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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

From Scratch

Posted by Admin on June 16, 2010

In April 1887, the Fort Wayne Gazette reported on a cycling race where everyone started “from scratch” and no handicaps were considered.   From that point onward, the term “from scratch” was used to refer more specifically to the starting point for competitors who received no odds, which heralded the advent of the “scratch” game — a game without handicaps.

“It was no handicap. Every man was qualified to and did start from scratch.”

However, the term “from scratch” is even older than that.  John Nyren‘s “Young Cricketer’s Tutor” from 1833 records this line from a 1778 work by Cotton:

“Ye strikers… Stand firm to your scratch, let your bat be upright.”

Later on, James Joyce used “from scratch” in this sense in his 1922 masterpiece “Ulysses,” in which he wrote of a “poor foreign immigrant who started from scratch as a stowaway and is now trying to turn an honest penny.” The version of the phrase “from scratch” is a better known version these days.

The term “from scratch” as it pertains to cooking means the dish is prepared from fresh ingredients rather than from a packaged mix.  None of the steps are eliminated as they are with packaged foods. In this context it means any food that is prepared from the very beginning by the chef, baker or cook.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century, Racing, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Saved By The Bell

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2010

There are those who will tell you in dead earnest that “saved by the bell” originated sometime during the 15th Century during the Renaissance era.  They are, of course, mistaken but it is a mistake that seems to have established a life of its own and is rarely questioned, even by knowledgeable individuals.

The claim is that back in the day, people were pronounced dead before their time and interred only to be dug up at a later date.  Once unearthed, scratch marks on the inside of the coffin were noticed in some of the coffins which, of course, instilled fear in the living that they, too, might be mistakenly buried alive.  While the fear persisted, there was no way devised at that time to alert people to anyone living being buried alive.

In fact, well into the 18th Century, famous people were still concerned with the possibility of being buried alive.

“All I desire for my own burial is not to be buried alive.” – Lord Chesterfield (1694 – 1773)   

“Have me decently buried, but do not let my body be put into a vault in less than two days after I am dead.” – George Washington (1732 – 1799)

With all the fear around the subject, plans for safety coffins began to show up in patent offices around the world.  One such safety box was referred to “The Improved Burial Case” by Franz Vester of  Newark, New Jersey on August 25, 1868.  Unfortunately, coffins hold very little air and the average otherwise healthy  person would pass out within an hour or two once a coffin was sealed.   Even if the individual could alert the world above him or her that he or she was living, unearthing the coffin in time is nearly impossible even using today’s technology.

Instead, the facts prove out that the practice of being “saved by the bell” comes from the sport of boxing.   In fact, this option was a mandatory option under the Marquess of Queensberry rules ,which were introduced in England in 1867.

The phrase appeared in print shortly thereafter and was soon used as a figurative expression for being saved, as from an unpleasant occurrence, by a timely interruption.

Martin Flaherty defeated Bobby Burns in 32 rounds by a complete knockout. Half a dozen times Flaherty was saved by the bell in the earlier rounds.” – The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, February 1893

Floored in the first session by a terrific right to the jaw, the bell saving the Jersey boy at the count of seven.”—Ring magazine, November 1932

Saved by the bell, a boxer saved from being counted out because the end of the round is signalled.”—Boxing Dictionary by F. C. Avis, 1954
 
If, in future, the bell interrupts a count, the count will continue until the boxer is counted out—unless he gets up in the meantime  . . .  The expression ‘saved by the bell ‘ will, therefore, become an anachronism.” — Times, 18 May 1963

So the match goes to this phrase being a boxing term and not at all related to safety coffins or the Renaissance era.

Posted in Boxing, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Southpaw

Posted by Admin on April 19, 2010

Southpaw came into vogue in 1885 thanks to Finley Peter Dunne aka Mr. Dooley, a famed Chicago sports journalist and humorist … and it had everything to do with the great all American pass time, baseball.

All major league baseball diamonds are laid out so the afternoon sun is to the batter’s back so he can see the ball coming at him from the pitcher’s mound.  This means that the batter faces east.

Of course, since the batter is facing east, the pitcher must be facing west.  Since science claims that 85% of people are right-handed, these leaves 15% of the population to be left-handed.  And when a left-handed pitcher is on the mound, his throwing arm is, of course, facing south.

Since a left-handed pitcher pitches with his ‘south paw’ those who routinely use their left hand to write were soon referred to as ‘southpaws.’

While that incident certainly helped to popularize the word, the term south paw referring to a person’s left hand is attested as far back as 1848 in the slang of pugilism.  A boxer who leads with the right hand and stands with the right foot forward, using the left hand for the most powerful blows was known as a southpaw almost 40 years before Finley Peter Dunne aka Mr. Dooley used the term.

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