Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1915’

Cold Turkey

Posted by Admin on December 20, 2013

When you quit something point blank instead of tapering off or cutting down gradually, you’ve gone cold turkey. Although some claim it relates to walking away from an addiction, the term applies to many other activities that are stopped immediately. In some cases, it also means to speak frankly, and in yet other cases, it has nothing to do with being frank or quitting a behavior.

In 2006, Brian Snowdon and Howard R. Vane wrote and published a book entitled, “An Encyclopedia of Macroeconimics.” On page 135, the following definition for cold turkey is given:

A rapid and permanent reduction in the rate of monetary growth aimed at reducing the rate of inflation.

The idea of cold turkey referring to economics isn’t new. When Sweder van Wijnbergen wrote his book “Should Price Reform Proceed Gradually Or In A Big Bang?” he included the idiom on page 26 where he wrote in part:

Thus cold turkey programs will unambiguously be more credible than gradual programs that actually cause increasing shortages in their initial phase: and even if gradual programs do not cause increasing shortages, cold turkey decontrol program will still be more credible.

In Mickey Spillane’s book “The Deep” published in 1961 the following exchange can be read:

“Easy, kid. You could have been part of a setup. The word goes out to stay clear of Bennett’s place during a certain time … or if you get clear to make a call to let somebody know … and then blooie, Bennett catches it and you’re clean. Almost.”

He didn’t like that last word.

“The cops figure like that and tie it in and you’ll be doing the turkey act downtown. Cold turkey. Think you could take it?”

“Deep … jeez! Look, you know I wouldn’t … hell, Bennett and me, we was friends. You know, friends!” He was perched on the very edge of the bed shaking like a scared bird.

Later on in the book, he author wrote:

I grinned nastily so Pedro could see it. “Nothing special. I just put our buddy in the path of law and order. He’s a junkie, so I dropped a few days’ poppilng [sic] in his pocket with the gimmicks and if he gets picked up he goes cold turkey downtown. In five minutes a cop’ll walk in here and off this laddie goes. Unless he talks, of course. In that case he can even keep what’s in his pocket.

In fact, in the book, by Vincent Joseph Monteleone entitled, “Criminal Slang: The Vernalucar of the Underground Lingo” published in 1945 and reprinted in 1949, he states that cold turkey means a number of things including:

1. to speak frankly;
2. to be arrested with the loot in one’s possession; and
3. to quit using drugs without tapering off or without drugs to relieve the withdrawal.

Going back to 1928 and the magazine “The Author & Journalist” the idiom is used on page 28 in an article by Alan Streeter entitled, “Putting ‘Cold Turkey‘ Into Writing.” Alan Streeter wrote:

… in getting stories by the “cold turkey” method. [The writer] must be able to ascertain the general standing of the merchant or the store about which the article is to be written.

Oddly enough, in a book by Theodore Roosevelt published in 1888, and again in 1904, and entitled “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail: An Account Of Life In The Cattle Country Of The Far West” he wrote of a gentleman known as Cold Turkey Bill in Chapter VI entitled, “Frontier Types.” In this chapter he wrote:

He was victorious over the first two or three eminent citizens whom he encountered, and then tackled a gentleman known as “Cold Turkey Bill.” Under ordinary circumstances, Cold Turkey, though an able-bodied man was no mater for The Pike; but the latter was still rather drunk, and moreover was wearied by his previous combats. So Cold Turkey got him down, lay on him, choked him by the throat with one hand, and began pounding his face with a triangular rock held in the other. To the onlookers the fate of the battle seemed decided; but Cold Turkey better appreciated the endurance of his adversary, and it soon appeared that he sympathized with the traditional hunter who, having caught a wildcat, earnestly besought a comrade to help him let it go.

No explanation is proffered in the book explaining how Cold Turkey Bill got his nickname. That being said, it was in August 1915 that the following was printed in the Oakland Tribune:

This letter talks cold turkey. It gets down to brass.

Even back in 1915, cold turkey meant to speak frankly without any gradual minimizing of words to get to the subject at hand. Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of cold turkey, and since it was used so eloquently in 1915, it’s reasonable to peg this idiom to the previous generation. In other words, it most likely was an expression that came out of the 1880s, and quite possibly from the expression talk turkey.

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

Horsepower

Posted by Admin on April 25, 2011

Back in the mid-1990s, there was a Gothic Country Music, with influences from bluegrass and European folk, and known by the name of 16 Horsepower.  Ten years and 8 CDs later, they disbanded.  Considering that this year’s 2012 Hyundai Accent features a 138-horsepower six-speed transmission, anything with only 16 horsepower may not sound terrible powerful.  But just how much power is found in one horsepower?

The fact of the matter is that a horsepower is a unit for measuring the rate of work of an engine or motor.  Horsepower is the unit of power needed to lift 165 pounds 27 inches in one second. The average horse is actually 10 to 13 times stronger than that, meaning that one horse normally is capable of producing 10 to 13 units of horsepower.

Horses are known for two things when it comes to their ability to move from place to place: power and speed.

On September 10, 1915 Montana’s Miles City Independent newspaper ran an advertisement for the Chalmers Six-40 — a two-door seven-passenger, 40 horsepower, valve-in-head motor with overhead camshaft touring car that sat two in the front seat, two in the middle seat and three in the back seat that sold for $1,350 US dollars.  In many respects, it sounds a little like today’s minivans. The ad included this tidbit of information about reasons why people may be interested in purchasing a Chalmers Six-40:

Some one said a short time ago that people buy  motor cars largely on three P’s — Paint, Price and Performance.  You can measure this wonderful Chalmers car at $1,350 by any one of these three standards.  It is right in Paint which indicates finish and wearing qualities.  It is right in Performance because no car at any price performs better than this car does. And it is right in Price.  No one in the history of the industry ever approached such quality at such a price before.

Cunard Lines has been a leading operator of passenger ships on the North Atlantic since 1839, when Canadian-born Samuel Cunard (1787–1865) was awarded the first British transatlantic steamship mail contract.  Originally named the British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company, it operated four paddle steamers that travelled between Liverpool (England), Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) and Boston (Massachusetts, U.S.A.)  In 1879, it was renamed the Cunard Steamship Company.  Back in 1839, however, steamships were between 300 and 450 horsepower.

The Brittania, one of Cunard‘s large ocean liners, crossed the Atlantic in 11 days and 4 hours, arriving in Halifax from England on July 17, 1840.   She was 207 feet (63 m) long and 34 feet (10.3 m) across the beam, had three masts and a power output of about 740 horsepower.   Her usual speed was about 8.5 knots or 16 km per hour on average and could carry 115 passengers and 82 crew members.

But the origin of the expression horsepower dates back to 1780 when Scottish engineer James Watt (1736-1819) realized he needed a term for power that would help him market his modified steam engine.  At the time, his competition was a horse and so he coined the expression “horsepower” so the marketplace would be able to make the comparison easily and accurately.

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

In Glorious Technicolor

Posted by Admin on November 25, 2010

Herbert Kalmus had hoped to be a concert pianist, a career choice cut short by a sports injury.  He enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied physics and chemistry.  In 1912 the firm of Kalmus, Comstock, and Wescott was formed by Herbert Kalmus and Daniel Comstock, graduates from M.I.T. and W. Burton Wescott, a self-educated mechanical genius according to all news accounts. 

In 1916 and 1917, Kalmus, Comstock and Wecott worked long and hard to overcome a number of technical problems involved with a very promising film process they invested.  The end result of the work was a set of technologies Kalmus called Technicolor.  The new word was a hybrid of the Greek word techne which meaning “art” and the the English word color.

The original Technicolor colour process (1917 – 1922) was a 2-colour additive system using a conventional black and white record that ran through a special projector with 2 apertures as well as lenses with colour filters to tint the film. This technology was hailed by everyone within the movie industry and in the general public as one of the greatest technological advances.

The Technicolor colour cement print (1922 – 1927) was a subtractive process that allowed cameras to film at a rate of 32 frames per second with 15 pairs of red and blue-green records.  It did away with the need for filters, which was a major problem with the original Technicolor process and allowed for colours to be reproduced with greater accuracy.  The first feature film made in Technicolor System 2 was “Toll of the Sea” produced by Joseph Schenk.  The film premiered in New York City in November 1922 and its success was Technicolor‘s first profitable venture since the company was founded in 1915.

But the love affair between the general public and Technicolor wasn’t always universal.  Back on December 28, 1924 Mordaunt Hall reviewed the movie “So This Is Marriage” for the New York Times and gave a negative critique of the color technology:

Although the Technicolor section of “So This Is Marriage” is beautiful, it is questionable whether it adds much to the picture.  Often such ideas detract from the actual interest in the story, whether the narrative supposed to be told by one of the characters is in color or not.

The Technicolor two-color dye transfer print (1927 – 1933) was the next step in Technicolor’s evolution.  Instead of a duplicate negative that would be dyed and cemented to the black and white negative, everything was generated from the camera negative.  This process also accommodated the addition of sound to film as the shift went from movies to “talkies.” 

In 1930, Technicolor had contracts for 36 features — 15 of which were with Warner Brothers.  Of those 15 Warner Brothers movies, 11 were full colour movies and not just black and white movies with colour sequences.  Technicolor would soon be responsible for classic films such as The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind.

The Technicolor three-strip print (1932 – 1955) saw the completion of the first “glorious technicolor” camera in 1932 that would make this process possible.  As a side note, the “glorious technicolor” camera cost in excess of $30,000 USD.  In 2010 terms, it takes approximately $13 to equal the purchasing power of $1 back in 1932.

Kalmus approached Walt Disney with the offer to allow Disney to use the new 3 color process for the first time.  Disney jumped at the idea and his first Technicolor movie, Flowers and Trees, was a resounding success with the public due, in large part, to the vibrant colours coupled with the engaging story and symphonic sound track.

It didn’t take long before movies made in technicolor made the most of that fact.   When “Her Jungle Love” starring Dorothy Lamour and Ray Milland was released in theatres, ads ran in all the newspapers.  On the last night it was playing at Petone State Theatre back in 1938, the advertisement in the Wellington (New Zealand) Evening Post newspaper read:

FINALLY TONIGHT, at 8 o’clock.
DOROTHY LAMOUR, RAY MILLAND in
— “HER JUNGLE LOVE” —
All in Glorious Technicolor.  The “Jungle
Princess” in a picture of action, romance,
and thrills.

On this side of the ocean, the Tuscaloosa News was busy promoting the movie “Men With Wings” — which also starred Ray Milland along with Fred MacMurray, Louise Campbell and Andy Devine — and not only did the word “technicolor” show up the advertisement’s headline but in the accompanying description of the movie as well:

Here they come! … Roaring into Tuscaloosa!  MEN with WINGS in glorious TECHNICOLOR!  For the first time on any screen, and in the heart-throbbing reality of Technicolor … the mighty story of America’s flying fools, gentlemen unafraid!  The whole thundering parade of American aviation, told in the heart-stirring, blood-pounding, tense human story of two boys and a girl whose romance is the romance of aviation itself.

From descriptive terms such as “heart-throbbing” and “blood-pounding” describing Technicolor movies, it’s easy to see that the general public began to associate vivid colors splashed on the big screen and, in time, with any larger-than-life collection of vivid colors found in real life and the term itself.

Posted in Advertising, Idioms from the 20th Century, Slogans | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »