Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1700s’

Down To Earth

Posted by Admin on November 18, 2014

Someone who is down to earth is sensible and practical just like something that is down to earth is sensible and practical.  It’s also not a permanent state.  If someone or something is down to earth at the onset, there’s no guarantee that the person or the thing will remain so in the future.  It also doesn’t mean that someone or something that is unrealistic or foolhardy now won’t be down to earth at some point in the future.

This past weekend, supermodel Kate Upton arrived at LAX with Detroit Tigers baseball superstar Justin Verlander after a five-hour flight out of JFK.  The pair looked well-rested, and rather than put on airs, they walked through the airport like every other passenger.  The Mail newspaper ran the story with this headline:  Supermodel Kate Upton Proves She’s Down To Earth As She Wheels Her Own Luggage Through LAX With Beau Justin Verlander.

Back in June 2008, Oliver Burkeman of the Guardian newspaper in the UK wrote about Wayne Dyer‘s books as he reviewed the most recent (at the time) book on the stands.  What this journalist found troubling was what he called a confusing swing between eastern spirituality and Christian beliefs where contradictions in philosophy were commonplace.  To give readers a frame of reference, he spoke about the author’s unpretentious beginnings and where he went from there.

Dyer’s rags-to-Maui tale began in 1976 when, as a young psychotherapist, he published Your Erroneous Zones, a down-to-earth work of pop psychology; when it didn’t sell, he travelled the US, hassling bookshops and giving radio interviews until it became a hit. He’s produced more than 30 books since, each less down-to-earth than the last, along with CDs, TV shows and decks of “affirmation cards.”

When George H.W. Bush was elected the 41st President of the United States back in 1988, his wife Barbara Bush (who was also the mother of the 43rd President of the United States as well as the mother of the 43rd Governor of Florida) made an impression not only on the American people but on journalists as well.  One such journalist was Andy Rooney whose column was syndicated in a number of newspapers across the U.S.  On January 10, 1989 his article, “Barbara Bush Will Be A Down To Earth First Lady” he began his article by writing:

We sure don’t know much about what kind of a first lady Barbara Bush will be.  She seems down-to-earth and normal.  She certainly isn’t clamorous, but I think people would take down-to-earth over glamorous every time.  The best of both worlds, of course, would be down-to-earth and glamorous but that’s a rare combination.

The Miami Times decided to go with a story on November 30, 1965 that spoofed the subject’s profession.  Written by William J. Cromie, the story was about Astronaut Frank Borman who, at 37, was the sort of man movie stars are made of:  He was a blond-haired, blue-eyed Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who the journalist felt came across like an All-American high school football coach more so than the command pilot for the Gemini-Titan 7 spacecraft that was to be launched the following Saturday.  The interview was cleverly entitled, “Spaceman’s Family Is Down-To-Earth.”

The Herald-Journal of May 8, 1938 ran a large advertisement for the Carolina Theater for the movie, “In Old Chicago” starring Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, and Don Ameche.  Just below that grand announcement was a smaller one for the movie, “Doctor Rhythm” starring Bing Crosby, Mary Carlisle, Beatrice Lillie and what the newspaper ad referred to as “a hundred other funmakers.”  This movie was playing at the theater on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Not being as big a movie as the Chicago movie, a testimonial was included.

Dear Dr. Rhythm:  You never saw anybody as bored as I was.  I couldn’t see.  I was in a rut.  I was living on burrowed time.  I’m down to earth again, thanks to you, and feel like digging in again!

The testimony was signed Mollie Mole … an apt name for a letter writer who claimed she was “living on burrowed” time.

Eighty before the Bing Crosby movie, in 1853, “Earlswood:  Or, Lights and Shadows of the Anglican Church” was written and published by 19th century English novelist, social and religious writer, composer and lyricist, Charlotte Anley (17 February 1796 – 6 April 1893).  She was an interesting woman in that she was an English Quaker to whom Protestants and Catholics alike listened.

Surely, in all this, there is no keeping back the blessed doctrine of atonement?  The work of our redemption is, indeed, a mystery far beyond the limits of human intelligence, but its announcement to man is clear and simple, brought down to earth in language suited to the meanest capacity.

And nearly a hundred years before that, in July 1759, an essay was written and published in Volume 21 of “The Monthly Review, or, Literary Journal by Several Hands” compiled by Ralph Griffiths and George Edward Griffiths.  The essay addressed the “substance of several discourses preached before the University of Cambridge” by W. Wefton, B.D. Fellow of St. John’s College.

The first advice he gives us is, to resolve to be serious; for simple as this remedy may seem, he says, it will in the end effectually root out, one of the most dangerous maladies that has infected the state, viz. that profusion of wanton and indiscriminate banter, which has taken possession of the appetites, the reason, and the heart.  The affections of men chained down to earth, and devoted to sense, are not more averse, we are told, to heavenly things, than the present age, abandoned to laughter and ridicule, is abhorrent of sedate and sober reflection.

The devotion to sense and being down to earth were easily linked in this passage, making it clear that being down to earth was the opposite of being abandoned to ridicule and laughter — qualities which were not well thought of by the author.

While several dictionaries attest to the phrase having come into existence in 1932, Idiomation found the phrase used in publications from the mid-1700s and as such, since it is used in publications with the same spirit as how the idiom is used today, it most likely was understood with this meaning in the early 1700s.

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Dutch Concert

Posted by Admin on September 2, 2011

A Dutch concert is either when everyone singing sings a different song at the same time or when there’s a great noise and uproar that sounds not unlike a group of people carrying on loudly with some singing, others quarrelling, and still others trying to organize the cacophony into something a little less chaotic.  It’s definitely not a compliment. 

How is it that a country that has produced such composers as Dutch composer, organist, and pedagogue Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 – 1621); Dutch composer and organ virtuoso Jacob van Eyck (1590 – 1657); Dutch baroque composer Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692 – 1766); Dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock (1862 – 1921); Dutch composer and teacher, Willem Pigper (1894 – 1947); and Dutch composer Lex van Delden (1919 – 1988) should also have such an expression tied to them by their English speaking friends?

On September 27, 1953 the St. Petersburg Times published a story entitled, “A Man Born For Pleasure Meets A Man Born For Work.”  About one-third of the way into the story, the following is found:

What work did Ernie Tarlton do to get here?  Riddle me that, pop … 

A couple of surly birds started a Dutch concert when I ducked through the gap in the hedge.  It looked like a mile and five-rights of slow track across the black, squishy lawn to the clump of blur first that bordered the main walk.  I seemed to take a half day, flat, to cover the distance.

The New York Times published an article on May 16, 1920 entitled, “A Manhattan Midsummer Night’s Scream.”  It dealt with the noise that could be heard coming from various flats and apartments in New York during the hot, summer months when windows are thrown open and how, when they all blended together, the sound was anything but pleasant.  The article offered this opinion on the anticipated months-long noise:

If music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, it also hath potencies to awaken it.  We predict an extra high tidal wave of crime over Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn this summer because of this threatened Dutch concert, and the Barrowbones and Cleaver Hallelujah Chorus.  The Beethovens of Babel and the Wagners of jazz are playing with deadly weapons — the infra-violet musical vibrations.

If a single sustained note can make a man commit a crime, what will be the result of our instinctive natures and our Freudian complexes when we have become chock-full (around the mutt days of mid-August) of the musical bellow, blare, yowl, grunt, bleat, ululation, woodnote, shimmy-twist, drone, gurgle, hiss, blatter, croak, squeak, pule, Ethiopian apetheosis, jingle wheese and tintinnabular teaseract?

In Louis Tracy’s book “The Captain Of The Kansas” published in 1907, the following is found in Chapter XIII:

The hammer-like blow of the bullet, the defiance of the dog, and the curiously accurate yelping of the men in the canoes, mixed in wild medley with the volleyed echoes of the firing now rolled back from the opposing cliffs. In such wise did the battle open. Courtenay, more amused than anxious, did not silence the terrier, and Joey’s barking speedily rose to a shrill and breathless hysteria. Some savage, more skilled than his fellows, reproduced this falsetto with marvelous exactness. There never was a death struggle heralded by such grotesque humor; it might have been a tragedy of marionettes, a Dutch concert on the verge of the pit.

On October 30, 1869 the Otago Witness published a news article that was comprised of a number of smaller stories.  One of them was this story:

A new method of attracting the attention of purchasers has been tried by an enterprising butcher in Auckland, who stationed a band at the windows of the room over his shop for the purpose of alluring the marketing people.  Queen Street was certainly well supplied with music on the occasion, no less than three bands being audible at the same time.  The kind of Dutch concert produced, however, could scarcely be called harmonious, although each band was very well in itself.

The definition for Dutch concert is also found in the Francis Grose (1731 – 1791) book “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.”

And on page 47 of the book “Voyages and Travels In The Years 1768 – 1788” written by Indian trader, John Long the following passage is found:

The Indians, in their war dances, sew hawk-bells and small pieces of tin on them to make a jingling noise, and at a dance where I was present, these, with the addition of a large horse-bell, which I gave the chief who led the dance, made a noise not much unlike a Dutch concert.

Considering that in the 1700s, new expressions took longer to become part of the language, and considering that John Long used the expression Dutch concert with such ease in his writing, one can date the expression Dutch concert to at least the early part of the 1700s.

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On The Carpet

Posted by Admin on March 3, 2010

Whenever you hear that someone has been called up on the carpet, you know there’s trouble brewing for that person.

This term started in the early 1700s and referred to the cloth — known as a carpet — covering a conference table.  It came to mean that something was “under consideration or discussion.”

In 19th-century America, however, carpet meant “floor covering.”  In the day, only the boss had carpet in his office while all other offices sported bare floors.  And the only time an employee would be summoned to the boss’s office rather than to his superior’s office was when a reprimand was in order.

The first recorded use of the term “on the carpet” that referenced being reprimanded by an employer was in 1902.

One of the most famous recorded uses of the term “on the carpet” was in December 1929, Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adam delivered a blistering reprimand to Smedley Darlington Butler, commander the naval base at Quantico in Virginia, declaring that he was doing so at the direct personal order of the President of the United States.

This is the first time in my service of thirty-two years,” Butler is alleged to have said to Adams, “that I’ve ever been hauled on the carpet and treated like an unruly schoolboy. I haven’t always approved of the actions of the administration, but I’ve always faithfully carried out my instructions. If I’m not behaving well it is because I’m not accustomed to reprimands, and you can’t expect me to turn my cheek meekly for official slaps!”

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