Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1868’

Make No Bones About It

Posted by Admin on March 6, 2012

When someone says they make no bones about what they’re about to say, what they’re trying to convey is that they are going to plainly state how they think or feel on a subject even though it might embarrass or offend others.  In other words, the speaker is about to be forthright and candid while giving his or her opinion to the audience at large.

The Rock Hill Herald ran a story on July 28, 1976 about Lawrence Paros of Providence, Rhode Island and author of the book “The Great American Cliché.”  He had moved to Rhode Island in 1971 to direct a federal learning program for high school students, however, he grew tired of what he referred to as working within the system, quit and began collecting clichés that became the basis of his book filled with 50,000 entries.  The newspaper article was entitled: 

Make No Bones About It, He’s The King Of Clichés

Back on June 16, 1902, the New York Times published an article dealing with the beet sugar Senators, the United States government’s Reciprocity bill and a rebate of between twenty and fifty percent.  In the end, the government would not yield to the Senators’ demands and the newspaper reported that one Senator stated the following:

“It threatens beet sugar men with ostracism if we do not abandon the plan of Cuban relief to which he told us time and time again he would make no objection.  Even now, in spite of his message, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d sign a rebate bill and make no bones about it.”

In Part II: Chapter VIII of the book “The Idiot” written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881) which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger in 1868 and 1869 – and translated by Frederick Whishaw for publication in 1887, the author wrote:

“As to the article,” said Hippolyte in his croaking voice, “I have told you already that we none of us approve of it! There is the writer,” he added, pointing to the boxer, who sat beside him. “I quite admit that he has written it in his old regimental manner, with an equal disregard for style and decency. I know he is a cross between a fool and an adventurer; I make no bones about telling him so to his face every day. But after all he is half justified; publicity is the lawful right of every man; consequently, Burdovsky is not excepted. Let him answer for his own blunders. As to the objection which I made just now in the name of all, to the presence of your friends, I think I ought to explain, gentlemen, that I only did so to assert our rights, though we really wished to have witnesses; we had agreed unanimously upon the point before we came in. We do not care who your witnesses may be, or whether they are your friends or not. As they cannot fail to recognize Burdovsky’s right (seeing that it is mathematically demonstrable), it is just as well that the witnesses should be your friends. The truth will only be more plainly evident.”

The expression hasn’t been used as often as one might think, however in the book “Paraphrase Of Luke” by Desiderius Erasmus and translated into English by Nicholas in 1548, the command given to Abraham with regards to sacrificing his son, Isaac, is given as:

He made no bones about it but went to offer up his son.

Going back almost another 100 years, the Paston Letters reveal that a version of the expression was used in a letter written in 1459.   For those who may not know about the Paston Letters, it is a collection of letters and papers, consisting correspondence from members, friends and acquaintances of the Paston family, written between 1422 and 1509.  In 1459, a dispute arose between Paston and Sir John Fastolf’s family.  When the verdict in the case was rendered with no objection from either side, Paston wrote:

And fond that tyme no bonys in the matere.
Translation:  and found that time no bones in the matter

This is a significant passage since the expression during the 1400s was that people were making bones about things which indicated that people were raising a fuss over things.  There’s some discussion that the original expression relates to soups with bones in them, with implication being that soups with bones in them were unpleasant to swallow.

In any case, the fact that the expression was already in common usage, having found a place in Paston’s letter of 1459, indicates that the expression is most likely from at least two generations before it was used. This puts the saying to at least 1400.

Posted in Idioms from the 15th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Taken Leave Of Your Senses

Posted by Admin on March 4, 2011

If someone has taken leave of his or her senses it means that he or she is irrational.  It may be permanent or it may be temporary, but make no bones about it, the person has definitely lost his or her ability to make sound judgments.

Those who remember the Batman series from the 1960s starring Adam West a Batman and Burt Ward as Robin were reminded that even evil has its standards.  In the two-part episode “The Puzzles Are Coming” a shocked Puzzler exclaims at one point:

Have you taken leave of your senses?! I may be an Arch Villain, but I’m an American Arch Villain.

As a side note, the Puzzler was originally an adversary of Superman in the 1940’s comics.  The Batman series of the 1960s added the Puzzler when an episode originally written for the Riddler could not be filmed because the actor, Frank Gorshin, was unavailable at the time.  Rather than recast the Riddler, the producers introduced the Puzzler.

French author Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) published his novel “The Immortal” in 1888. In Chapter 15, the following dialogue is found:

“So you are going to be married,” said his father, whose suspicions increased.  “And who is the lady?”

“The Duchess Padovani.”

“You must have taken leave of your senses! Why she is five-and-twenty years older than you, and besides–and besides–‘ He hesitated, trying to find a respectful phrase, but at last blurted right out, ‘You can’t marry a woman who to every one’s knowledge has belonged to another for years.”

Twenty years earlier, on January 14, 1868 in the Hawke’s Bay (NZ) Herald, a series of jokes were published.  One of them had to do with the naming of a newborn child and the registrar who had duly noted the babe’s name in accordance with the father’s wishes.  In the story, the very next day, the wife of the proud father burst into the registrar’s room and the joke continues thusly:

“Fat the mischief has that havrin gomeril o’ a man o’ mine been doin’? Duncan, he says he ca’d the bairn.  Oh! but I’ll Duncan him!”

“What is the matter, my good woman?  Have you taken leave of your senses?” asked the astonished listener.

Leave o’ my senses — the bairn’s a lassie — confound you an’ my man thegither; but just waite, he’s got something this mornin’ and I’ll take good care he’ll get something mair gin I was yince hame.”

I won’t spoil the punch line but suffice it to say, the imaginary poor woman’s imaginary husband undoubtedly never forgot the imaginary lesson!

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this phrase however that it is found in a published joke indicates that it was in use by the general population in 1868 and therefore, it is reasonable to believe it originated with the previous generation.

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

Boxing Day

Posted by Admin on January 7, 2011

Boxing Day — the day after Christmas Day — is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries.

On December 23, 1895 in the Southland News Notes of the Otaga Witness newspaper, it was reported that:

With regard to the formation of a rifle association for Southland, and the holding of a championship meeting in connection therewith, after discussion is was resolved — “That a rifle association be formed to be called the Southland Rifle Association.”  Correspondence with several country clubs having been read it was proposed — “That as of the 1st January  had been found an inconvenient date for country clubs, the first meeting of the association be held at Invercargill on Boxing Day, December 26.”

Back on December 22, 1868 the Nelson Evening Mail ran advertisements on page 3 and in Column 1, Alfred Greenfield, Provincial Secretary of the Superintendent’s Office in Nelson (New Zealand) announced that:

The public offices will be closed on —
Friday, 25th instant, Christmas Day.
Saturday, 26th instant, Boxing Day.
Friday, 1st January, New-year’s Day.

On December 30, 1845 in the Sydney Morning Herald, there was a brief article entitled  “Christmas And Boxing Day.”   It stated:

A by no means bad test of the manner in which Christmas Day was passed throughout the town and district was afforded by Friday’s Police Court presenting not a single case of drunkenness on the free list, or indeed any other charges.

It continued by stating later in the same article:

Saturday’s police list exhibited the same gratifying report of Boxing Day as that day’s list did of Christmas Day.  Not a single free case of drunkenness, and only three charges for such offence on the bond list, all ticket holders, and who were discharged, one of them stating by the way that he had taken “a spell” from drink for five years until the previous day; the bend advised him to go and take another spell for another five years.

That the day after Christmas should be referred to as Boxing Day attests to the fact that the term was understood to mean the day after Christmas and was not in question.

It is said that Boxing Day originated in England under Queen Victoria’s reign and since the phrase cannot be found in publications in reference to the day after Christmas prior to her reign, it is likely to be an accurate representation of when the day after Christmas became known as Boxing Day.

Historians, however, are still at odds as to why the day after Christmas is referred to as Boxing Day.

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

Saved By The Bell

Posted by Admin on May 28, 2010

There are those who will tell you in dead earnest that “saved by the bell” originated sometime during the 15th Century during the Renaissance era.  They are, of course, mistaken but it is a mistake that seems to have established a life of its own and is rarely questioned, even by knowledgeable individuals.

The claim is that back in the day, people were pronounced dead before their time and interred only to be dug up at a later date.  Once unearthed, scratch marks on the inside of the coffin were noticed in some of the coffins which, of course, instilled fear in the living that they, too, might be mistakenly buried alive.  While the fear persisted, there was no way devised at that time to alert people to anyone living being buried alive.

In fact, well into the 18th Century, famous people were still concerned with the possibility of being buried alive.

“All I desire for my own burial is not to be buried alive.” – Lord Chesterfield (1694 – 1773)   

“Have me decently buried, but do not let my body be put into a vault in less than two days after I am dead.” – George Washington (1732 – 1799)

With all the fear around the subject, plans for safety coffins began to show up in patent offices around the world.  One such safety box was referred to “The Improved Burial Case” by Franz Vester of  Newark, New Jersey on August 25, 1868.  Unfortunately, coffins hold very little air and the average otherwise healthy  person would pass out within an hour or two once a coffin was sealed.   Even if the individual could alert the world above him or her that he or she was living, unearthing the coffin in time is nearly impossible even using today’s technology.

Instead, the facts prove out that the practice of being “saved by the bell” comes from the sport of boxing.   In fact, this option was a mandatory option under the Marquess of Queensberry rules ,which were introduced in England in 1867.

The phrase appeared in print shortly thereafter and was soon used as a figurative expression for being saved, as from an unpleasant occurrence, by a timely interruption.

Martin Flaherty defeated Bobby Burns in 32 rounds by a complete knockout. Half a dozen times Flaherty was saved by the bell in the earlier rounds.” – The Fitchburg Daily Sentinel, February 1893

Floored in the first session by a terrific right to the jaw, the bell saving the Jersey boy at the count of seven.”—Ring magazine, November 1932

Saved by the bell, a boxer saved from being counted out because the end of the round is signalled.”—Boxing Dictionary by F. C. Avis, 1954
 
If, in future, the bell interrupts a count, the count will continue until the boxer is counted out—unless he gets up in the meantime  . . .  The expression ‘saved by the bell ‘ will, therefore, become an anachronism.” — Times, 18 May 1963

So the match goes to this phrase being a boxing term and not at all related to safety coffins or the Renaissance era.

Posted in Boxing, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Chain Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link

Posted by Admin on April 23, 2010

It’s true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  The phrase is something wrongly attributed to Vladimir Lenin prior to the Revolution of 1917 concerning why the Bolsheviks were agitating the Russian Proletariat.

Cornhill Magazine published an article in 1868 that contained this bit of advice:  “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link; but if you show how admirably the last few are united … half the world will forget to the security of the … parts which are kept out of sight.”

However, the phrase can be traced back to a comment written in a letter from C. Kingley dated December 1, 1856 that states:  “The devil is very busy, and no one knows better than he that nothing is stronger than its weakest part.”

And earlier than that, in 1786, Thomas Reid wrote his “Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man” wherein he stated:  “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

And so while there are those who believe this phrase is a translation of an older Latin proverb or that it comes from the Bible, the fact is that it appears that the only proverb that is remotely similar to this is a Basque saying;  “Haria meheenean eten ohi da” which translates into “A thread usually breaks from where it is thinnest.”

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »