Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1870’

Dutch Treat

Posted by Admin on August 29, 2011

A Dutch treat, also known as going Dutch or a Dutch date, refers to an outing where everyone involved pays his or her own expenses.

Just three days ago, the Leesville Daily Leader newspaper in Louisiana published a story about the local Chamber of Commerce’s newest developments in the community entitled, “Fort Polk Progress Seeks To Predict Region’s Destiny.”  More than 44 area business leaders were in attendance at the meeting which took place over the lunch hour.  A photo accompanied the news article with the following description included:

The Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce conducted its general membership meeting for August at Catfish Junction Wednesday during a dutch treat luncheon. Speaker for the event was Mike Reese, of Fort Polk Progress.

On October 16, 1974 the St. Petersburg Times ran the Ann Landers column aptly titled that day as, “Husband’s Dutch Treat Lunches Worry Her.”  A woman in her 60s, married to her husband for 36 years, was worried about the latest work arrangement at her husband’s new job.  The distraught wife wrote in part:

He has been going to lunch nearly every day with his secretary, who is in her 30s.  He told me about it himself, making a big deal out of the fact that they go Dutch.

The Day newspaper published an interesting human interest story on November 14, 1931 that reported that a group of University of California co-ed students announced to the media they were in favour of splitting the cost of a “date” between a man and a woman provided the man met their standards of the perfect date. 

A date was rated as follows:  20% for intelligence, 20% for personality, 15% for cultural and social background, 15% for personal appearance, 10% each for courtesy and for dance ability, and 5% each for physical fitness and for social poise.  However, the catch was that if such a man existed, he wouldn’t allow the woman to go Dutch; he’d pay for the date.  The news story was entitled:

College Girls Describe Perfect Male Escort For ‘Dutch Treat’

On July 21, 1893 the Morning Herald of Baltimore, Maryland published a news story that set tongues wagging.  It told the story of the exploits of 13 Newport women who set society talking by engaging in a unique feast.  In fact, what they did was so unheard of that they made the idea fashionable.  Yes, they had a “very jolly dinner without the men and boldly braved superstition” by actually having what the newspaper headline announced was a “Ladies’ Dutch Dinner.”  The story reported in part:

In the private dining-room, trimmed and decorated with yellow striped silk, the women referred to decided to have their “Dutch treat” or, in other words, each lady was to pay her own expenses, little realizing that they were setting the seal of their approval on a custom which needed it.  Had this custom been inaugurated before Newport would have been benefited in a substantial manner, and many families would not have ceased their social functions as summarily as they did.

The term, according to the The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, dates back to 1870.  Idiomation is willing to concede that this is most likely the correct year for the expression since the 1893 article states “the seal of their approval on a custom which needed it.”  It was a known social convention that hadn’t been given a place in society until people such as those delightful 13 Newport women brought society up to speed on the option.

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Ducks In A Row

Posted by Admin on August 22, 2011

It’s “Everything’s Ducky Week” at Idiomation and we’re starting off with the expression to get or have your ducks in a row.  This refers to having things well-organized before you begin.  Many online sources and books claim that the phrase is slang that came about in the 1970s, however, Idiomation has found earlier printed news stories with the phrase ducks in a row.

The Spartanburg Herald Journal in South Carolina ran a story on June 21, 1947 entitled, “The Bulwinkle Bill” which dealt with the bill designed to give the railroads in America the right to confer  upon matters of rate making, under approval of the Interstate Commercial Commission which was colloquially referred to as the Bulwinkle Bill.  However, the bill was opposed by a group of Southern senators despite its passing by the Senate with a two-thirds majority. The article stated:

The railroads of this country are entitled to “get their ducks in a row.”  They are now, and always will, bear the burden of traffic in this country and they have not in recent years enjoyed a very substantial prosperity.  They have encountered competition from truck traffic and will experience further competition from air transportation.

The Herald Sports weekly newspaper published an article written by Associated Press staff writer Miles H. Wolff on November 17, 1931 entitled “Columbia and Clinton Scenes Of Hot Games.”  He began his article with this:

The schedule makers of our South Carolina colleges are busily engaged just now getting their ducks in a row for the 1932 football season.  That they are having difficulties can be guessed at from the fact that the end of November nears and not one institution of higher learning has announced its next, year’s card.

Earlier yet, the Daily Progress newspaper in Petersburg, Virginia ran an article on June 16, 1910.

It quite frequently happens that when political parties and even nations think they have “their ducks in a row” the unexpected happens which knocks their well-laid plans awry.

Now the top bowlers of the 19th century in America decided that bowling needed a standard set of rules and so the American Bowling Congress — which was renamed the United States Bowling Congress in later years — was established in 1895. The game had been brought to America by the Dutch, Germans and English shortly before the Civil War when only 9 pins were used in the game. The game proved to be very popular with the population, so much so that in 1841, Connecticut outlawed 9-pin bowling due to its association with gambling.

To get around the law, indoor bowling alley proprietors added a tenth pin to the game in 1870 and the new game flourished. The game was modified and short, slender pins were introduced called duckpins because of the pin’s appearance.

However, modernization hadn’t yet come to these bowling alleys and people were employed by the indoor bowling alleys to set the pins up for each player’s frame in a game.  The re-setting of the pins was referred to as getting one’s ducks in a row.

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Screw Loose

Posted by Admin on March 3, 2011

The phrase “screw loose” likens a mental weakness to a machine in which a part is not securely fastened.

Back on May 4, 1970 the Eugene Register-Guard ran an article by Jack Gould of the New York Times about children’s programming.  In his article, “Programs For Children Make Little Sense” he wrote:

There is a screw loose in television’s approach ot programming for children.  The deservedly successful “Sesame Street” is fine enrichment of the morning hours and there’s been erratic improvement in the Saturday morning schedules of the commercial networks.  But the major need does not exist solely in the mornings, helpful though such morning diversion is, and the emphasis on Saturday morning programming is overstressed; that is the one period of the week when a family actually has a chance to get together.

In the Letters to the Editor at the New York Times on  August 4, 1900, Walter H. Lewiston had a fair bit to say to New Yorkers as well as the newspaper in his letter entitled, “How To Obtain Party Recruits.”  In it he wrote:

That it is necessary to urge the district leaders to do their duty is a proof that there is a screw loose somewhere, and to show how it got loose and why it remains so is the object of this communication, which I ask you to publish, as, notwithstanding your open opposition to the Democratic National ticket, I look upon The New York Times as being a Democratic paper.

In Anthony Trollope’s book “The Eustace Diamonds” published in 1870, in Chapter 69, a wedding is called off which means that the wedding breakfast booked at a hotel is cancelled.  The passage in the book reads:

Lady Eustace carried her message to the astonished and indignant bridesmaids, and succeeded in sending them back to their respective homes. Richard, glorious in new livery, forgetting that his flowers were still on his breast,–ready dressed to attend the bride’s carriage,–went with his sad message, first to the church and then to the banqueting-hall in Albemarle Street.

“Not any wedding?” said the head-waiter at the hotel. “I knew they was folks as would have a screw loose somewheres. There’s lots to stand for the bill, anyways,” he added, as he remembered all the tribute.

Now back in 1824, the Department of War, acting in what it claimed was “in the interest of peace, and restoration of good feeling between the Citizens and Indians of the [Washington] territory” brought a number of North American Indian chiefs to Washington, DC — an undertaking funded entirely by the Department.  Funds were juggled from a number of sources and to this day, it’s unclear why that might be.  However, it wasn’t something that was looked upon favourably by Department of War employees. In fact, one employee wrote  :

The derangements in the fiscal affairs of the Indian department are in the extreme.  One would think that appropriations had been handled with a pitchfork.  There is a screw loose in the public machinery somewhere.

The phrase comes from the cotton industry and dates back to 1793 with the industrial revolution.  For the first time, mass production of textiles was made possible thanks to the invention of the cotton gin. However, like all automated services, machines didn’t always run properly.  Machines that broke down or produced defective cloth were said to have a “screw loose” somewhere.

In 1798, Eli Whitney invented a way to manufacture muskets by machine so that the parts were interchangeable. Interestingly enough, when there was a misfire in the manufacture of the muskets or with the muskets themselves, a “screw loose” somewhere was the first thing that popped into people’s minds.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Basket Case

Posted by Admin on December 20, 2010

The term basket case usually refers to a person who is a nervous wreck.  It also refers to a country or organization as evidenced by a story run by the Los Angeles Times on September 23, 1994.  The headline read:

Haitian economy, infrastructure a basket case
Nation lacks everything, needs repair from ground up

However, back in 1971, due to the war for independence that Bangladesh waged against Pakistan, Bangladesh was labeled by an official in Henry Kissinger’s U.S. State Department as an “international basket case.”

A year earlier, in 1970, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was suffering from severely degraded ecosystems.  The U.S. National Park Service considered the park to be an “ecological basket case.”  Over the years, the damage was reversed but this does not negate the fact that 40 years ago, it was an “ecological basket case.”

Before that, it was a grim slang during World War I, referring to a person who is physically disabled in all four limbs because of paralysis or amputation.  This bulletin was issued by the U.S. Command on Public Information in March 28, 1919 on behalf of Major General M. W. Ireland, the U.S. Surgeon General and read in part:

The Surgeon General of the Army … denies … that there is any foundation for the stories that have been circulated … of the existence of ‘basket cases’ in our hospitals.

The Syracuse Herald newspaper carried the story in March 1919 and added the following explanation to its readers:

By ‘basket case’ is meant a soldier who has lost both arms and legs and therefore must be carried in a basket.

The term was retired after WWI and resurrected in WWII when a denial from the Surgeon General Major General Norman T. Kirk was issued in May 1944 which stated:

… there is nothing to rumors of so-called ‘basket cases’ — cases of men with both legs and both arms amputated.

It is therefore easy to see that until the latter quarter of the 20th century, the term basket case referred to quadriplegics whose catastrophic wounds were as a result of a battle in which they were involved. 

The term basket case in this instance has been around since about the American Civil War.  In fact, there are American museums who have wicker body baskets, circa 1870, now on display.  It is believable that these baskets were indeed the basket cases in question and that the term originated with these baskets as the following item dated November 6, 1875 in The Constitution newspaper published in Atlanta, Georgia contained this as part of the advertisement:  12 Stylish Basket Case Suits $14.

References to basket cases prior to this date could not be found by Idiomation.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »