Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1612’

Jack Of All Trades

Posted by Admin on August 3, 2010

The phrase “Jack of all trade, master of none” has been around for quite some time and still finds its way into conversations even today.   It’s an interesting phrase without a doubt that hails from the 18th Century.

Port Folio was a Philadelphia literary and political magazine, published from 1801 to 1812 by Joseph Dennie and Asbury Dickens.  In Port Folio 1.38, one of the journalists wrote:

… a Jack of all trades is good at none.

But like other idioms at Idiomation, the first reference found isn’t always the first published reference for an idiom. 

In 1704, the Boston News-Letter made its debut, “Printed by Authority,” and publication continued for 72 more years. It was the first true newspaper published in Boston, and in the colonies. The initial issue bore the date of April 24, 1704.  It was published by John Campbel, postmaster of Boston, and son of Duncan Campbel, the organizer of the Postal System in America.

In 1721, that phrase — with minor changes — was used in an article in one of their newspapers:

Jack of all trades and it would seem, good at none.

The phrase came from England, however.  The phrase appeared in Geffray Mynshul’s book Essays and Characters of a Prison written in 1612 and published in 1618:

Jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than master of one.

 However, with one more jump we learn that in 14th Century Medieval England, where Jack was any common fellow and so a jack of all trades was a common fellow who could do many different jobs.

Posted in Idioms from the 15th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

Posted by Admin on June 8, 2010

Surprise, surprise —  it was William Shakespeare who first penned the immortal “Knock, knock! Who’s there?” in his play Macbeth in Act 2, scene 3 written between 1611 and 1612 and first performed in 1623:

PORTER:
Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.

Knock within.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough about you, here you’ll sweat for ’t. 

Knock within.

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.

Knock within.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose.

Of course, in the play it was no joke. The famous “knock, knock” jokes didn’t start until more than 300 years later. 

In the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Australia, the U.S.A., Canada, South Africa and India, the “knock knock” jokes are well known.  However, in countries such as Brazil and Germany,  “knock knock” jokes are practically unknown.

The “knock knock” joke has been used in at least 31 pop culture movies such as The Santa Clause 2 (2002), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Rocky V (1990), Sixteen Candles (1984), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Carry on Dick (1974), and The Fugitive Kind (1959).

I guess the joke’s on William Shakespeare for having found a phrase that lends itself so well to puns and merriment!  Knock, knock!  Who’s there?

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