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Posts Tagged ‘1877’

Not A Hair Out Of Place

Posted by Admin on April 5, 2011

The expression not a hair out of place means that an individual’s appearance approaches — if not meets — perfection.  

Mary Cassidy of Bedford Hills, NY wrote an open letter to her fellow commuters that was published in the New York Times newspaper on June 18, 2000.  Her objection was to the many commuters who carried coffees, bagels and newspapers on to the trains but for some inexplicable reason, experienced difficulty when it came to depositing their trash in any of the many receptacles along the commuter route. 

I have seen men in their custom-tailored shirts and Burberry raincoats leave behind a mess of office memos, newspapers and empty beer cans in paper bags under their seat.  I have seen professional-looking women in heels and lipstick, not a hair out of place, shove bags, empty mail envelopes and gum wrappers at their Ferragamos … [snip] … What happens to adults on trains that they think they can act like slobs?

Forty years earlier on March 17, 1960 the Pittsburgh Press ran an article written by Lenore Brudige about the world champion hairstyling competition that had been held earlier that week in New York City.  The winner was reportedly a “broad shouldered 31-year-old father of four children” by the name of Jon Lesko.  Despite winning the competition, reports were that he was modest about his achievements.  Of his well-received hair design aptly named the “Bee-loved” Ms. Brudige wrote:

The designed continued.  “A heart-shaped outline is in front.  That is for the ‘loved look’ theme, so you see it is a Bee-loved style.”  Model Betty Lillie of Irwin was well pleased.  Her tresses, which had been tinted pink chiffon, were still intact since winning the competition three days ago, not a hair out of place.  The reason: it was made clear is because Mr. Lesco arranges hair with the precision of an engineer.  Architecturally, the design is sound.

Back on November 10, 1924 the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company of New York ran an advertisement for Vaseline Hair Tonic in the Cavalier Daily newspaper, a publication  of the University of Virginia.  This product with a registered U.S. patent and made amazing promises to men about its absolute “purity and effectiveness.” 

Not a hair out of place and not a single flake of dandruff.  Big and strong also.   Adonis had nothing on him.  You can gamble he doesn’t say a word about “Vaseline” Hair Tonic.  But he uses it almost religiously.  Nothing like it for mastering unruly hair and keeping the scalp healthy.

On February 9, 1906 the Lewiston Evening Journal ran a story by David Graham Phillips entitled, “The Deluge: A Novel Of Finance.”  The story had been copyrighted the year previous and the following passage was included:

I stood up before him, threw my coat back, thrust my thumbs into my trousers pockets and slowly turned about like a ready-made tailor’s dummy.  “Monson,” said I, “what do you think of me?”

He looked me over as if I were a horse he was about to buy.  “Sound, I’d say,” was his verdict.  “Good wind — uncommon good wind.  A goer, and a stayer.  Not a lump.  Not a hair out of place.”  He laughed.  “Action a bit high perhaps — for the track.  But a grand reach.”

Interestingly enough, the Star newspaper in New Zealand published a story on January 18, 1877 entitled, “A Rich Girl Without A Fortune.”  In this story, the following passage was found:

She possessed this one peculiarity — though they did call her Cinderella; that she was always nice and neat.  Her dresses were of the cheapest materials — cottons, thin stuffs; but somehow she kept them fresh and well.  Not a spot was on her naturally delicate hands this evening as she sat down; not a hair out of place on her pretty head.

Again, it is safe to assume — based on the story in the newspaper of 1877 — that the expression was one that was used often enough to be easily understood back in 1877.  Idiomation ventures to guess that the expression dates back at least another generation to the 1850s.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Diamond In The Rough

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2010

The phrase “diamond in the rough” pertains to a person or an item that has potential that, to the untrained eye, is overlooked or missed completely.  The Japanese have a saying that’s not dissimilar to the phrase “diamond in the rough” — a jewel, unless polished, will not sparkle (tama migakasareba hikari nashi).

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955) was responsible for establishing the Bethune Nursery School — the first child care centre in Lynchburg (Virginia) — in February 1936.  She gave the school its motto: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Almost a century later, Mary Bethune Academy as it’s now known, believes this as much now as when the Nursery School first threw open its doors.

On February 3, 1877, the Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper ran an article about the annual anniversary meeting of the Young Men’s Christian Association held the previous Thursday in the Music Hall.  The audience was said to be very large, select and appreciative and the Hall was said to be well heated.  In the report, readers found the following:

There he was taken hold of by good John Currie, himself a brand snatched from the burning, a diamond in the rough — a good, honest, faithful, trusting Christian, who received just such men into his house, although he scarcely ever knew where he was going to get his next meal, and prayed over them until they were brought to God.  This young engineer was now leading a sober life, — a gem of Christian piety and Godly service.

The phrase is a figurative interpretation of the literal meaning as it pertains to unpolished state of diamonds, especially those that have the potential to demand the highest prices once polished.  The first recorded implied use of the phrase “diamond in the rough” can be found in John Fletcher’s A Wife For A Month written in 1624, where the author writes:

She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.

Diamond is from the early 14th century from the Old French word diamant, which is from the Middle Latin word, diamantem.  This Latin word is from an even older Latin word, adamantem which means “the hardest metal.” As a side note, the word “adamant” is from this same Latin word.

Rough is from the Old English word ruh which means “rough, untrimmed, uncultivated.” This hails from the Germanic word rukhwaz which means rough.   As a side note, use of the word rough to mean “approximate” is first recorded in 1600. 

Based on the etymology of the words “diamond” and “rough” it is reasonable to assume that it is highly unlikely any author before John Fletcher made use of the phrase prior to the publication of his book.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Alive And Kicking

Posted by Admin on November 30, 2010

The phrase “alive and kicking” has had some interesting limelight time over the decades.  It’s been used as a film title for the Richard Harris movie in 1959 and as a Broadway title in 1950 for a musical revue and a pop song by Simple Minds in 1985 and an album title by Scottish rock band Nazareth in 2003 and more. 

In 1877, Benham & Harrison & J.B.  Harvey in collaboration with E. Durrant and Co published “The Tendring Hundred in the Olden Time: A Series of Sketches by J. Yelloly Watson, F.G.S.”  In the book, the following is written:

The result of this transaction was that the King’s favourite obtained a grant of the reversing of Lord Darcy’s estates, sold one-half to Lord Darcy’s son-in-law, kept half for another bargain, and put, meanwhile, £24,000 in his pocket.  But Lord Darcy was alive and kicking, and he afterwards himself found favour at Court, and was made Lord-Lieutenant of Essex, and on the 5th July, 1621, created Viscount Colchester, with remainder to the aforesaid Sir Thomas Savage, Baronet, of Rochsavage (who had married his eldest daughter) and their issue with a grant of £8 per annum out of the fee-farm rent of the town of Colchester.

In the 1850 book “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions” by Charles Mackay, he wrote:

After such prophets as they, the almanac-makers hardly deserve to be mentioned: no, not even the renowned Partridge, whose wonderful prognostications set all England agog in 1708, and whose death, at a time when he was still alive and kicking, was so pleasantly and satisfactorily proved by Isaac Bickerstaff.  The anti-climax would be too palpable, and they and their doings must be left uncommemorated.

That being said, the earliest published use of the phrase “alive and kicking” appeared in court documents in England that date back to 1801 wherein a crab-boy was reported to have said in a court of law:

I left them [the crabs] all alive and kicking, your honour, when I came to church.

While I couldn’t find an earlier reference to the phrase “alive and kicking” that the one in 1801, the fact that it was part of the vernacular wherein even crab-boys felt the court would understand what was meant by the phrase indicates that the phrase has been around much longer than just 200 or so years.

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