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Posts Tagged ‘1838’

Savoir Faire

Posted by Admin on September 21, 2010

In a New York Times article published on November 24, 1929, journalist Edwin Clark wrote: 

Good Queen Anne, a dull and stubborn woman, resigned during a celebrated period of English history, a period comparable to that of Elizabeth or Victoria. The second oldest daughter of James II. she lacked the Stuart charm, intelligence and savoir faire.

The phrase “savoir faire” was in reference to the more genteel nuances of well-mannered behaviour.  Even those of modest upbringing could aspire to a certain “savoir faire” without appearing pretentious to those above and below their social class.

In 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to Mrs Jameson, stating:  

I have read “Shirley” lately; it is not equal to “Jane Eyre” in spontaneousness and earnestness. I found it heavy, I confess, though in the mechanical part of the writing – the compositional savoir faire – there is an advance.” 

In fact, throughout the 1800s, it appears that the phrase “savoir faire” was well known and well used.   W.P. Robertson wrote in a letter dated 1838 to Thomas Fair, Esq. that: 

Monsieur and Madame Bonpland arrived in Buenos Ayres from France.  The fame, the talents, and the science of the one — the accomplishments and fascinating matters of the other — and the savoir faire and unaffected urbanity of both — made their society to be generally sought in the capital of the provinces of the River Plate.

However prior to the 1800s, the term was used solely by the French.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Admin on April 7, 2010

On August 23, 1894, the Chicago Daily Tribune carried a news article entitled “Barrier To Bad Men” that discussed the situation regarding anarchists in Europe.   In fact, it stated that there was concern as to what anarchists were up to and the article reported that “large numbers of [European] Anarchists are making a bee line for the United States.”

But that wasn’t the first published use of the word beeline.  Over 20 years before that news story, The Atlantic Monthly printed a story entitled “Quite So” by author T.B. Aldrich in their April 1872 issue.  In the story, Aldrich wrote:  “Curtis was a Boston boy, and his sense of locality was so strong that, during all his wanderings in Virginia, I do not believe there was a moment, day or night, when he could not have made a bee-line for Faneuil Hall.”

However, this, too, was not the first use of the word beeline.  By 1838, those living in America used the term to refer to someone who, like a bee, takes the shortest route back to the hive once it has found and collected nectar in the fields.  Like a bee that would use its keen and accurate homing instincts in the field to find its way back to the hive, someone who took the shortest route anywhere was said to have made a ‘beeline.’

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