Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1882’

Ruckus

Posted by Admin on March 7, 2012

Ruckus is one of those interesting manufactured words that has made its way into legitimate dictionaries.

On August 23, 2008 the Burbank Leader newspaper ran a story about 60 teachers gathered in the Joaquin Miller Elementary School library for a workshop on music education.  The workshop was a rousing success as teachers broke library rules, banging on drums and playing kazoos.  In fact, it was such a spirit affair that the headline read:

Teachers Make A Ruckus For Education:  Arts Seminar On Teaching Kids Music Immerses District Educators In Rhythm And Resonance

On December 14, 1961 the Florence Times in Alabama ran Peter Edson’s column on the Industrial Unions Department Conference held in Washington, DC.  The article was entitled, “Reuther And Building Trades Stir Jurisdictional Brew” and reported on the internal warfare in building trades craft unions against the AFL-CIO. The first paragraph read:

There’s another side of the story to the latest ruckus stirred up by United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther.

The Miami News reported about what was colloquially referred to as Jacksonville’s favourite winter sport on February 15, 1922.  Supposedly this winter sport was none other than chasing the fire apparatus due to the fact that the fire department was sorely overworked according to Chief Thomas W. Haney.  In fact, the news article made it clear just how crazy things were at fire stations in town.

It seems that Jacksonville, as befitting a big town, has a system whereby the major station are always named.  For instance, when No. 1 goes on a run, station No. 2 hastens to fill its place.  No. 3 moving up to No. 2, etc.  As a result, an awful ruckus turns loose when the fire bell rings.  The screeching sirens penetrate the air as the various apparatus scurries in all directions.  No. 1 station responds to an alarm and passes No. 2 racing noisily to man the station made vacant.  The fire-chasing fan chases hither and thither, not knowing which apparatus to follow.

The Random House Dictionary indicates that the word is an Americanism that was first documented in 1885.   However, the following is found in the Tahlequah, OK newspaper, the Cherokee Advocate published of 24 February 1882:

It is but right that they should know how the matter stands, and have fair warning to avoid a “pending” rucus of some sort.

For those who are wondering what two words are responsible for this hybrid, it comes from the German word for back, rücken, and ruction which was a corruption of the word “insurrection” that had been cropped to just ruction. The word ruckus quickly became a popular synonym for any loud and potentially destructive quarrel or disturbance.

Based on this information, Idiomation believes that ruckus in its various forms was part of the vernacular as early as the first half of the 1800s.

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

Dead Ringer

Posted by Admin on February 3, 2011

A dead ringer is, or is perceived to be, an exact duplicate of someone else … a doppelgänger, if you wish.  Dead ringers have been around for as long as there have been people but the term hasn’t been around for quite as long.

On July 28, 1932, in a Los Angeles Times news exclusive on the John Gottlieb Wendel case involving Thomas Patrick Morris, the scandalous headline read:

WENDEL CLAIM SUBSTANTIATED: Asserted Heir to Fortune Scores at Hearing Declared “Dead Ringer” for Man He Calls “Poppa” – Story of Parentage Refuted by ex-Playmate

Back in 1893, according to the New York Daily News, an Ohio newspaper reported:

Israel Williams wearing a wig would be no longer Israel Williams, but would be a dead ringer for Wellington just before the battle of Waterloo.

And back on June 10, 1891, the Detroit Free Press published a story entitled:  “HE WAS NO TENDERFOOT: A Reporter’s Mistake Leads to Mutual Explanations.”  It read in part:

Mutual explanations followed and the reporter squared himself by securing evidence from several outsiders that the gentleman from Lorain was a dead ringer for the good looking statesman from Saginaw.

An earlier reference confirming the use of the term comes from the Oshkosh Weekly Times of June 1888, where there’s a court report of a man charged with being ‘very drunk’:

“Dat ar is a markable semlance be shoo”, said Hart looking critically at the picture. “Dat’s a dead ringer fo me. I nebber done see such a semblence.”

Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to located the term dead ringer published elsewhere prior to 1888 although from the way it was used in the Oshkosh Weekly Times, it’s obvious that the phrase was used by educated and uneducated folk alike by that time.

So what exactly is a ringer?

Back in the day, a ringer was a horse that was substituted for another horse and that looked so much like the original horse that it fooled the bookies.  In other words, it was a horse used to defraud bookies.  The Manitoba Free Press published this definition in October 1882:

A horse that is taken through the country and trotted under a false name and pedigree is called a ‘ringer.’

However, the word “ringer” goes back to the 1700s where “to ring” meant a coin was tested to see if it was genuine or counterfeit.  The test was to strike the coin with a finger or other object.  If it rang, it was genuine; if it didn’t ring — in other words, if it was dead — it was counterfeit.

And what of the word “dead” you might ask?   Used in the sense of “utter, absolute, quite” it was used in the term “dead drunk” which was first attested to in the 1590s and later by the term “dead heat” which was attested to in 1796.

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

Sour Grapes

Posted by Admin on September 16, 2010

The phrase “sour grapes” hints at a rich history with many twists and turns along the way and the phrase surely doesn’t disappoint to this end.  In fact, it has been used often and prolifically and always to good effect.

In 1890, the New York Times published an article on April 23rd with a headline that read:  “Any Sour Grapes Here?  Bulkeley Is Not Seeking A Renomination For Governor.”  Nearly a decade before that, in 1882, his book “The Tyne And Its Tributaries,” William James Palmer wrote:

The ambition to become connected with the house of Stuart, ascribed to the grandfather, had realization in the marriage of his son to Mary Tudor, youngest natural daughter of Charles II.  But the sour grapes were left for the son of the marriage, and the beheading on Tower Hill, February 24, 1716, seems to have followed in almost natural sequence.

John Wycliffe (1324 – 1384), an Oxford-educated English theologian, lay preacher, reformist and university teacher was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century.  In 1371, the popularity of his doctrines were seenseen in the oft-repeated complaints of Archbishop Arundel, who wrote that “Oxford was a vine that brought forth wild and sour grapes, which, being eaten by the fathers, the teeth of the children were set on edge; so that the whole Province of Canterbury was tainted with novel and damnable Lollardism, to the intolerable and notorious scandal of the University.”

Rabbi Raschi,  born at Troyes in 1040, is credited with a story about a fox and a wolf who visit a Jewish house to prepare food for the Sabbath.   Upon arriving at the house, the wolf is chased away while the fox is welcomed.  When the wolf asks the fox for an explanation, the fox replies: 

This has happened not on thy account but on account of thy father who helped prepare the food and then swallowed every fat bit.  The fathers eat sour grapes and the chidlren’s teeth are set on edge.

The fable owes some of its story line to the Greek philosopher, Aesop.  In the Aesop fable “The Fox and the Grapes” the fox sees a cluster of ripe grapes hanging from the vine.  Despite her most ardent efforts, she cannot reach them and rather than admit defeat she proclaims, “The grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought.”

And yes, the phrase even appears in the Old Testament of the Bible in Jeremiah 31: 28-33:

And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.

In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Idioms from the 11th Century, Idioms from the 14th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Jewish, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »