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Posts Tagged ‘1610’

Till The Cows Come Home

Posted by Admin on October 16, 2014

You’ve probably heard people from your grandparents’ generation add until the cows come home to some of their conversations.  It generally means something will be stretched over a very long period of time, and oftentimes it’s used to describe an activity that’s perceived as being futile or unproductive.

On December 16, 2003 the Business Wire sent out a press release about the new Ben & Jerry’s minisite.  It was cleverly titled, “Macromedia Studio MX 2004 Takes Ben & Jerry’s From Cow To Cone.”  The site was set to create what it hoped would be a “euphoric user experience” thanks to the extensive use of Flash video.  The second paragraph included the idiom.

“Macromedia can talk about great experiences until the cows come home, but once you see a well designed site in action, it really makes an impact,” said Al Ramadan, executive vice president of marketing, Macromedia. “Ben & Jerry’s utilizes the professional tools in Studio MX 2004 to effectively communicate the playfulness of their brand and deliver an interesting educational experience.”

During the 1960s, Clyde McPhatter recorded for Mercury Records.  Billboard magazine included a comment in the February 6, 1961 edition on his latest release, “Tomorrow Is A-Comin’” with a nod to the flip side, “I’ll Love You Till The Cows Come Home.”  The quip let readers know that both songs had the strong Clyde Otis touch (which was a favorable comment).

And of course, as many of you already know, the idiom was used in the 1933 Marx Brothers movie, “Duck Soup,” where Groucho Marx says:

I could dance with you till the cows come home.  Better still, I’ll dance with the cows and you come home.

Back in 1932, American author, Thorne Smith (27 March 1892 – 21 June 1934) wrote a book entitled, “Topper Takes A Trip.”  Topper was Thorne Smith‘s most popular creation, and sold millions of books in the 1930s, and again in paperback form in the 1950s.  Many people remember the original Topper story, about the middle-aged, henpecked banker, Cosmo Topper (the book was published in 1926).

“I don’t care if he can do himself into a pack of bloodhounds,” replied Mr. Topper.  “Where have you been all this time?  Answer me that.”

“All right,” said Marion in an injured voice.  “Don’t bite my head off.  I don’t mind about the hair.  You can chew on that till the cows come home.”

“I don’t care to chew on that until the cows start out even,” said Mr. Topper.  “I’m not a hair chewer.”

It’s in the Boston Review of October 1805 that the poem in three parts, “The Powers of Genius” written by John Blair Linn, co-pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia is reviewed.  The reviewer, seemingly unimpressed with the poem, included this comment in his review.

Now, to use a rustick phrase, a man may make lines like these “till the cows come home.”  Mr. Linn, too, is frequently adjectively vulgar.

In Exshaw’s Magazine, the story, “The Adventure of the Inn” published in 1778 is where this passage is found.

“By Jafus,” answered Dermot, enraged at the word lie, “but if you was my godfather’s own brother, but I’d smite your eye out for that.”  And brandishing a large cudgel, let it fall so emphatically upon the hard head of the sturdy Boardspeg, that he reeled Aeneas, beneath the ponderous pebble, flung by the brawny backed Diomed, and bit the dust.  “Take that till the cows come home,” said the athletic hero, ready to repeat his blow, had not his furious arm been arrested by the hand of Wilson.

Prior to that Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745), the Dean of St. Patrick’s in Dublin (Ireland) wrote “Polite Conversation:  Dialogue II” published in 1736.  The main characters are Lord Sparkish, Lord and Lady Smart, Miss Notable, Sir John Linger, Lady Answerall, Mr. Neverout, and Colonel Atwitt.  At one point in the discussion, the following exchange occurs.

NEVEROUT
O my Lord, I know that ; why Brandy is Latin for a Goose, and Tace is Latin for a Candle.

MISS NOTABLE
Is that Manners, to shew your  Learning before Ladies ? Methinks you  are grown very brisk of a sudden ; I think the Man’s glad he’s alive.

SIR JOHN LINGER
The Devil take your Wit, if this be Wit ; for it spoils Company :  Pray, Mr. Butler, bring me a Dram after my Goose ; ’tis very good for the Wholsoms.

LORD SMART
Come, bring me the Loaf; I sometimes love to cut my own Bread.

MISS NOTABLE
I suppose, my Lord, you lay longest a Bed To-day.  

LORD SMART
Miss, if I had said so, I should have told a Fib ; I warrant you lay a Bed till the Cows came Home : But, Miss, shall I cut you a little Crust now my Hand is in?

Now, Alexander Cooke (who died shortly before 25 February 1613 — that date he was buried according to St. Savior’s Southwark parish records) was an actor in the King’s Men as well as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men that were the acting companies of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries.  He also wrote a play, “Pope Joan” in 1610 that was based on the mythical female pope described in 13th century writings.

If there be any lazy fellow, any that can not away with work, any that would wallow in pleasures, he is hasty to be priested.  And, when he is made one, and hath gotten a benefice, he consorts with his neighbour priests, who are altogether given to pleasures; and then both he, and they, live, not like Christians, but like epicures; drinking, eating, feasting, and revelling, till the cows come home, as the saying is; playing at tables, and at stool-ball; and when they are well crammed and tippled, then they fall by the ears together, whooping, and yelling, and swearing damnably, by God and all the Saints in Heaven.

While Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this idiom than the one in Alexander Cooke’s play, there is an undated saying from Wigan, Lancashire:  Her con fradge till ceaws come wom.  The translation is this:  She can talk till the cows come home.

So while the saying obviously dates back considerably further than 1610, a specific date cannot be set in stone. Idiomation therefore feels it is safe to state that it was undoubtedly a common phrase used in the 1500s, and most likely long before that.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Devil To Pay

Posted by Admin on August 9, 2011

When someone tells you that there’s the Devil to pay, you’re being told there’s trouble to be faced as a result of your actions.  There appear to be two very different origins for this phrase, both of which are very interesting. 

Let’s take a look at the first origin.

On January 21, 2010 Forbes magazine published an article by Daniel Fisher entitled “The Global Debt Bomb” which addressed the worldwide recession and what would be involved in paying off debt in a number of countries, not just America.  The article stated in part:

National governments will issue an estimated $4.5 trillion in debt this year, almost triple the average for mature economies over the preceding five years. The U.S. has allowed the total federal debt (including debt held by government agencies, like the Social Security fund) to balloon by 50% since 2006 to $12.3 trillion. The pain of repayment is not yet being felt, because interest rates are so low–close to 0% on short-term Treasury bills. Someday those rates are going to rise. Then the taxpayer will have the devil to pay.

Now back on June 1, 1900 the Edwards’ Fruit Grower and Farmer newspaper related quite an intriguing story.

Judge Houtchens and Mr. Noll fished until they got tired and started for camp.  They reached an Indian tepee and there found Mr. Gagnon asleep.  He had missed the camp.  They had done the same.  They explained their predicament as best they could to the Indian and he offered to guide them to their camp for $10, which they paid.

The Indian earned his money.  He guided them back to the lake and then in an entirely opposite direction from that they took on leaving the lake, he led them to where the wagon, Judge Ross — and the ammunition — were.   The horses were gone.  The judge said he had watered and fed the animals and lain down to take a snooze while they were eating.

Here was the devil to pay — in the shape of an Indian.  He demanded $10 to guide them to Arlee and $10 more to find the horses.  They closed with the offer, paid him $10 in cash and Mr. Gagnon volunteered to stay with the wagon — and ammunition — until the horses were found; and then pay the remainder of the sum agreed upon.  The Indian piloted the men safely to the railroad. 

He then returned to his squaw, who had the horses concealed, in a thicket. She brought up the fiery, untamed animals, which they rode into camp, and after assisting Mr. Gagnon to harness them to the wagon, demanded $10 more to guide him to the railroad.  He paid it.  When the main road was reached the Indian pointed west and told Phil that was the way to Missoula, but he had his bearings at least and started off in the opposite direction.

Almost a hundred years before that, the Courant newspaper of Hartford, Connecticut published a news story entitled, “The Devil‘s To Pay.”  The news story began with:

There is an old Gentleman in my neighborhood, a man of good sense and moderate in his politics, with whom I sometimes spend a leisure hour in familiar conversation. Calling on him the other day, and asking if he had any news, he replied with some earnestness, news! news! Yes, the devil‘s to pay.

And nearly 100 years before that, Thomas Brown wrote “Letters From the Dead to the Living” published in 1707.  The following passage is found:

Do not you know damnation pays every man’s scores and tho’ we tick’d in the other world for subsistence, it was not with a design to cheat you or any body else? for we knew we should have the Devil to pay one time or other; and now you see, like honest men, we have pawn’d our souls for the whole reckoning, and so a start for our creditors: you see we had rather be damn’d than not to make general satisfaction, and yet, you are not satisfied.

This origin for the phrase reaches to John Faustus, the conjurer of Wittenberg in Germany, who sold his soul to the Devil in the book “Historia von D. Johann Fausten” published in 1587 with a number of subsequent Faust books published in that era.  That being said, making deals with the Devil goes back to the Bible as seen in Matthew 4:1-11.  It begins with:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

And it ends with:

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

As readers learned from yesterday’s entry “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” the devil, in nautical terms, is a seam in the planking of a wooden ship on, or below, the waterline.  Since seams need caulking, and caulking with pitch was called paying — from the Old French word “peier” meaning to pitch — whoever was charged with the job of caulking the seam in the planking of a wooden ship had the Devil to pay.

This use of paying in this context is recorded in the book “Discovery of Barmudas”  written by Sil Jourdan and published on October 13, 1610.

The greatest defects we found there, was tarre and pitch for our ship, and pinnis, in steede whereof wee were forced to make lime there of a hard kind of stone, and use it: which for the present occasion and necessitie, with some wax we found cast up by the Sea, from some shipwracke, served the turne to pay the seames of the pinnis Sir George Sommers built, for which he had neither pitch nor tarre …

And so readers can see that the nautical reference shores up all of the above and the Bible is the first to make references about poor choices leading to the poor person having the Devil to pay.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 16th Century, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Golf Caddie

Posted by Admin on July 26, 2011

A golf caddy or golf caddie — depending on how you choose to spell the word — can prove invaluable to a golfer.  When Tiger Woods fell out of the Top 20 golfers last week, the first thing he did was to fire the golf caddy who had been with through thick and thin over the past 12 years.

On July 20, 1999 the Independent Times newspaper in England published an article about golfer Jean Van de Velde who destroyed a three-stroke lead on the 18th hole at the Open Championship held at the Carnoustie Golf Club.  He lost and what came next surprised everyone in the golf world.  Van de Velde was of the opinion that his golf caddy was guilty of a gross dereliction of duty and that gross dereliction of duty is what caused Van de Velde to lose the Open Championship.  The article published — with subheading — was entitled:

Golf-Open `99: Caddie not at fault for debacle
Despite criticism of `Christophe’, Jean Van de Velde can have no one to blame but himself.

On July 14, 1922 the New York Times reported on a very strange discovery the day before at the Rolling Road Golf Club in Baltimore, Maryland.  In a story entitled, “Golf Caddie Finds Murdered Woman: Man’s Cap Is A Clue ” the following was reported:

When Robert Hall, a caddie at the Rolling Road Golf Club, chased a ball into some bushes near the tenth hole early this morning he leaped back in horror when, in reaching in the brush for the ball, he touched a body which proved to be that of a murdered woman.  He quickly alarmed early players at the club, who in turn notified the police, and a dozen detectives were soon busy trying to solve the mystery.

In a New York Times article dated September 12, 1897 and entitled, “Women Here and There” the subject of women and acceptable women’s work was addressed by the journalist.  In his article, readers were told of “enthusiastic church workers going into business in a small way to earn money for some good church work.”  However, it soon discussed the inequality of the businesses, and some of the women were accused of “uncharitableness.”  In part it states:

When a woman acts as a golf caddy or makes a celestial kind of punch for which she receives a generous sum from her interested friends, she is not interfering with other women’s work, and she may raise as much money as she likes, to her own and other people’s satisfaction.  But when she announces that she will do shopping at a lower commission than it can be done elsewhere she is doing some hardworking woman who supports herself and perhaps a family in that way, a direct injury, and putting another obstacle in the way of solving the question which has agitated to many people:  “How shall women receive equal pay for equal work with men?”

The word caddie comes from the Gascon Occitan capdèth.  The Cadets de Gascogne became the captains who served in the French army in the 15th century and were comprised of the youngest sons of the aristocratic families of Gascony.   From there, came the word  le cadet which meant ‘the boy’ or the youngest of the family.

The word cadet — pronounced ca-day –was brought to Scotland from France in 1561 when Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots returned from France where she attended school since 1552.  The first golf course outside of Scotland was built by Louis, King of France for Mary for her personal enjoyment since she loved the game of “golf” so dearly. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from the military school to accompany her.  Soon, it became tradition for military cadets to carry the clubs of royalty as they played the game.

The word cadet appears in print in English in 1610 and the word caddie along with the word cadie appear in print in 1634.  

Interestingly enough, the first named golf caddie was Andrew Dickson who caddied for the Duke of York as a boy in 1681 in the Duke’s golf match on Leith Links.  Andrew Dickson grew up to become an Edinburgh clubmaker of some note and so his name is tied to the game of golf for time immemorial.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Vanish Into Thin Air

Posted by Admin on May 27, 2010

While it’s true that William Shakespeare used the phrase “Go; vanish into air; away!” in his play Othello in 1604 and “These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air” in The Tempest in 1610, the exact phrase “vanish into thin air” is found in The Edinburgh Advertiser of April 1822, in a piece about the then imminent conflict between Russia and Turkey:

The latest communications make these visions vanish into thin air.”

So while there may have been others before April 1822 who used the phrase “vanish into thin air” in their works, any references I could track down have vanished into thin air, making it impossible to confirm their existence.

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