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Posts Tagged ‘1670’

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Posted by Admin on August 9, 2013

If someone says you’re like a cat on a hot tin roof, it would seem that you can’t keep still. You’re restless. Imagine for a moment, if you will, what it might be like if you were actually a cat who was literally trying to walk about on a hot tin roof. You wouldn’t be still for very long and you’d probably be pretty jumpy about being up there in the first place.

Back in 1955, Tennessee Williams wrote a play by that name that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year. Its success was in part due to the play’s theme which dealt with how complicated the rules of social conduct were in the Southern U.S. at the time. But was the expression something Tennessee Williams came up with for the play or did it exist long before Tennessee Williams put pen to paper?

The idiom cat on a hot tin roof is actually based on the earlier version cat on hot bricks which means exactly the same thing.

NOTE:  Before continuing, note that the version using hot bricks is still in use today as evidenced by the news story by 3News out of New Zealand published on November 27, 2011 and entitled, “Joyce A Cat On Hot Bricks Before Election.”

On December 1, 1933 the New York Times published an article entitled,”Britain Is Assured On Our Money Plan: We Are As Safe From Unbridled Inflation As Are The British” The story was about Ambassador Robert W. Bingham who gave a speech (at the American Society in London) defending President Roosevelt’s monetary policies. Keep in mind that 1933 was right in the middle of the Great Depression that continue up until the outbreak of World War II, and so money matters — for individuals, for companies, and for governments — were a reason for being restless. The news story made use of the idiom in this way:

… exchange fluctuations to the benefit of everybody concerned and contrasts this with the dollar, “which jumped about like a cat on hot bricks. …

The Philadelphia Record edition of June 10, 1894 provided a description of British Prime Minister (5 March 1894 to 22 June 1895), Archibald Philip Primrose — the 5th Earl of Rosebery and 1st Earl of Midlothiany –that was in drastic contrast to the calm and collected demeanor that was expected of Lords. In fact, the description was one that the reporter described as “intensely agitated.” The article was entitled, “Hounding A Premier: He Went Wild Over The Derby.” Of course, that Lord Rosebery was the owner of the Derby winner that year certainly explains the behavior which doesn’t seem so outrageous in today’s terms.

“His Lordship could not keep still in his box, and hopped about from paddock to ring like a cat on hot bricks; Prime Ministerial dignity was not his forte just then. At that part of the race when Matchbox appeared to have the measure, his face moved convulsively. When his horse had passed the winning post, the Premier took off his hat, waved it wildly three times around his head in a dazed kind of manner, and then dashed onto the course to lead the favorite in.”

That being said, however, tin roofs were used in America at the turn of the 1800s when the Pennsylvania Statehouse — better known as Independence Hall — in Philadelphia was finished with tin shingles. Even Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned a study on tin shingle roofs, felt compelled to have tin shingles used when roofing Monticello. But the tin roof was most popular in America between 1860 and 1920.   It’s safe to say that Tennessee Williams didn’t coin the phrase, and picked it up in conversation.

Of course, before either cat on a hot tin roof or cat on hot bricks was in vogue, the idiom was to be a cat on a hot bakestone, which was found in Rev. E. Cobham Brewer’s “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” published in 1894, where idiom was explained as meaning a person was “in a great hurry to get away.” It further explained that the bake-stone in the north (of a house) was a large stone on which bread and oat-cakes were baked.

When English naturalist, John Ray also known as John Wray (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) wrote his “Collection of English Proverbs” in 1670 which included the expression using the hot bake-stone reference. In fact, he recorded it as “to go like a cat upon a hot bake-stone.” And so, we know from this that the idiom dates back to before the publication of John Ray’s book since it’s included as a proverb.

It’s also cited as a Yorkshire proverb in literature of the day, along with the idiom, “as nimble as a cat on a haite backstane” which dates back to the 14th century.  At that point, the trail went cold. Idiomation feels that since it was a proverb in the 14th century that it most likely dates back to at least the beginning of the 14th century, and if it’s possible to trace it back to an earlier date, please feel free to add your comments and where you gathered the information.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ins and Outs

Posted by Admin on August 2, 2010

When you know the “ins and outs” of a situation, you know every little detail.  Mark Twain wrote in his book Pudd’n’head Wilson published in 1894:

He never meddled with any other town, for he was afraid to venture into houses whose ins and outs he did not know and the habits of whose households he was not acquainted with

The Mill On The Floss by George Eliot published in 1860 also spoke of the “ins and outs’ of things.

It takes a big raskil to beat him; but there’s bigger to be found, as know more o’ th’ ins and outs o’ the law, else how came Wakem to lose Brumley’s suit for him?

How far back does the phrase “ins and outs” go?  John Hacket, the Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry from 1661 until his death was also an author.   His best-known book published in 1693 (23 years after his death) is the biography of his patron, Archbishop John Williams, and is entitled Scrinia Reserata: A Memorial Offered To The Great Deservings of John Williams, D.D.   In this tome, he wrote:

Follow their Whimsies and their Ins and outs at the Consulto, when the Prince was among them.

This puts the phrase back to 1670.  However, it goes back a little further yet to 1605 when the Corporation of Leicester attempted to procure a charter in that year.  They sent their mayor, Thomas Chettel to London to accomplish this task.

P)rocuring a charter was extremely expensive, requiring fees and tips to clerks and scribes, gifts to patrons and their servants and wages to reimburse solicitors for their time, and expenses while in London.  It was said that no matter who went to London to see the business through, that individual required knowledge of local circumstances, some understanding of the ins and outs of petitioning at Court, and most importantly, the persistence to succeed.

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

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

Posted by Admin on May 11, 2010

The saying is found in John Ray’s “A Collection of English Proverbs” published in 1670:  “The early bird catcheth the worm.”  Because the title of John Ray’s book indicates that this was considered a proverb  in the 17th century, its history goes back even further.

The saying is a translation from the French: “L’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.”  Loosely translated, the saying is: “The future belongs to those who rise early.”

This saying is a translation of the German saying :  “Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.”  Loosely translated, the saying is: “The morning hours have gold in their mouths.”

This saying is a translation of the Latin saying, “Aurora musis amica est.”  Loosely translated, the saying is:  “Dawn is a friend of the muses.”

Although it is impossible to identify who first spoke the Latin version of “the early bird catches the worm” it is known that the Dutch theologian, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466 – 1536) used this phrase in his book “De Ratione Studii Epistola” published in 1513.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too

Posted by Admin on April 9, 2010

The earliest recording of this phrase is from 1546 in John Heywood’s “A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue” where he wrote:  “Wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?”  A few years later in 1633, George Herbert reworked the phrase for his poem “The Size” published in the book “The Temple.”

To be in both worlds full
Is more then God was, who was hungrie here.
Wouldst thou his laws of fasting disanull?
Enact good cheer?
Lay out thy joy, yet hope to save it?
Wouldst thou both eat thy cake, and have it?
 
 

You can’t eat your cake and have your cake” appeared in John Ray’s “A collection of English Proverbs” in 1670 and in 1738,  Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and poet Jonathan Swift’s book  “A Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation” included this version of the phrase: “She was handsome in her time but she cannot eat her cake and her cake.”

In America, the phrase is first found in the 1742 “Colonial Records of Georgia” in “Original Papers, 1735-1752.

In 1879, in Volume V of “The Extravaganzas of J. R. Planché  on page 307 in the play entitled “King Christmas” James Robinson (J.R.) Planché wrote:

I, of M. Folly would say just a word to the wise,
Though of course with contempt they will treat it;
‘Tis to point to the moral the proverb implies,
“You can’t have your cake if you eat it.”
But let the toast pass
For I’m not the ass
To our next merry  meeting who won’t drain his glass.

The exact wording of the current version is found in the Tecumseh Fox mystery novel by Rex Stout entitled “Broken Vase” which was first published in 1941.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »