Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1791’

Devil Dodger

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2011

The devil dodger is usually found in the military and is in charge of the spiritual welfare of the troops.  Yes, a devil dodger is a man of the cloth, a minister, a clergyman in varying degrees of intensity.  It also occasionally refers to someone who attends churches of various kinds just to be on the safe side.

On September 13, 2006 the BBC News reported on a naval chaplain who had complained about the use of porn on the warships he was training on.  The news story was entitled, “Chaplain Told Porn Part Of Life.”  He left the HMS Albion and the HMS Manchester because of the pornography.  The article reported in part:

Now the rector of a shore parish, who is a father-of-four, told the hearing in Exeter he was known as “the bish” and was taunted with chantes of “bible basher” as well as “God botherer” and “devil dodger” while on board.

The Calgary Herald ran a short news column entitled, “R.A.F. Slanguage” in the June 17, 1940 edition.  Among the key terms used by the boys in the Royal Air Force were:

Quack – The doctor.
Blue-blood – Army officer.
Pay-bob – The pay officer.
Devil-dodger – The chaplain.
Stripey – Any non-commissioned officer
AC Plonk – Air craftsman second class.

Now back in September 1917, a black-and-white silent movie with a running time of 50 minutes was released by Triangle Film Corporation entitled, “Devil Dodger.”  It was a western starring Roy Stewart played as Silent Scott, John (Jack) Gilbert as Roger Ingraham and Carolyn Wagner as Fluffy, the saloon girl.  The story was of a minister who went West in search of health and came upon a town where Silent Scott kept a dance hall and saloon. 

There, the minister meets Fluffy who has a questionable past but the minister sees a great deal of goodness left in her and she sees a great more in the minister. There’s a moral struggle between the minister and the saloon keeper and in the end, the minister triumphs to some degree when he successfully awakens the good still in the saloon keeper’s heart.

On June 22, 1889 the New Zealand Observer newspaper in Auckland ran an interesting column entitled, “Round The Churches” where they dished the dirt on various churches in the area.  The final comment tidbit was this:

Another minister has been honest enough to confess that his work has been a failure, and that the world, the flesh, and the devil are too many for him.  A clergyman of Brooklyn, New York states that after many years’ labour “he has not even succeeded in breaking the crus of hell which surrounds that town.”  The simile is a new and striking one, but rather inappropriate.  Why should a parson wish to break the crust of hell, when the consequences would probably be the falling in of himself, flock, and collection?  We should fancy that his energies would have been better directed had he applied himself to placing a new cast-iron, copper-riveted covering over the hot place, and to strengthening its crust generally; but we forget — the average parson believes in keeping the pit open and giving his congregation an occasional glimpse of the fire and brimstone! When the crust of Sheol gets too thick for one-parson power to penetrate, the devil-dodger finds his occupation gone.

In the Guy de Maupassant  (1850-1893) story “A Lively Friend” the following exchange is found between two friends:

The curé left very early.

Then the husband gently remarked: “You went a little too far with that priest.”

But Joseph immediately replied: “That’s a very good joke, too! Am I to bother my brains about a devil-dodger? At any rate, do me the favor of not ever again having such an old fogy to dinner. Curses on his impudence!”

“But, my friend, remember his sacred character.”

Joseph Mouradour interrupted him: “Yes, I know. We must treat them like girls, who get roses for being well behaved! That’s all right, my boy! When these people respect my convictions, I will respect theirs!”

On December 7, 1867 the Hartford Daily Courant published a story entitled, “A Hint To The Ambitious.”  It told the story of a woman who allowed her friends to put in her head that she ought not deprive the world of the advantages of her wit and talent as a writer.  After all, the newspaper reported, she had been told she should try her hand at a “three-volume novel with plenty of sensation in it.” 

The story pointed out that her friends had urged her to look at “the trash that is published and paid for.” And so this woman set out to do just that and the reviews that followed publication of her book included this comment:

The spoon scene between Miss Whatdoyoucallher and the devil dodger is first rate.

The earliest reference Idiomation could find for devil dodger goes back to the “Memoirs” of James Lackington (1746 – 1815) published in 1791.  It’s in his book that readers find:

These devil-dodgers happened to be so very powerful that they soon sent John home, crying out, that he should be damned.

While Idiomation could not find an earlier reference, the fact that James Lackington used it with such ease in his “Memoirs” published in 1791 indicates that it was an understood expression for readers of the day and therefore, it would have been in existence at least the generation prior, putting it to about 1750.

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Dressed To The Nines

Posted by Admin on April 7, 2011

When someone is dressed to the nines the world knows he or she is so well-dressed that the person is wearing very fashionable or expensive clothes,  and nothing has been overlooked.  This person is the picture of perfection in every sense of the word.

Many of us learned in elementary school that multiplying any number by nine creates a mirror symmetry among numbers. If any number is multiplied by nine, the resulting digits always add to nine. What’s more, the digital root of any multiple of 9 is also 9.

The Tuscaloosa News ran a news story by journalist Bill Rose entitled, “President’s Wife Makes Gamblers Help” on May 2, 1949 that read in part:

I had prepared several questions on veltpolitik that I wanted to put to her, but for the first ten minutes of the interview, I might as well have been on Sixth Avenue.  Eleanor, as luck and 17 charge accounts would have it, was dressed to the nines, and the tactful Evita complimented her on her dress.

On April 15, 1908 the Melbourne Evening Post reported on what they referred to as a “sensational scene at the Treasury” by the unemployed of Melbourne (Australia) who, led by Mr. P.M. Koonin, tried to force their way into the Premier’s office. The news story read in part:

When he was informed that they had gone he remarked, “I told them that if they did not go they would be arrested.  If they went out it is all right.  While I went out into the passage with the Minister of Lands these men were there dressed up to the nines.  The place seemed to be full.”

Dressed to the nines as it pertains to being dressed is found cited in John C. Hotten’s “A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words” published in 1859:

DRESSED UP TO THE NINES:  in a showy ‘recherché’ manner.

Robert Burns wrote “Poem On Pastoral Poetry” in 1791 and spoke thusly about Mother Nature in all her beauty:

Thou paints auld Nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines;
Nae gowden stream thro’ myrtle twines,
Where Philomel,
While nightly breezes sweep the vines,
Her griefs will tell!

In 1719, in William Hamilton’s book, “Epistle to Ramsay” the following is found:

The bonny Lines therein thou sent me
How to the nines they did content me.

In the 1687 book entitled, “The Poetick Miscellenies of Mr. John Rawlett” these lines are found:

The learned tribe whose works the World do bless
Finish those works in some recess;
Both the Philosopher and Divine,
And Poets most who still make their address
In private to the Nine.

The reference to the nines in this instance are the Nine Worthies of Pagan and Jewish history and are comprised of the following historical figures who were perceived as being the personification of all that was noble and heroic:  Hector, Alexander, Julius Caesar , Joshua, David, Judas Maccabaeus, King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillion.

The earliest reference of “to the nines” appears in a translation of Voyages de Jehan de Mandeville chevalier, from France circa 1357.  The expression is attributed to Sir John Mandeville who, in the English translation, is found to make this comment:

Sir king! ye shall have war without peace, and always to the nine degree, ye shall be in subjection of your enemies, and ye shall be needy of all goods.

While the expression may not be about clothing, it certainly addressed being decked out to the utmost.

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