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 26, 2016

Lately you may have read or heard people saying dilly ding, dilly dong.  It’s an interesting idiom that expresses a celebratory feeling while underscoring focus and hard work leading to the celebration.  The history behind this is short and sweet.  It was coined by 64-year-old Claudio Ranieri.

In December 2015, the Italian manager spoke about the Leicester City Football Club (also known as The Foxes) officially qualifying for the EUFA Champions League — a championship that the club went on to win as they nabbed the Premier League title — and he used the term dilly ding, dilly dong.

Claudio Ranieri uttered the idiom dilly ding, dilly dong again in March 2015. and once again, to the delight of mainstream media, at a press conference on April 22, 2016.

Dilly ding, dilly dong! Come on!  You forget.  You forget.  You speak about blah-blah-blah.  But we are in the Champions League. Come on, man! Oh, it’s fantastic. Fantastic. Terrific.

The Foxes were an under-performing football club in 2010 when Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha bought the team.  Claudio Ranieri came on board in the summer of 2015 and led the team to victory months later.

However when he said dilly ding, dilly dong in 2015 and 2016, this wasn’t the first time Claudio Ranieri used the idiom.  Over his 30-year managerial career, dilly ding, dilly dong is a phrase he’s used often.  Originally, it was used as a lighthearted way of seriously underscoring the need for a wake-up call to members of the teams he managed, and it oftentimes led to positive results.

Idiomation adds dilly ding, dilly dong to the list of fun expressions we’ve researched, and we wish it a very long life.

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Daffy

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 12, 2016

Watching the movie about J. Edgar Hoover starring Leonardo DiCaprio, there was a scene between Hoover and his mother that spoke of a certain schoolmate of J. Edgar’s who had committed suicide years earlier.  She asked her son if he knew why he was called “Daffy” and then revealed that it was short for daffodil.  While it wasn’t stated outright, the implication was that a daffodil — or rather, a daffy — was a homosexual.

Back in 1935, it was understood that a daffodil was an effeminate young man in the vein of pansies and millies.  In “Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang” the term with this definition is pegged to the 1920s.  Interestingly enough, however, in this same dictionary, there’s an entry for daffy-down-dilly which refers to a dandy, and dates back to the mid-1900s according to Cassell’s.  The “Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English” by John S. Farmer and W.E. Henley published in 1905 confirms the claim in Cassell’s dictionary.

American romance novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (4 July 1804 – 19 May 1864) published a novel in 1843 titled, “Little Daffydowndilly.”   The story is about a little boy who only likes to do things that are agreeable to him, and dislikes work of any kind.  His mother has indulged her son to this end, and when he finds himself old enough to attend school, he finds the schoolmaster to be unreasonable in his expectations and believes him to be overly stern.  As the story unfolds, Little Daffydowndilly learns a lot about himself and his schoolmaster.

INTERESTING NOTE 1:  Nathanial Hawthorne is better known as the author of “The Scarlet Letter.”

Two years earlier, playwright William Leman Rede (31 January 1802 – 3 April 1847) wrote, “Sixteen-String Jack: A Romantic Drama In Three Acts” where he used daffy-down-dilly in Act i, Scene 2.  The scene begins with Bobby Buckhorse, the waiter at the “Cock and Magpie” and Nelly.

BOBBY:
I’m here, my daffy-down-dilly.

NELLY:
Don’t down-dilly me! but take some daffy to the back parlour.

BOBBY:
Back parlour’s served: I saw three brandy’s cold, one egg-hot, and a qartern with three outs, go in.

INTERESTING NOTE 2:  “Sixteen-String Jack” was a play about English criminal and highwayman, John “Sixteen String Jack” Rann (1750 – 30 November 1774) who was known for his charm and quick wit.  His attire was said to be overly showy.

It’s easy to see how a flashy dressing rogue such as John “Sixteen String Jack” Rann could be thought of as effeminate, even as he waylaid the countryside with his nefarious deeds.

Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and cleric, Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) used daffy-down-dilly in his short story, “A Punning Letter to the Earl of Pembroke” published on June 13, 1709.

There is a published reference to daffy-down-dilly recorded in Mother Goose or rather, what was known then called Mother Hubberd, back in 1593.

Daffy-down-dilly is new come to town
With a yellow petticoat, and a green gown.

The term is what’s known as a sandwich word which are, by nature, generally naughty.  That being said, calling a lawyer a daffy-down-dilly from 1483 onward was a serious accusation of double-dealing, and playing both ends against the middle for the lawyer’s own personal gain.  In other words, it was a conflict of interest that the lawyer chose to work to his advantage.

Idiomation finds that while daffy-down-dilly has been an insult for a great many centuries, it evolved to mean an effeminate male by the late 1700s and early 1800s.  This eventually evolved to mean a homosexual by the 1920s.  Idiomation therefore pegs this to 1800 as well as to 1920 because one really doesn’t know where the line was drawn between being effeminate and being a homosexual in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

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Chasing The Dragon

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 12, 2016

Originally, chasing the dragon was a reference to inhaling the vapors from opium.  Over time, it meant to chase after the elusive first-time high one got from a drug as the body develops greater and greater tolerance levels.  At that point, the chase was at the expense of the user’s for his or her health, wealth, and/or sanity.  Most recently, it refers to the pursuit of something you will never achieve or own.

Idiomation first heard the term used in the movie, “From Hell” which was set in 1888 in London (Whitechapel to be exact).  The main character (played by Johnny Depp) was a police detective who was chasing the dragon (in reference to his recreational drug use). The term was used a handful of times in the movie.

However, a study published on the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) website titled, “Heroin Smoking by Chasing The Dragon: Origins and History” claim that the term was from 1920s Shanghai.

In September 5, 1983 the New Strait Times (published in Kuala Lumpur) reported on drug arrests in Ipoh (Malaysia).  After coordinated raids in Menglembu, Kuala Kang, and Pengkaian Pegoh regions, police arrested four dadah addicts.  The four men had fled police, and upon capturing them, the police seized two straw tubes of heroin.  The article was titled, “Chasing The Dragon: One Caught.”

The Spokesman-Review published on February 13, 1961 brought news from Hong Kong where it was reported that more than half of the over 18,000 people sentenced to terms of imprisonment were guilty of drug offenses.  The idiom chasing the dragon was used in explaining the situation where heroin and morphine (byproducts of opium poppies) weren’t grown locally, and supplies were being smuggled into Hong Kong from abroad.  The second paragraph in the story stated this:

This is just one proof of the size of the drug problem facing the authorities in this British colony where, according to a special government report, as many as one in every 12 of the population may be indulging in the habit of “chasing the dragon” — taking dope.

This wasn’t just a problem in Hong Kong.  It was a global problem, and affected those in America according to the 1961 “Narcotic Officer’s Handbook” which stated:

In ‘chasing the dragon‘ the heroin and any diluting drug are placed on a folded piece of tinfoil.  This is heated with a taper and the resulting fumes inhaled through a small tube of bamboo or rolled up paper.  The fumes move up and down the tinfoil with the movements of the molten powder resembling the undulating tail of the mythical Chinese dragon.

In the book, “An Introduction to the Work of a Medical Examiner: From Death Scene to Autopsy Suite” by  John J. Miletich and Tia Laura Lindstrom, the authors claim (as does the NCBI study mentioned earlier) that heroin smoking originated in Shanghai in the 1920s, and spread across Eastern Asia before making the leap to the U.S. in the 1930s.  The moniker chasing the dragon (according to the authors) didn’t show up until the early 1950s.

This is attested to in Jay Robert Nash’s book, “Dictionary of Crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Law Enforcement.”

But how did chasing the dragon come to be used in the movie, “From Hell?

Pure cocaine was first used in the 1880s as an anesthetic because it constricted blood vessels during surgery which limited bleeding (safer drugs introduced after that time replaced cocaine in the operating theater).

Cocaine had been illegal in China (from whence it came) until 1858, and was legalized, hoping to curb drug addiction and bolster the economy.  Within twenty-five years of legalizing cocaine, it was among the top causes of social anxiety.  In 1882, opium dens in the United States (in California especially) were getting out of hand, which led to the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  Use of the drug in China peaked at the turn of the 20th Century, and began to steadily increase in England and the United States at the same time.

So while it’s true that in 1880s, some drug addicts were chasing the dragon, the term chasing the dragon was not in use at that time — or for some time after.  The term made its way into the movie because it was a term someone associated with the movie had heard used to describe the activity in which Johnny Depp’s character was involved.

Idiomation is unable to pinpoint a date for this idiom, mostly because there are so many conflicting sources laying claim to when smoking cocaine came into vogue in countries outside of China.  Maybe one of our Idiomation supersleuths has the answer to the question?

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Nitpicking

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 5, 2016

A nitpicker is a fussy, finicky fault-finding critic who finds small mistakes or flaws in everything, be it a person, an activity, an item, an event, et al, although sometimes the criticism is justifiable and warranted.  Usually, however, no matter how insignificant the flaw, a nitpicker will raise petty objections over the mistake or error.  Nitpicking is what nitpickers do.

In October 3, 2002, CNN News reported on the Iraq resolution that was introduced in the Senate, and hailed by then-President Bush as a show of unity at a time when war with Iraq might be unavoidable.  Then-Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had this to say about the resolution and the direction in which the White House was moving on this matter.

I’m sure the argument will be why are we nit-picking, but what I want to do at a minimum in the debate is lay out what I understand what the President’s committing to do.

Some in the Senate and in Congress were uneasy with the concept of authorizing war where no international support was perceived, but the resolution seemed to sit well enough with the majority.  In the end, Senator Lieberman declared that the moment of truth had arrived for Saddam Hussein, and America marched off to war.

It was Richard Reeves column writing for the Universal Press Syndicate (UPS) on May 16, 1992 that addressed whether Ross Perot’s political aspirations had the “endurance, perseverance, and agility” to last more  than a couple months.  He talked about the “Capitol game” where senators and representatives jostled against the rest for media attention, but not necessarily on behalf of their state’s best interests.  It was an explosive column aptly titled, “The Rise Of Nitpicking Lawmakers.”

On October 25, 1978 the Associated Press (AP) reported a situation happening in Washington, DC that had to do with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  It addressed what many called “Mickey Mouse rules” that took the focus away from major problems in the workplace.  For years, the agency had dictated even the smallest of things to employers in America including, but not limited to, mounting of fire extinguishers, how to handle portable ladders, and what toilet seats to select for the workplace environment.  The first sentence in the article said it all.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration made good on a promise to businessmen and scrapped 928 “nitpicking” safety standards Tuesday.

I’m sure that millions of employers across the nation breathed a sigh of relief over not worrying about the 928 safety standards that were stricken from the roster!

On September 6, 1988 The Telegraph published in Nashua, New Hampshire ran a quick quiz in Richard Lederer’s column, “Looking At Language.”  The columnist asked readers to figure out which of three dates for each word in a list of words was the correct date each word entered the English language.  From airsick through to yogurt, there were thirty-six words in all, and nitpick was among them.  The answer for when nitpick entered the English language was 1951, which was, of course, correct.

And how do we know this?  Because it was what was published in an article in the November 1951 edition of Colliers magazine.

Two long-time Pentagon stand-bys are fly-speckers and nit-pickers. The first of these nouns refers to people whose sole occupation seems to be studying papers in the hope of finding flaws in the writing, rather than making any effort to improve the thought or meaning; nit-pickers are those who quarrel with trivialities of expression and meaning, but who usually end up without making concrete or justified suggestions for improvement.

To make into Colliers magazine in November 1951, it was certainly an expression that was used prior to 1951, and coming from the Pentagon, it is at least from 1950 if not the 1940s.

As a side note, if you’re wondering, according to the energycommerce.house.gov website, flyspeckers and nitpickers are still employed in the Treasury department.

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