Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Swag

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 7, 2017

Every time an awards show hits the news, there’s talk of swag Swag, in this context, refers to the free promotional items given to those who are part of the event.  But the term swag is much older than you might think, and originally it referred to money or goods acquired by unlawful means, usually by a thief or burglar.  Not always, but usually.  And in the end, whether your swag is promotional or stolen, it’s technically ‘free’ for the person who is in receipt of it.

It has nothing to do with the urban legend that the word is from the 1960s and is a way of announcing one’s proclivities or preferences, so you can disregard the memes on the internet saying that swag is an acronym meaning this.

It has nothing to do with a secret code for wealth preservation by the top 1% of the world.  It doesn’t stand for silver, wine, art, and gold, and it isn’t a recent term to represent silver, wine, art, and gold.  That’s a story some conspiracy theorists would like the rest of the world to believe is true.

If either of those tall tales were true, then how did swag-barrowman, swag chovey, swag cove, and swagman make it into 19th century language?  It’s because swag has been around for a very long time.

A few months ago in August 2016, CBS Detroit ran a story which was published on their website as well that reported on a bag of custom sailing gear stolen from outside the east side home of a Detroit Olympian.  It was recorded by a Good Samaritan.  The story was titled, “It’s A Detroit Miracle: $10,00 Worth Of Gear, Rio Swag Stolen From Olympic Sailor Recovered On East Side.”

The Tuscaloosa News ran a story in their June 4, 1942 edition by foreign correspondent reporter and political activist, Ludwig ‘Louis’ Paul Lochner (February 22, 1887 – January 8, 1975) who had just returned to New York from overseas, with an editor’s note to kick it off.  It dealt with inside information from Germany, which was, at the time, a country heavily censored.  The first paragraph read as follows:

It’s all gravy for the Hitler boys – if Der Fuehrer should win the war.  The Nazi party will be in more complete control of the country than ever, and the party button will open the doors to all positions, all graft, and all swag.

In the poem, “The Smuggler’s Leap: A Tale Of Thanet” by Thomas Ingoldsby, esq. — aka English cleric, novelist, and humorous poet Richard Harris Barham (6 December 1788 – 17 June 1845) — and published in Volume X of “Bentley’s Miscellany” compiled by London publisher Richard Bentley (24 October 1794 – 10 September 1871) and printed by antiquarian and publisher Samuel Bentley (10 May 1785 – 1868), published in 1841, the word is used thusly:

“Now mount, my merry men, mount and ride!”
Three on the crupper, and one before,
And the led-horse laden with five tubs more ;
But the rich point-lace,
In the oil-skin case
Of proof to guard its contents from ill,
The “prime of the swag” is with Smuggler Bill!

Back in the day, everyone knew that the swagsman was the thief who carried the stolen property after the burglary had been committed.   But you know, that Smuggler Bill had a lot in common with pirates.

Yes, even pirates knew what swag was in the 1600s although it was oftentimes referred to as booty.   There were times when it was known as swag and every pirate knew swag meant gold and riches and other valuables.  Among the most prized swag one could find was a pipe with a covered lid – a treasured piece if a pirate had one to call his own.

Pirates were causing mayhem from the beginning of the 15th century, but the Golden Age of Pirates was from 1690 to 1720.  That’s when most of the swag was being stolen by pirates who knew how to steal and get away with it.

Before that, swag meant a chop that sold cheap trinkets.  Somewhere between the early 1600s and when pirates were making a killing plundering ships, the word swag went from meaning that to meaning the loot gotten by theft by bandits and vagabonds.

So whether it’s free promotional giveaways in bags at events or it’s loot pilfered from someone’s home, swag as we understand the word today dates back to the late 1600s thanks in large part to those pirates of the seven seas.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

From Dan To Bathsheba

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 2, 2017

If someone has been from Dan to Bathsheba, it’s fair game to say that they’ve traveled a great distance and covered a great deal of territory.  It’s not quite the same thing as going to Hell and back, so it’s not wise to use the two expressions interchangeably.

On October 21, 2012 National Peoples News published an article about the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Ibrahim Lamorde (from 23 November 2011 through to 9 November 2015 ) and a speech given by former Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (in office from 2010 to 2015) at the funeral services for Kaduna (Nigeria) Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa (1 December 1948 – 15 December 2012).

It is highly commendable that the intellectual President of the Nigerian federation has gone spiritual with the problems of the country to solve it from the spiritual substantiated planes of the esoteric wealth and this will surely witness rapid social, economic and industrial Development as well as will guarantee peace in the polity from Dan to Bathsheba.

SIDE NOTE 1:  Governor Yakowa died in a helicopter crash along with the former National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi.  The were flying to Port Harcourt from Beyelsa State where they  had attended the funeral of Oronto Douglas’ father.

On Page 4 of the May 24, 1957 edition of the Beatrice Daily Sun in Nebraska reported on how the Soviet military attaché gave Chief of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces, Ali Abu-Nuwwar (1925 – 15 August 1991) 100,000 dinars to distribute among army officers to oppose Hussein bin Talal (14 November 1935 – 7 February 1999), King of Jordan (11 August 1952 – 7 February 1999).  Upon his return to Jordan, Abu-Nuwwar met with Jordanian Prime Minister, Sulayman al-Nabulsi (1908 – 1976) in the hopes that the King could be pressed into establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

The King refused both proposals on the basis that they would lead to Soviet domination over Jordan.” An army coup d’etat was then set. Twice postponed, it finally miscarried when one garrison misunderstood its orders and started fighting at 1500 hours (3 p.m.) instead of at 0500 hours the next morning.” This exposed the plot and enabled it to be crushed. Against reports of this kind, the raucous “Voice of the Arabs,” Radio Cairo, is stirring up trouble all over the Middle East. All this propaganda presents a challenge for the U.S. Information Agency to do a factual and efficient job in this part of the world, if it is to be saved from a Communist takeover. The Upper Room One of the usually accurate members of the Nebraska editorial fraternity, describing how his fellow citizens would react if he adopted a certain policy, wrote: “I would be cursed from Dan to Bathsheba.”

The November 2, 1907 issue of the New Zealand Observer in Aukland, New Zealand saw the expression shared in the  “Pars About People” column with regards to a politician by the name of C.H. Izard who served in the House of Representatives.  Charles Hayward (C.H.) Izard (1860 – 18 September 1925) was an established lawyer in Wellington and a Liberal member in the New Zealand Parliament for Wellington North from 6 December 1905 through to 17 November 1908.

Nobody ever had the hardihood to accuse C.H. Izard, the member for Wellington South, of beiung a religious man, and certainly a remark that he made in the House last week would seem to furnish proof ot the fact that he has not burnt the midnight oil in the pursuit of theological knowledge. In the course of debate, Mr. Izard made the startling announcement that he didn’t intend to travel from Dan To Bathsheba.  It is to be hoped not, indeed.  Mr. Izard’s Christian name is not David.

SIDE NOTE 2: C.H. Izard was the eldest son of Charles Beard Izard who immigrated to New Zealand in May 1860, and went on to represent the constituency of Wellington South and Suburbs in the tenth Parliament from 1887 to 1890.

In 1840,  Volume III of “The Literary World: A Journal of Popular Information and Entertainment with Numerous Engravings” edited by English author and antiquary John Timbs (17 August 1801 – 6 March 1875) remarked on a new book by German historian Friedrich Ludwig Georg von Raumer (14 May 1781 – 14 June 1873) titled, “Italy and the Italians.”  The review was extensive, leading readers to feel that the review was nearly as detailed as the book itself.

A German is not the man to travel from “Dan to Bathsheba” and say “all is barren.”  His characteristic mental energy, zeal, and patience, his comprehensive views of the various phases of the social system, his painstaking investigation of antiquities, his accurate appreciation of art, his aptitude for the studies of literature, and his industry and success in inquiring into the phenomena of nature – are all qualities which pre-eminently fit the German for travelling, and remind one of Johnson’s neat amplification of the Spanish proverbs:  “He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.”

SIDE NOTE 3:  John Timbs also published under the pseudonym of Horace Welby.

The New York Journal of February 13, 1797 provided a short entry with regards to the Federalist persecution of the Tallow Chandlers.  The issue in question was self-defense of property and person, with an argument that even “good peaceable Quakers” had the right to defend themselves.

But even suppose the Tallow Chandlers once situated upon the pinnacle of Bunker’s Hill, what security have they that they shall long remain there undisturbed?  As soon as that will be known or heard, rolling along, with the accompanyments of wealth, will come from nabob. Some wise and pompous Treaty maker, or may be some son of Exculapius with his wife and we will not suppose with how many concubines, who perhaps finding his delicate smellers a little offended, and casting his eyes, will exclaim, “you dirty stinking dogs, you shall continue there no longer.  March for Kingsbridge.”  Thus, drive from pillar to post, even “from Dan to Bathsheba” the chandlers will have no rest for the sole of their feet, and like the rolling stone will be able to gather no moss.

The original saying is actually from Dan to Beersheba and is a biblical phrase used nine times in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It refers to the settled areas of the tribes of Israel situated between Dan to the North and Beersheba to the South.   Dan was Jacob’s fifth son and his was the last of the tribes to receive a portion in the Land of Promise.  The territory extended from the west of Ephraim and Benjamin to the sea, and included the cities of Lydda, Ekron, and Joppa along the northern boundary.  Beersheba was the site of a well that was dug by the Prophet Abraham about 2,000 years before the birth of Christ.  The well was used to water his flocks

Somewhere along the line, however, people confused Beersheba with Bathsheba, and references to both are found littered along the way through to the 18th century when Bathsheba won out.

Since the expression is found in the Bible (using Beersheba not Bathsheba) with detailed information that includes an explanation of how Dan came to be an area belonging to the tribe of Dan, what is meant by from Dan to Bathsheba or rather, Beersheba, pegs this idiom to the Old Testament of the Bible.

Posted in Bible, Jewish, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blurb

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 31, 2017

Author Cath Alexander asked Idiomation for the origins of the word blurb which refers to a short promotional description of a book, movie, or other product that’s written or spoken.  A blurb by any other name is micro-marketing that catches (or should catch) the marketplace’s attention.

The August 17, 2007 edition of the Spokesman Review showed how sometimes blurbs can unintentionally mislead readers as was the case with a little something that slipped past the editor’s watchful eyes and made it into all the newspapers published by the Spokesman Review the previous day.

A Thursday A1 blurb referred readers to an item that ran only in the Spokane Voices, due to an editor’s error.

On July 9, 1986 the Chicago Tribune ran a story about the then-new generation of television journalists and the race for top ratings that, according to Kenneth R. Clark, drove reporters “to efforts exaggerated beyond the traditions of simple competition for breaking news.”  The Nielsen ratings saw major broadcasting corporations barely slipping past each other each week, and oftentimes tying each other.

The reporter interviewed Laurence Zuckerman (then associate editor of the Columbia Journalism Review) and he was quoted as saying this.

“It has become a game of how to make your anchor more attractive than the other guy,” he said.  “They say, ‘Let’s give our anchors more of a personality.  Let’s have Tom Brokaw give a little blurb at the end of the newscast.’  At the end of the piece on the Vietnam march in Chicago, Brokaw got on and said something like, ‘I remember when I was a reporter in the ‘60s and covering the anti-war movement.  I was outside Chicago in 1968 and I didn’t think these sides would ever come to terms, and now they have.’  It left you feeling very good saying, ‘He, Tom Brokaw, he’s okay.  He’s been there.’”

The Free Lance Star of Fredericksburg (VA) republished an article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on August 29, 1944 that reported on the problems with license plates.  The Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce suggested that “historic” be added to Virginia’s automobile licenses but of the businesses felt that the addition of the word would unnecessarily clog up the tags.  Some felt that if a blurb was to be added, it should be “Virginia – The Debt Free State.”

The article appeared in the column, “As Seen By Others” and was titled, “License Plate Blurbs.”  Near the end of the piece, this argument was made.

Tourists and stay-at-homes as well, however, grow weary of seeing plugs for Georgia peaches or lands of enchantment breezing by on the highway, month after month.  There is something to be said for a neat plate without blurbs.  Connecticut, for example, has a small, trim but readable license much admired by the fastidious motorist.

SIDE NOTE 1:  The article stated the following –  Georgia, not satisfied with the words “Peach State” in large letters on its licenses, added for good measure and for the illiterate, a large, daintily-hued reproduction of a peach.

SIDE NOTE 2:  New Mexico at the time had “The Land of Enchantment” on its license plates.  Maine ran with “Vacation Land” and Arizona ran with “Grand Canyon State.”  South Carolina decided to advertise they were “The Iodine State.”

On September 28, 1932 the Pittsburgh Press shared a United Press article by journalist H. Allen Smith about the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs.  Even with a great many public prints of New York Today making a fuss over the game being played that day, the blurbs hadn’t done much to incite the excited reaction from residents.

The journalist felt that there was a great deal of apathy from the average New Yorker with regards to the World Series.  He went as far as to state that only one person he stopped on the street and asked about the World Series seemed to know anything about it.

There was one man, however, who expressed an abiding interest in baseball.  His name is Stanley Corcoran and he is, by profession, a poem reciter.  Stanley arrived from the West Coast last Wednesday and has been camped at Gate C at the Stadium since then.  He desired the great honor of buying the first unreserved seat.

Amazingly enough, in contrast to Stanley Corcoran, poem reciter, two people had never heard of the World Series, and one person dared ask who was playing.  The article was titled, “Seven Million New Yorkers Ignore World Series Blurb.”

All that being said, the word was published in “Publishers’ Weekly” in the May 18, 1907 edition, and it would seem that the word was no compliment to authors or publishers, and was treated with great disrespect.

blurb

The term was popularized by American humorist, author, poet, artist, and art critic Frank Gelett Burgess (30 January 1866 – 17 September 1951) however he wasn’t the one to coin the word.  That honor goes to American scholar James Brander Matthews (21 February 1852 – 31 March 1929) who used the word in his paper “American Character” published in 1906.

SIDE NOTE 3:  James Brander Matthews counted among his friends Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Bret Harte, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, and Theodore Roosevelt (with whom he corresponded into his White House years).  He was one of the organizers of the American Copyright League, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the President of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1913.  He was also the first full-time professor of dramatic literature at an American university, serving as the Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia until his retirement in 1925.

The Spectator newspaper in London (England) reported on October 20, 1906 that Professor Matthews’ paper “American Character” had taken on the allegations made by a French critic speaking with Leo Tolstoy that Americans cared only for money, were indifferent to art and beauty, and were set on a career of conquest.  The September 15, 1906 edition of the New York Times also spoke positively about Professor Matthews’ paper, as well as his presentation of his paper at Columbia.

The honor of coining the word blurb goes to James Brander Matthews in 1906, with a nod going to Frank Gelett Burgess for popularizing it the following year.

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

Mansplaining

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 26, 2017

The word mansplaining seems to be everywhere these days from pop culture to news reporting.  If you don’t already know what it is, it’s the process of a male explaining something to another person  (usually female) in such a way that is perceived to be condescending or patronizing.  Oftentimes the speaker is explaining a simple situation that is already easily understood by the majority of people.

Some believe that mansplaining, if left unchecked, leads to gaslighting, and it’s easy to understand why that might be.

SIDE NOTE 1:  Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where the abuser manipulates the victim into questioning the victim’s recollections, memories, perceptions, and sanity.   The term was derived from the play “Gas Light” by British dramatist Patric Hamilton (17 March 1904 – 23 September 1962).

SIDE NOTE 2:  In 1940, the movie “Gas Light” starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard hit the theaters.  The movie was based on the 1938 play “Gas Light” by British dramatist Patrick  Hamilton (17 March 1904 – 23 September 1962).   

SIDE NOTE 3:  In 1944, the movie “Gas Light” starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer hit the theaters.  The movie was based on the same 1938 play “Gas Light” by British dramatist Patrick Hamilton (17 March 1904 – 23 September 1962).

SIDE NOTE 4:  MGM bought the remake rights to “Gas Light” with a caveat that demanded all existing prints of the 1940 movie version be destroyed

SIDE NOTE 5:  The play was known as “Angel Street” in the United States.

On April 13, 2008 author Rebecca Solnit wrote an OpEd column for the Los Angeles Times wherein she outlined what mansplaining was and how negative it was towards those who were made to endure it.  While the author didn’t use the term mansplaining per se in her OpEd piece, the sense of the word was at the heart of her writing.

By 2010, the word mansplainer had landed on the New York Times list of New Words of 2010.

mansplainer

Even so, it took until 2012 before mansplaining became a word that was used and understood by the public in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

On August 1, 2012 GQ writer Marin Cogan used the term in his article, “The Mittsplainer: An Alternate Theory of Mitt Romney’s Gaffes.”  The article began thusly:

As a lady who covers politics, I’m intimately familiar with the mansplainer. You know who I’m talking about: he’s the supremely self-impressed dude who feels the need to explain to you — with the overly simplistic, patient tone of an elementary school teacher— really obvious shit you already knew. Like why you need to drink fluids when you have the flu, for example. Or how to avoid getting blisters when you’re breaking in a new pair of flats. Or how to adjust your side view mirrors. I could go on.

In Lily Rothman’s article, “A Cultural History of Mansplaining” appeared in The Atlantic on November 1, 2012.  The writer began with warning readers that the word was relatively new, but that the idea proper had been around for much, much longer.  The opening paragraph stated:

Not all that long ago, an American statesman of considerable influence wrote an opinion piece for this very publication, about a political issue that directly affects women. It was perhaps the finest example of mansplaining ever published.

In August 2014, Oxford Dictionaries announced that it had added mansplain to its dictionary, and mansplain — with its related variations — officially became a word that could be found in a dictionary.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Head-Desking

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 24, 2017

Pop culture hits again, this time with head-desking which is exactly what you think it is.  Someone faced with a situation that is frustrating and seemingly unsolvable can literally and figuratively lead to head-desking.  To head-desk is to reach a perceived impasse that causes the person to experience a level of frustration that is so intense that one feels it must literally be smacked out of one’s head to relieve the pressure.

NaNoWriMo author Zanzibar 7. Schwarznegger published “Veneri Verbum” through Chizzy Press in 2015 where the word head-desk was used as a verb.  The novel is listed in the humorous science fiction & fantasy category and tells the story of Christopher Cullum and the problems he experiences as a writer.

“I can hear your thoughts here. Third-person narrative, but thoughts are transparent.  Thoughts are pretty much as transparent as glass, clear as a summer day.  Why do you have to have so many terrible sayings in your head?”  She leaned over to head-desk against the wall a few times.

SIDE NOTE 1:  Zanzibar 7. Schwarznegger is the humor/satire writer of the Figment series and The Chronicles of the Bobian, and is said to live in the Pacific Northwest.  Little else seems to be known about the author.

The activity was mentioned by Charles J. Muir (who also has ties to NaNoWriMo) in his 2013 book, “Word Ninja” in the chapter titled, “Smashing Writer’s Block: It’s All About The Tools” which is part of the “Write Life” segment of the book.

Writer’s block.  It’s pernicious.  Its sources are many, as are its manifestations.  It may drive you to head desking, to obsessively playing videogames, to cleaning things that have not seen a dust cloth in decades.  But the defining characteristic is this – you want to write, you try to write, and you can’t.

Now head-desking should not be mistaken for desking (which is also a thing).  In fact, desking was used in the book “The Path That Led To Africa” written by Michael Longford (30 May 1928 – 2005), with a Foreword by Peter Bottomley, and published in 2003.  The word desking appears in Chapter 3 titled, “Westminster In The Country (1939 – 1945).”

On another occasion, I can not remember exactly what offence I had committed, but I was sentenced by the Head of  House to be ‘desked’ for three days.  I do not remember any other boy ever being given this punishment while I was at school.  ‘Desking’ consisted of being made to spend the whole of one’s leisure time at one’s desk.   No one was allowed to speak to the delinquent boy at his desk, and he was not allowed to speak to anyone else, except at mealtimes, and then only to ask his neighbour to pass some item of food which was not within his own reach.  Desking is not a punishment which fills an offender with contrition or a resolve to behave better in future.

SIDE NOTE 2:  The author’s father was Captain Terence Ackley Fitzmaurice Longford and his mother was Dr. Geraldine Nora Longford née Geary who married in 1920.  Michael Longford attended Westminster School and Oxford University, served in the Royal Signals, and joined the Colonial Administrative Service before moving on to being secretary to Lord Twining, Governor in Tanganyika which gained its independence from Britain in 1961.  After his retirement from the British Civil Service, Michael Longford continued to work in various positions including being a member of the UK Committee of UNICEF.

SIDE NOTE 3:  Three years after Tanganyika gained its independence from the British Commonwealth, it found itself embroiled in the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 which overthrew the Sultan and his primarily Arab government.  Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika and became the nation of Tanzania.  The name was decided on by taking the first three letters of both countries and adding a suffix.

SIDE NOTE 4:  Michael Longford’s wife Jennifer May Longford née Stevenson (4 October 1929 – 5 March 2012) also had an interesting childhood.  Her mother, Frances Stevenson was the mistress of former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) from 1912 (a year after she became governess to his daughter Megan in 1911) until they married in 1943, two years after the death of his first wife Margaret George née Owen (4 November 1864 – 20 January 1941).  Jennifer was 13 years old.

For years, there were rumors that Jennifer was the illegitimate daughter of Lloyd George’s political secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tweed (1 January 1890–30 April 1940).  However, when her mother died in 1972, Jennifer discovered a note written by her mother to Lloyd George months before her birth wherein her mother stated she suspected she was pregnant with his child.  Twice, Jennifer Longford considered DNA testing to confirm her father was Lloyd George, however, she never went through with it.   It is generally accepted that Lloyd George was undoubtedly her father.

SIDE NOTE 5:  Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tweed (1 January 1890–30 April 1940) was awarded the Military Cross in World War I and at the age of 26 was named the youngest lieutenant colonel in the British Army at the time. He became a political adviser to David Lloyd George from 1927 until Tweed’s death.

As interesting as all that is, head-desking appears to be a new expression over the last five years.  Idiomation was unable to find published versions of head-desk or head-desking earlier than 2012.  The repeat NaNoWriMo references and connections found while researching this entry seems to imply it’s because there’s not much more history to track.  We therefore peg this to 2010 to allow time for social media to move the word from obscurity to active verb status.

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

Cherry On Top

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 12, 2017

When someone asks another to do something for them and adds the comment with a cherry on top it’s meant to push the decision in their favor by way of begging.  It’s generally something that a child might say to get their way, or that might be used by an adult to express a level of satisfaction that’s higher than what could already be expected or anticipated.

When ESPN reported on the Clemson Tigers winning the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama Crimson Tide, it was easy to see how much this win meant to the team as well as to their coach Dabo Swinney.  When he also won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year two years running, he was quoted in the article.

“I just assumed that I didn’t have a chance to win it because I didn’t think you could win it back-to-back years,” Swinney said before Wednesday’s ceremony at Toyota Center.  “That’d just be the cherry on top of the week I’ve had.  That’d be awesome.”

In the 1972 book, “Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story” the New York writer and sports editor of Life magazine, David Wolf, used the idiom to explain on of Connie Hawkins’ basketball moves.  Cornelius Lance “Connie” Hawkins (born 17 July 1942) was a teenager who had been wrongfully implicated in a fixing scandal, and it was thanks to David Wolf’s magazine article of May 18, 1969 that Connie Hawkins was cleared in 1969.

People would put quarters on top of the backboard and Jackie would jump up and pick ’em off. He had this shot called “The Double Dooberry with a Cherry on Top.’ On a fastbreak, he’d take a pass at the foul line and jump toward the basket, holdin’ the ball in his two hands.  While he was going forward and up, hanging in the air, he would lower the ball down to his waist, raise it over his head, lower down again, raise it back up, and then slam in a dunk.  Nobody in the world can do that shot but him.  People went crazy every time he did it.

hawkins_life-magazine

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 1:  In 1975, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Connie Hawkins appeared on Saturday Night Live where they played a game of one-on-one basketball to the tune of Simon’s hit song, “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard.”  Despite the difference in heights (Paul Simon is 5 feet 3 inches tall to Connie Hawkin’s 6 feet 8 inches), the skit ended with Paul Simon winning against Connie Hawkins.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2:  Connie Hawkins was a Harlem Globetrotter over a four year period from 1963 to 1967.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3:  David Wolf (who died in 2009) became a boxing manager with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini (born 4 March 1961) being his best fighter.

Back in the 1950s, every amateur chef and homemaker knew that the piece de resistance on any dish was the maraschino cherry on top.  Even the Atlantic Monthly had something to say on the subject in 1955 on page 95.

And of course the Esperanto of pastry cooks, easy enough to decipher after one or two sorties as supercargo,  makes it completely unsurprising to find a cherry on top of anything called Jubilee, or tooth-shattering morsels of nut brittle scattered here and there with the menu cue Noisette, on any ship from a transatlantic liner to a freighter.  This lingo is international to the point of banality.

The newspapers, book, and magazines of the fifties all talk about cherries on top as being part of a culinary trend.  Idiomation was unable to find any other meaning to cherry on top during this era.  However, the idiom was used in “Vasodilator Agents in Management of Wound Shock: A Critical Review” edited by Ben Eiseman and Peter Bosomworth published in November 1962 with the support of the Surgeons General, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Air Force, and the National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  It was published by the National Academy of Science of the National Research Counsil in Washington, D.C..

The idiom was used in the Summation written by Ben Eiseman, M.D.,  Program Chair at the University of Kentucky Medical School in Lexington (KY).  The review was presented at a conference, and summarized the experimental and clinical evidence on the effect of shock of pharmacologic agents used to lower peripheral arterial resistance.

Studies in shocked man, except for the persistent interest of Dr. Nickerson and a few others, have been few and the field still remains wide open.  Interpretation of case reports where vasodilators were used as the cherry on top of an accumulated array of other pharmacologic debris in a therapeutic old-fashion cocktail, are largely worthless.

Somewhere between 1955 and 1962, cherries on top became more than just a culinary finishing touch.  They became a figurative bonus for whatever it was added to, from favors to research.

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

Dutch Reach

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 10, 2017

Idiomation came across the expression Dutch reach in an article published by CBC Manitoba on January 10, 2017. The article reported that St. Boniface (MB) councilor was promoting the Dutch reach as a way to fight collisions between bicyclists and parked motorists. The article read in part:

Allard has authored a motion asking the city to work with Manitoba Public Insurance to popularize the “Dutch reach,” a manoeuvre intended to ensure people in cars don’t fling open their doors and into the path of oncoming cyclists without warning.

It was a topic of discussion on the Road Bike Review website in September 2016 with some cyclists supporting the concept while others felt it wouldn’t reduce the number of door prizes cyclists get while cycling city streets.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1: A door prize is the colloquial expression for a traffic collision in which a cyclist is struck by a car door.

The practice was mentioned in Martine Power’s article for the Boston Globe on September 22, 2013. The practice was also mentioned in a New York Times article dated July 30, 2011 and written by contributing writer Russell Shorto.

The practice however was not called the Dutch reach in either of those article even though the practice has been the law in the Netherlands for decades.

In 2016, retired American physician Michael Charney named the practice the Dutch reach. After the death of a cyclist in Somerville (MA) in the summer of 2016, Michael Charney, in partnership with the Somerville Police Department, promoted the “Dutch Reach’’ on an electronic sign board that was positioned outside the city’s Veterans Memorial Rink

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: Dr. Michael Charney swapping driving a car for driving a bike in 1992, and has been an ardent cycling advocate in Cambridge (MA) over the years.

This means that the term Dutch reach is about six months old even, and mainstream media and politicians are already making use of the expression in articles about car doors and cyclists. Idiomation therefore pegs Dutch reach to 2016 as attributed to retired American physician Michael Charney.

Posted in Idioms from the 21st Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mike and Ike

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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.

the-diner_idiomation_image-1

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.

mike-and-ike

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.”

salads-and-herbs

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?

Posted in Advertising, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Yellow Journalism

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 27, 2016

My friend, the late Jerry Flowers (8 January 1947 – 7 November 2016), used the rallying cry, “Commit journalism” to move his friends to action.   It was one of the things I remember most fondly about conversations with Jerry who believed in promoting the highest ideals regardless of the profession in which one was engaged.

The complete opposite from the kind of journalism is yellow journalism.    Yellow journalism is sensationalist, exaggerated reporting that relies heavily on distorted stories that have little to no legitimate facts.  It also uses unnamed sources to provide believable sound bites and the stories are published with scandalous headlines to draw attention to itself.  Reporting lies and rumors as fact is a large part of yellow journalism.  The major focus of yellow journalism is to excite public opinion and to sell more newspapers than might otherwise be sold.

Yellow journalism is easy to spot as it generally has all five of these characteristics which are easily identifiable.

  1. Fearmongering headlines in large print;
  2. Pictures that are used out-of-context to lend credence to the fake story;
  3. Pseudoscience, fake interviews, and/or false information from alleged experts;
  4. Scare tactics and highly charged emotional words and symbols used; and
  5. Dramatic sympathy for the underdog fighting the system in an effort to get the word out.

You may assume that yellow journalism is a term that came about during WWII and that it was an insult aimed at the Japanese.  You would be incorrect if that was your guess as to where the term originated.  The term yellow journalism goes back much further than WWII.

Back in the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst (29 April 1863 – 14 August 1951) was the owner and publisher of the New York Journal newspaper, and József Pulitzer (10 April 1847 – 29 October 1911) was the owner and publisher of the New York World newspaper.  The techniques of yellow journalism have their humble beginnings in the New York World newspaper in the 1880s although the term yellow journalism hadn’t been invented yet.

In the Spring of 1893, the New York World ran a popular cartoon strip about life in New York’s slums and this cartoon strip, drawn by Richard F. Outcault, was titled, “Hogan’s Alley.”  The break-out character from the cartoon strip was the Yellow Kid.  William Randolph Hearst hired Richard F. Outcault (14 January 1863 – 25 September 1928) away from the New York World to draw the cartoon for his newspaper.  József Pulitzer hired a new cartoonist who continued to draw the cartoon for his newspaper.

yellow-kid

The competition between the newspapers raged on with each newspaper trying to outdo the other right down to the Yellow Kid.  It wasn’t long before the sensationalist stories and outrageous pictures in both newspapers became known as the competition of the “yellow kids.”  Shortly thereafter, such  journalism was labeled yellow journalism.

When the U.S. battleship Maine was sunk in the Havana harbor in Cuba, the rush was on to get a newspaper out that would outsell the competitor.  Since both newspapers had fanned the anti-Spanish public opinion flames for years, the publishers felt it was to them to beat their competitor to the news stands.  The publishers directed their reporters to write stories intended to tug at the heartstrings of Americans.

An illustrator by the name of Frederic Sackrider Remington  (October 4, 1861 – December 26, 1909) worked for William Randolph Hearst and was stationed in Havana.  He sent a cable to William Randolph Hearst that read:   “Everything is quiet.  No trouble here.  There will be no war.  Wish to return.  Remington.”

In response, William Randolph Hearst cabled back, “Please remain.  You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.  Hearst.”

new-york-journal_maine-destroyed

Both newspapers carried all manner of atrocities from scandals to the Buldensuppe mystery (where a man was allegedly found headless, armless, and legless) leading up to the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine.  Once the battleship was sunk, every atrocity was fair game for publication:  Female prisoners, executions, rebels fighters, starving children, and American women stripped naked by soldiers.

It wasn’t long before there were countless other tabloids hitting the market, and each of them tried to out tall tale tell each other with their stories.  However, the two newspapers responsible for this style of reporting, were at the head of their class, and yellow journalism flourished.

The expression yellow journalism therefore dates back to the days of William Randolph Hearst and József Pulitzer and the mid-1890s.

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

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!

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