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Posts Tagged ‘1831’

Cut Above

Posted by Admin on September 13, 2011

If something is a cut above, it is said to be better than other similar things.  Likewise, if someone is a cut above, it means that person demonstrates better qualities than most other people on average.

On February 8, 1995 the Daily Record newspaper of Glasgow, Scotland commented on two movies in the column “Cinema: Reel Lives.”  The first movie was the Zorro remake and the newspaper had this to say about it:

Mexico’s most famous swordsman is about to cut another dash on the big screen.  And this time round the great Zorro will be played by Latin hunk Antonio Banderas.  The movie also features the talents of Oscar winning Steven Spielberg and director Robert Rodriguez.  Rodriguez worked with Banderas on the excellent Desperado and assured me that his Zorro will be a cut above the rest.

Back on November 23, 1945 the Spokesman Review newspaper ran an interesting article entitled, “1000 Times More Than Ever.”  The first tidbit had to do with the first Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving — decreed by Governor Bradford in 1623 — celebrated the survival of a minority.  Unknowingly, it also marked the birth of a nation made up of minorities — the Puritans of Massachusetts, the burghers of New York, the cavaliers of Virgina, the Indians of a vast frontier.  None, mark you, liked another.  With a trait common to minorities, each felt itself a cut above the rest.  Yet the history of three centuries shows that when these minorities did get together and founded the greatest, freest, happiest nation of all time, the old animosities somehow vanished.

The New York Times ran a story on March 1, 1905 entitled, “Count On The Bowery; $30,000 To Prove It.”  It told the story of Louis Heder, a pharmacist on Avenue B, who was identified as the heir to $30,000 in “hard cash” and the title of Count of the Empire of Austria as well as a direct descendant of the ruling Hohenzollern family of Germany.

None of the Boweryites knew how it came about, but nevertheless they were all satisfied that Louis, who had always seemed a cut above the ordinary crowd, was now Count Louis Heder-Hohenzollern of the Bowery and of Budapest.

On November 3, 1883 the Otago Witness reported on the horse races in the region.  One race in particular — the Metropolitan Handicap — was of particular interest as one horse who had done well in previous races was going up against horses of a different calibre.

Tim Whiffler I have no fancy for; he has performed well in the North Island, but will, I think, find the present company a cut above him.  Envious is put about as a good thing, but if she can land the stake all I shall say is that she must have changed her nature since last season.

A dozen years earlier, on September 4, 1875 the article, “Randwick Anticipations” appeared in the Sydney Mail newspaper in Australia.  As with the previous article mentioned, it dealt with horse races and the various horses to be seen.  It read in part:

Last season Hyperiod proved himself a cut above all comers; but he has not wintered well, and the vice-regal stable will have to intrust its honour to Valentia, and I can well imagine the shouts that will rend the air should “The Viscount” succeed in carrying the spots to the front at the end of such a terrible struggle as this will be.

The idiom uses the word cut in the sense of “a higher degree or stage” which dates back to the early 1800s.  That particular expression is found in numerous newspaper articles in the first half of the 1800s such as in the article published in the Public Ledger of St. John’s, Newfoundland of April 12, 1831 with regards to the reform measures suggested in the House of Commons in London, England.  The very extensive news article was a continuation of a previously published article and reported everything in exact detail.  At one point, the following is found:

The Hon. and Learned Member had ridiculed the whole of the middle classes.  He (Lord Althorp) would tell the Hon. Member he did not know the intelligence of the middle classes when he talked as he had done.  That they did possess a higher degree of character and intelligence than at any former period, was abundantly proved, and he was satisfied they were as well qualified to select, and would select as wisely and as prudently as any other class, representatives distinguished for their honesty, their integrity, and their ability.  He confessed he was one of those theorists who thought that the House of Commons should represent the opinions of the people.  The Constitution supposed that the Members of the House of Commons were the real representatives of the people.  The Hon. and Learned Gentleman seemed to think that this measure would give satisfaction to none but a very small portion — to none but a very small class of this country.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of “cut above” and because it was used with ease in the Sydney Mail in 1875, allowing for the time it would take for a new expression to catch on to the point of being included in a news article, Idiomation agrees that the expression is from the early 1800s.

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Dark Horse

Posted by Admin on April 20, 2011

A dark horse is someone or something whose abilities, plans, or feelings are little known to others.  So when Nickleback‘s sixth album, released in 2008, was named “Dark Horse” fans were eager to hear just how much of a dark horse the band was.  In some ways it disappointed as it delivered  simple chord progression riff-driven, songs and power ballads reminiscent of previous releases.  In fact, one reviewer from CD Universe wrote:

Nickleback’s rock is packaged prettily enough for soccer moms, a truth evident in accessible ballads like “I’d Come for You.”

During the Depression era, a Stork Derby — established by Charles Millar at his death — was held with the deadline date coming up quickly in 1936.  The finish line was November 1 and the woman who had given birth to the greatest number of children who were still living stood to win $500,000 — an unbelievable fortune at that time.  The Spokane Review published a story on October 31, 1936 that announced an eighth mother had made a surprise last-minute entry into the race with a claim of having borne 9 children in the 10 year window as outlined in the contest rules.  The headline read:

Dark Horse Gets Into Baby Dash: Six Now Tied, But 2 Have Chance To Win By A Diaper

Set in London in 1886, the main character of The Secret Agent is a Mr. Verloc whose occupation is that of a spy.  The book was written by Joseph Conrad (1857 – 1924) and published in 1907.  In this passage, readers are introduced to a most interesting character.

The first one, a soldierly, abrupt, red-faced person, with white eyebrows and an explosive temper, could be managed with a silken thread. He left on reaching the age limit. The second, a perfect gentleman, knowing his own and everybody else’s place to a nicety, on resigning to take up a higher appointment out of England got decorated for (really) Inspector Heat’s services. To work with him had been a pride and a pleasure. The third, a bit of a dark horse from the first, was at the end of eighteen months something of a dark horse still to the department. Upon the whole Chief Inspector Heat believed him to be in the main harmless — odd-looking, but harmless. He was speaking now, and the Chief Inspector listened with outward deference (which means nothing, being a matter of duty) and inwardly with benevolent toleration.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1822 – 1893), the 19th President of the United States was referred to as the “Dark Horse President” when he was elected in 1877.  He fought — and was wounded — in the Civil War. While still in the Army, Cincinnati Republicans ran him for the House of Representatives.  While he accepted the nomination, he refused to campaign, because “an officer fit for duty who would abandon his post to electioneer ought to be scalped.”  In fact, in speaking of Rutherford B. Hayes, it was Century Magazine that wrote:

Perhaps he is that mysterious personage known as the ‘dark horse?’

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804 – 1881) wrote “The Young Duke” which was published in 1831.  This book is believed to be the first published use of the phrase dark horse.  In Book I, Chapter 5 readers find the following:

A dark horse, which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.

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Get Your Dander Up

Posted by Admin on June 23, 2010

The phrase “get your dander up” is Dutch in origin.  The Dutch phrase “op donderen” means to burst into a sudden rage. and “Donder op!” in Dutch means “Get out of here!”

The first published reference to the phrase “get your dander up” can be found in an entry in the 1831 edition of The American Comic Annual by Henry J. Finn, where he wrote:

A general roar of laughter brought Timmy on his legs. His dander was raised.”

The first published version of a closer version of this phrase can be found in The Republican Banner newspaper of March 1834 where the journalist wrote:

He wound up by bringin’ his fist down on the table …  and the Gineral’s hat on the table bounced up, I tell you; and says he, “there must be a change, Gineral”… but that didn’t go good, and that got the Gineral’s dander up.”

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