Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1820s’

Pay Your Money and Take Your Chances

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 18, 2018

When you pay your money and take your chances, this refers to the element of luck or risk involved in choosing or making a decision.  You realize you have no control over the results, and you accept the risk involved even though the end results may not be to your liking.  In some respects, it’s a bit like being asked to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.  You’ll get what you get.

In January 2017, Today’s Parent magazine published an article about gluten-free, vegan and raw diets and why infants should not be fed health fad diets.  Written by Aaron Hutchins and titled, “No, Your Baby Shouldn’t Be Vegan Or Gluten-Free” it dealt with parents who were turning their backs on conventional nutrition as well as conventional medicine — and to the detriment of their children.  The article quoted Toronto-based chiropractor Brian Gleberzon who had this to say about using chiropractors to address such health issues as colic:

“It’s the same principle with your dentist or your chiropractor or psychotherapist,” he says. “There’s no guarantee they can help you. You pay your money and take your chances.”

In November 5, 2004 edition of the New Zealand Herald, an article title, “All Is Fare in the Power Struggle for Whenuapai” took on the possible conflict of interest the government had in light of the fact it held 80 percent ownership in Air New Zealand and was determining public policy for Whenuapai that would see budget travelers headed to the Gold Coast instead.  Some points made about duplicate passenger facilities at Whenuapai and the inconvenience of domestic passengers transferring to international flight at Mangere, there were claims that red herrings had been thrown into the arguments against Whenuapai.

The Economic Development Minister, Jim Anderton, claimed people were getting carried away with their fears and concerns, and insisted there were alternative uses for the airport in question, and that it could become an industrial park.  He was quoted as saying:

“Everyone is talking about one possible use, but there could be others – from universities to racetracks. You pay your money and take your chances.”

The February 1964 edition of the New York Forester magazine provided insightful commentary from Judge Irving Edelberg who spoke on the “Legal Aspects of Public and Private Lands Used For Recreational Purposes.”  He addressed the issue of trespassing and the legal ramifications therein as well as the responsibilities involved with those who were licensees and those who were invitees.  An invitee was someone who was invited by the land owner to use his land recreationally, oftentimes solicited to visit and encourage to partake of the recreational facilities offered by the land owner.  The idiom was used to make a point about the rights of the invitee and the responsibilities of the land owner.

In some “sitting” recreation, the saying goes that you “pay your money and you take your chances.”  But where you are invited to the recreational use of land, whether or not you pay your money, the user’s rights and the owner’s liability are not a matter of chance.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  The New York Foresters were a chapter of the Society of American Foresters and were their chapter was headquartered at the Conservation Department, State Campus Site in Albany, New York.

The 1912 edition of the American Florist magazine included an article on the heating system for growers who focused on roses.  The writer of the piece made it clear that there was “little economy in buying a boiler when starting into business that will only take care of the amount of glass erected the first season, for as a matter of fact one usually increases the number of houses annually, and the return tubular type of boiler of from 50 to 100 H.P. will always be found to be the best investment.”

When the article got to mentioning return tubular boilers — the portable and the brick-set — and the virtues therein, the writer determined the two were comparable.  In fact, the writer stated this in his article, he put his own twist on the expression by writing:

There is very little difference in price, so you pay your money and take your choice.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2:  With regards to the portable boiler, that “with its self-contained firebox, ashpit and saddle attached, [and] is made in any desirable horsepower.  This boiler takes up comparatively little room and if well covered with asbestos will be found very handy and economical.”

Something worth taking note of is that between the 1910s and the 1960s, the word chance was substituted for the word choice.

It was in Volume 26 of “The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular And Volunteer Forces” published on 3 November 1888 that a Letter to the Editor dated 20 September 1888 regarding modern artillery made use of the earlier version of the expression.  The writer of the letter — A.D. Schenck, 1st Lieutenant, 24 U.S. Artillery, Jackson Barracks, Louisiana — was concerned about an article published in an earlier edition that included tables relating to horse artillery guns, and the measure of mobility the artillery would have to secure to keep pace with its troops.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3:  A.D. Schenck was Alexander DuBois Schenck (27 October 1843 – 16 September 1905).  Born in Franklin County (OH), he enlisted on April 17, 1861 as a Private in the 1st Ohio Infantry, Company F and on August 31, 1861 he was moved to the 2nd Ohio Infantry, Company B. He was promoted to Sergeant on August 31, 1861, later on becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army. He died at Fort Stevens (OR) in 1905.  

What’s more, the writer of the letter made certain to underscore that his observations and opinion on the subject was not based upon the “experiences or judgment of this writer, but upon those of some of the most experienced and capable artillery officers in the French, German, and Russian services; in the latter case coupled with those of cavalry officers as to the character of horse artillery best suited to their requirements.”

The last paragraph o f his letter included the following comment:

These two very light field guns weigh the same, carry the same number of rounds, with very little difference in the weight of projectile, and both fire the same charge, giving the same muzzle energy.  But one has a “high” and the other a “very high” initial velocity.  To his customers it is evidently “you pay your money and take your choice.”  Any one who will examine the shrapnel and their relative effectiveness, and calculate the range tables of effective battle ranges, etc., will soon find a deal of difference in the power of those guns after the projectile leaves the muzzle and reaches battle ranges.

The first time the saying saw print was on page 18 of the June 3, 1846 edition of Punch magazine (Volume X, No. 16) in a cartoon entitled “The Ministerial Crisis.”  In the cartoon, a showman tells a customer, “Which ever you please, my little dear. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.”

The cartoon addressed the crisis over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1845, the same year the Potato Famine hit Ireland and Great Britain.  The British landowners were against the repeal as the law made the import of grain prohibitively expensive, resulting in profits for those landowners whose farms grew grains.  This situation caused government problems and John Peel resigned as Prime Minister in 1845.  Lord Stanley, leader of the Protectionists, refused to form a government.  Lord Russell’s efforts failed.  Queen Victoria finally asked John Peel to form the government again, which he did, and once the repeal narrowly passed, he resigned again.

But oh! that certainly did cause an ongoing ruckus during the months this brouhaha was going on!

It’s believed by some the expression was a common stallholder’s cry to customers, and Cockney in origin.  Still others believe it was the showman’s call to customers to see the show, and still Cockney in origin.  The bottom line is the phrase existed before it was used in the 1846 cartoon Punch magazine published, as the magazine believed its audience would understand the idiom’s meaning without need for additional explanation.

In the early 1800s, the concept of taking your choice meant you were faced with a dilemma and you had to choose what you felt was the best from all that was being offered.  Idiomation therefore dates this idiom back to at least the 1820s based the cartoon and the belief by so many that its origins are rooted in Cockney slang which started in the early 19th century and was recognized as an established language in 1840 among market traders, costermongers (sellers of fruit and vegetables from handcarts) and street hawkers on the streets of London.

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Miss A Trick

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 29, 2016

The word miss — in the sense of “fail to perceive” — has been around since the late 1600s, and the word trick — in the sense of “a quick or artful way of getting a result” — has been around since the early 1600s.  Oddly enough, the expression miss a trick has not been around since the 1600s even thought it means to fail to take advantage of an opportunity.

The Princeton Union-Eagle newspaper used the idiom in an OpEd piece by Luther Door writing about the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie split that was published in the paper on September 25, 2016.

Or, as USA Today (never one to miss a trick on such an important matter) put it in a headline on one of its TWO stories on Wednesday, “That’s all, folks: Brangelina’s 12-year run comes to an end.”

For those of you who remember Peter Falk’s Columbo on television during the 1970s, perhaps you also remember Mrs. Columbo played by Kate Mulgrew (she of Star Trek: Voyager fame).  Back on November 15, 1979, the UK edition of the TV Times ran an article on Kate Mulgrew that included this tidbit.

“It was bliss when I moved to New York by myself and put down a lipstick and came back half an hour later to find it still there,” she says with a laugh. It’s a strong, raucous laugh and it matches her deep voice and strong face. She’s eating, drinking, smoking, talking and wise-cracking non-stop and she doesn’t miss a trick. You somehow get the feeling Peter Falk would approve of Kate Mulgrew, even if he doesn’t approve of Mrs. Columbo.

Years earlier in 1943, in the book “The Gastronomical Me” by M.F.K. (Mary Frances Kennedy) Fisher — a book about food, and eating and drinking — she used the idiom in one of her chapters.  The chapter was dated two years earlier in 1941, and the author was en route to Guadalajara (Mexico).  Once at the hotel with the rest of the hotel guests she’d met on the plane, five or six of the passengers at a table asked her to sit and have a drink with them (feeling sorry for her as she was travelling alone).  The discussion that ensued was one where everyone planned on making the most of their first night in town.

They were making plans for “seeing the town” after dinner, and asked me to go with them.  I said I was going to bed, and they looked strangely at me.  “You’ve been here before, then?” they asked, and when I said no, they laughed again, daringly, and said they weren’t going to waste any time in bed; they weren’t going to miss a trick.

Thirty years earlier, “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine” saw the expression used in a story by American social reformer and author, Mrs. John (Hall) Van Vorst (1873 – 18 May 1928) formerly Bessie McGinnis.  The story was published in the April 1913 edition (as well as in the North Carolina Christian Advocate on March 27, 1913), in the story “Don’t Trifle With Money.”

“All is fair in love and the detective business.  And look here, Miss Boyd” — Silverton lifted his forefinger.  “Don’t support, because you refuse, that the matter’s going to be dropped.  It’s going to be pushed right straight through, and just think what a feather it would be in your cap to face Mr. Walton with his crime!  It’s a nice little job, and we aren’t going to leave a stone unturned.  I guess we’ll have the public sympathy in our favor, and we’re not going to miss a trick.  Understand?”

SIDE NOTE 1:  Bessie Van Vorst was also the author of “Bugsby’s Daughter” and “Sacred Quality” among other titles. When she wasn’t writing as Mrs. John Van Vorst, she was publishing stories under the pseudonym Esther Kelly.  After the death of her first husband, she married French Senator and author Henri Robert “Hughes” Le Roux.

The idiom also appeared in the story, “Miss Devereux of the Mariquita: A Story of Bonanza Days in Nevada” by American military officer and author of more than 40 adventure books, Richard Henry Savage (12 Jun 1846 – 11 October 1903) published in 1895.  This paragraph in Chapter II titled, “Mr. Robert Devereux Declines A Drink” made it clear that missing a trick then meant the same thing is means these days.

Mr. Berard noticed as he drove back along C Street several knots of earnest looking men eagerly eying his great roan trotter.  He never fancied that they objected to the carmine-cheeked, mouse-eyed little French queen of Faro at his side.  But, even cool gray-eyed sports can miss a trick, now and then.

SIDE NOTE 2:  Richard Henry Savage was the author of “My Official Wife” as well as “The Flying Halcyon” and “The Masked Venus” among other novels.

Missing tricks are something people were warning against fifty years before that!  In 1844, American novelist and dramatist Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt Ritchie (5 March 1819 – 21 July 1870) published a book titled, “The Fortune Hunter, Or, The Adventures Of A Man About Town.”  Now, Anna had an interesting history in that she was born in France and died in England, but her father was an American merchant, and her mother was the granddaughter of Francis Lewis, a signatory to the American Declaration of Independence.  Perhaps this is why she wrote as she did.

“Certainly — certainly:  Brainard, my dear fellow, hope to find you better when I call again — must get well — good morning, Mr. Ellery — Brainard, good morning my dear fellow, speedy recovery to you — speedy recovery!”

“And now, Brainard,” said Ellery, “play your cards well; be sure you don’t miss a trick.  I believe in my soul, that if you had not made such a fool of yourself about that Miss Walton, you would have been married to Esther before this.”

“Miss Walton — ah! do not mention her!”

“What! so tender on the subject yet?  A pretty fool you would have made of yourself if you had married her!”

SIDE NOTE 3:  Francis Lewis (March 21, 1713 – December 31, 1802) was born in Llandaff, Wales, and was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York.  He was a member of the Committee of Sixty as well as of the New York Provincial Congress, and signed the American Articles of Confederation which was an agreement serving as the first constitution of the United States.  The thirteen original states signed this agreement which was created on November 15, 1777 and ratified on March 1, 1781.

An earlier published version of this saying could not be found.  However, the ease with which it was used in Anna Cora Ogden Mowatt Ritchie’s book in 1844 indicates that the expression was understood by society.  Idiomation therefore pegs this to at least one generation earlier, putting in the 1820s and perhaps earlier.

It’s certain that it wasn’t an expression back in the 1600s though even if both miss and trick together would imply the spirit of the expression we know and use today.

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In The Limelight

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 27, 2010

Long before electricity lit the stages of Victorian theatres for actors and performers, lime was used as a source of illumination, especially in lighthouses.   For generations it was known that the combustion of hydrogen and oxygen on a lime surface produced a very bright light.  English chemist Goldsworthy Gurney discovered the limelight effect in the 1820s.  London’s Covent Garden Theatre was the first venue to use limelight on stage in 1837.  The use of limelight was meant to augment —  and not replace — the traditional theatre lighting of gaslights and torches. 

Within a decade, limelight was the lighting choice of theatres around the world.  However, as bright as this light source was, the entire stage could not be lit up all at once.  It could only provide spot lighting albeit excellent spot lighting.  What this meant was that, during performances where more than one actor or performer was on stage,  only some actors or performers could logically be in the spotlight while others were in the background.

Of course, the more well-known and the more talented actors and performers routinely found themselves in roles that required that they be in the limelight.  And, of course, those who routinely found themselves in the limelight enjoyed a certain level of “fame” for being in the limelight.

Even though Thomas Edison‘s electric lighting rendered limelight obsolete by the late 19th century, the term continues to this day and refers to any position of public attention in which an individual may find himself or herself.

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