Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1922’

Hail Mary Pass

Posted by Admin on November 22, 2013

Every once in a while, you may hear someone say he or she has thrown a Hail Mary or that someone he or she knows made a Hail Mary pass.  Unless you’re in the know, you might think these people are religious zealots. They’re not. What they mean is that, with no other viable options in their opinion, someone has gone with a desperate last-ditch effort to resolve a serious problem with only the smallest of chances of success.

How did this idiom come to be, and is it an idiom that’s been around for a really long time, taking into account how long ago Jesus’ mom, Mary lived?

Many believe (and incorrectly so) that it was coined by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach in a December 28, 1975 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, with only 26 seconds to go in the championship game, and Drew Pearson caught it, made the winning touchdown and made the Dallas Cowboys the winners. Later on, Roger Staubach told the medias,”I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

So if it’s not right that Roger Staubach coined the idiom, who did and when?

Fritz Barzilauskas played in the National Football League from 1947 to 1951 and before that, he was a star player at Yale. Acting as a scout for Yale years later, the article that quoted him in the October 13, 1959 edition of the Hartford Courant was about the “spectacular 65-yard heave” that came at the 24 second mark in the Cornell versus Yale game the previous Saturday. He was quoted as saying:

“They call it their Martin Luther play,” Barzilauskas said. “The same thing at Notre Dame would be called the Hail Mary pass.”

Back on December 30, 1940 Associated Press staff writer, John Wilds, wrote about the upcoming Orange Bowl game that would see Georgetown take on Mississippi State. Joe McFadden, the Hoyas’ quarterback, was described as the freckle-faced Irishman who ran the team. The article stated in part:

McFadden — a great actor in the huddle — is willing to call any play from a straight line buck to a ‘Hail Mary’ pass with never a thought of the second-guessers.

Jumping back 8 years to January 1932, newspapers from the Moberly Monitor (which ran the story on 8 January 1932) to the Fairbanks Daily News (which ran the story on 24 January 1932) ran a story about the annual banquet of the American Football Coaches’ Association. In the article, the story told by Jim Crowley (September 10, 1902 – January 15, 1986) — one of the University of Notre Dame’s Four Horsemen coached by Knute Rockne — had to do with the game on October 28, 1922 between the North Dame Fighting Irish and Georgia Tech.  This is what Jim Crowley reportedly said:

In 1922 Notre Dame had nine sophomores on the team that went to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. In the first half Tech got a field goal and things looked pretty dark for us. In the third period Layden punted to Red Barron, who muffed. We recovered on the 20-yard line and tried three plays in vain. It was fourth down.

It so happened that we had a Presbyterian on the team. He stopped play and said to us, ‘Boys, let’s have a Hail Mary’. Well, we prayed, and Layden soon went over for a touchdown.

Believe it or not, the formula was repeated. Again Layden kicked, again Barron fumbled, again we tried three plays in vain. ‘Let’s have another Hail Mary’, said the Presbyterian. Well, again Layden went over for a touchdown.

After the game I discussed the strange series of events with our Presbyterian. ‘Say, that Hail Mary is the best play we’ve got’, he exclaimed.

While the idiom got its start in football, it has since spread out and is found in any number of situations (including business, politics, and technology) where a long-shot desperate last-ditch move is made in the hopes of coming up the winner. It’s an idiom that’s even made it into the geek community such as in the board game Blood Bowl.

That being said, the earliest published mention of the Hail Mary Pass is from 1932 and clearly stamps the expression as being from 1922.

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

Tune In

Posted by Admin on June 20, 2011

The phrase “tune in, turn on and drop out” was THE buzz phrase kicked off by Dr. Timothy Leary on September 19 1966.  The man most associated with encouraging an entire generation to drop acid — LSD — made the most of the expression “tune in” which means “to pay attention or be receptive to other’s beliefs or thoughts.”  By the time Timothy Leary spoke to over 30,000 hippies at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, the buzz phrase had been turned around a bit and was now “turn on, tune in, drop out.”  The meaning of “tune in” however remained unchanged.

When the October 9, 1960 edition of the Miami News hit the streets, it carried an article written by Clarke Ash, Sunday Editor of the newspaper, about Round 2 of the “Great Debate” between then-Senator John F. Kennedy and then-Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.  The headline read:  “The Decision? Tune In Next Month.”

A generation before that, and with the phrase growing in popularity, the Portsmouth Times ran a story on January 25, 1936 entitled, “Tune In On Al Smith.”  The Al Smith in question was former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith with his message of constructive government and sound Americanism.

On May 24, 1929 the Spokesman Review newspaper of Spokane, Washington published an article entitled “Classics Furnish New Words.”  It indicates that the expression “tune in” was part of the vernacular in 1929 and understood by newspaper subscribers.  The article read in part:

With the correct logical training that comes almost imperceptibly as one reads an inflected language, there goes along with it in Latin and Greek the matter of important, interesting and exhilarating content.  To tune in mentally with Homer, Euripides, Lucretius or Vergil is a real experience.  It has been often done.  The saddest thing about it is, of course, that those who don’t do it, can’t see it.

Radio hit a fevered pitch as the new “in thing” for households in 1922.  The New York Times along with other notable major newspapers began running radio columns to keep their readers in the know about the new medium.  In fact, radio editor Lloyd C. Greene of the Boston Daily Globe wrote a column on September 10, 1922 about the success of single tube radios and their users in the story “Citizen Radio Broadcasts.”

I have been interested in reading the different articles on remarkable reception appearing in the Globe as I myself have been experimenting with a single tube outfit with more or less success.

He added that “all could be tuned in at will by varying the value of the secondary condenser.”  And so began the induction of the phrase into every day language.

The expression was picked up by flappers and such and injected into the jargon of that generation and so successfully that the Boston Daily Globe edition of May 8, 1921 ran an article entitled, “Movie Facts and Fancies” which that identified “tune in” as part of the “new slang evolved through the popularity of the motion picture.”

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

Helter Skelter

Posted by Admin on December 30, 2010

The phrase helter skelter means that something happens very quickly but in a disorganized and confused way.  The phrase has existed since long before Charles Manson or the Beatles used the phrase. 

In fact, on November 18, 1922 the Evening Post newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand ran an article about a very successful revue that read in part:

Helter-Skelter” was an apt name for the entertainment planned and presented last night at the Concert Chamber in aid of the Mayor’s City Improvement Fund by Mr. Pat Ward, who had gathered around him apt exponents of mirth and music. 

Almost a decade earlier, on September 14, 1914, the Poverty Bay Herald in New Zealand published a news story about WWI.  The headline read:

HELTER SKELTER RETREAT CONTINUES: British and French Vigorously pursuing five days incessant Fighting – Evidences of German Rout and Demoralisation

In the previous century, Bentley’s Miscellany authored by W. Harrison Ainsworth, Esq., and published in 1841, contained the following passage:

Mr. Rasp promised to comply, and moreover to set forth his friend’s military prowess to the best advantage.

“I think,” said he, “your division stormed the Press-yard, and captured the whipping-post, during the Loyal Aldersgate Street Volunteer campaigning in 1805.”

“Right, brother Ralph,” replied the comical coffin-maker, “and when the Finsbury awkward squad routed your left wing in the City Road, and you all ran helter-skelter into the boiled buttock of beef shop in the Old Bailey, we valiant sharp-shooters protected your flank, and covered your inglorious retreat!”  And he entertained the company with this appropriate recitation.

A little over a century before that, in 1731, Irish poet Jonathan Swift wrote “Helter Skelter” which is also known as “The Hue And Cry After The Attorneys Upon Their Riding The Circuit.”

Thomas Nashe made good use of the phrase helter skelter in his ‘Four Letters Confuted’ published in 1592:

Helter skelter, feare no colours, course him, trounce him.

In the end, E. Cobham Brewer wrote in his book, “The Etymological and Pronouncing Dictionary of Difficult Words”  that helter skelter is an Old English phrase that means “in tumultuous confusion.”   Old English is defined as English used up until the middle of the twelfth century or about 1160.  While the book itself was published in 1870, Brewer was a fastidious researcher therefore identifying the earliest known date for the phrase helter skelter to Old English was not done without great effort and fact-checking on Brewer’s part.

Posted in Idioms from the 12th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

For Goodness Sake

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2010

On Wednesday, February 22, 1922, the New York Times reported that “an agreeable if not brilliant musical comedy fashioned by various hands accustomed to the trade and briskly produced last night in the Lyric Theatre” opened to rave reviews with siblings Fred Astaire playing the role of Teddy Lawrene and Adele Astaire playing the role of Suzanne Hayden in the play “For Goodness Sake.”   It was reported that the siblings were “developing into delightful comedians.”

Prior to that, it was used often and as with so many other phrases, it can be found in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  In this instance, it can be found in “Henry VIII” in Act 3, scene 1 when Wolsey says:

For goodness sake, consider what you do, how you may hurt yourself—ay, utterly grow from the King’s acquaintance, by this carriage.”

It is believed that Henry VIII was written shortly before 1613, the year in which the Globe Theatre burned down during one of the play’s earliest known performances.  It is believed that the play was relatively new and had not been presented more than 2 or 3 times prior to the fire.  However, the term was already in vogue more than a century before Shakespeare made use of it. 

On December 21, 1502 Niccolo Machiavelli‘s friend and colleague, Biagio de Buonaccorsi wrote to Machiavelli regarding the latter’s wife who complained weekly to Buonaccorsi about her husband’s absense.  Machiavelli had to leave his wife almost as soon as they were married due to business demands, leaving her to struggle with managing his personal and financial affairs.  She pleaded with Buonaccorsi to write to her husband on her behalf.  In his letter he wrote:  “Monna Marietta blasphemes God, and thinks that she has thrown away both herself and her property. For goodness’ sake give orders that she may have her own dower, like others of her position, otherwise she will lose all patience with you.”

This minced oath is even older than that as some English translations of Plato‘s Republic indicates that when Glaucon encouraged Socrates to continue his consideration of “goodness” Glaucon asked Socrates to continue “for goodness’ sake.”

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Greece, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »