Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1721’

Many Words Will Not Fill A Bushel

Posted by Admin on February 15, 2011

In the June 9, 1910 edition of the Indianapolis News, it was reported that Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac” was responsible for the expression, “many words will not fill a bushel.”  The story read in part:

Here are some of the maxims, taken from the Pennsylvania almanac for 1758, of which, Benjamin Franklin, under the pseudonym of Richard Sanders, was editor and publisher.

Many words will not help a bushel.  God helps those who help themselves.  The used key is always bright.  The sleeping fox catches no poultry.

Knowing that it the saying is found in the 1758 edition of the Poor Richard’s Almanac and knowing that Benjamin Franklin included a number of established sayings, it’s no surprise that this saying dates back at least to the previous generation.

In 1721, Nathan Bailey’s book “Divers Proverbs” gives this definition for the saying:

This Proverb is a severe Taunt upon much Talking: Against great Promisers of doing what they never intend to perform; a Reflection upon those persons, who, so they can but be Misers of their own Pockets and Service, will be down-right Prodigals of fair Words; but they, according to another Proverb, butter no Parsnips; and so, Re opitulandum, non verbis, say the Latins.

The expression “many words will not fill a bushel” can be found in the book, “The Adventures of Don Quijote” written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1604. The original title printed as “The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha” and has been a literary favourite for centuries now.  In the chapter entitled, “The Adventure With The Sheep Story” the following passage is found:

“Friend Sancho, learn of me,” he said. “All these storms are only the signs of calmer days. Better success will soon follow. Neither good luck nor bad luck will last always.”

“At any rate,” interrupted Sancho, “many words will not fill a bushel. I think you would make a better preacher than knight-errant.”

“Knights-errant,” answered Don Quixote, “ought to know everything. Some of them have been as good preachers as any who preach in the churches.”

“Very well,” said Sancho. “You may have it as you will. But let us leave this unlucky place and seek lodgings where we may rest and have a bite of wholesome food.”

The original expression in Spanish is “Vorba goalã nu umple sacul.”  The French version of this proverb is “Autant en emporte le vent.”

And when all is said and done, it’s in Proverbs 10:19 in the Christian Bible that yields:

In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

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Still Waters Run Deep

Posted by Admin on November 15, 2010

The phrase “still waters run deep” has been around for a while.  It serves to remind people that those who are quiet may prove to be very complex or passionate even though they don’t show that side of themselves to the general public.    

Prolific and respected English Victorian-era novelist, Anthony Trollope, wrote in his book, He Knew He Was Right, published in  1869:

That’s what I call still water.  She runs deep enough . . . .  So quiet, but so clever.

Still Waters Run Deep” was a play by well-known editor of Punch magazine, biographer and popular British dramatist, Tom Taylor (1817-1880).  It was produced on stage on May 14, 1855 with Alfred Wigan as John Mildmay and his wife, Mrs. Wigan, in the role of Mrs. Sternbold.

However, the phrase “still waters run deep” existed before that time.  In the Third Series, volume 7 of “Notes and Queries” that was published in January 1865, the following query is found: 

STILL WATERS RUN DEEP. I have been accustomed to hear this phrase used for the last fifty years. Where does it first occur in print? 

It would appear that the phrase was already well-known and found in every day conversations around 1810.  Going back further yet, the phrase “still waters run deep” was attested in the United States in the 1768 works of William Smith.’  And before then, the phrase was included in James Kelly’s 1721 collection of proverbs.  And it was T. Draxe who recorded the adage in 1616 when he published: 

Where riuers runne most stilly, they are the deepest.

In the end, however, the phrase “still waters run deep” can be traced back to around 1300 in the Middle-English historical and religious poem of nearly 30,000 lines long entitled Cursor Mundi, ‘in the segment entitled “Cato’s Morals.”  A great deal of the text focuses on the history of the Cross and is considered as an accepted summary of universal history.  In this poem the following is found: 

 “There the flode is deppist the water standis stillist.”

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

The Third Degree

Posted by Admin on August 26, 2010

Everyone knows that if you’re given the third degree, that you’re under “intense interrogation by police” or some other authority figure.

The police reference has been around since 1900, and is a reference to the Third Degree of master mason in Freemasonry dating back to changes made in 1721, four years after the first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was founded in London, England.  The third degree ceremony involved an interrogation ceremony before the degree was conferred upon the Freemason. 

In American, the third degree defined the seriousness of a particular type of crime and is recorded as early as 1865.  In 1910, Richard H. Sylvester,  Chief of Police for Washington, DC divided police procedures into the arrest as the first degree, transportation to jail as the second degree, and interrogation as the third degree.    

And in 1931 the Wickersham Commission found that use of the third degree was widespread in the United States and was misused at times to extract confessions from suspects.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »