Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘1926’

Picture Perfect

Posted by Admin on November 23, 2010

When something is exactly as it should be, it is said to be picture perfect. So how did this term come about?

Back on September 6, 1977, the Montreal Gazette ran a story about NASA’s Voyager 1 lift off in Florida.  The headline announced:  “Voyager’s Start Picture-Perfect” as the first paragraph trumpeted:  “Voyager 1 blasted off towards the outer planets yesterday in a near-flawless launch, joining its twin space probe Voyager 2 on a 675-million-mile journey to Jupiter and beyond.”

A generation before that, readers of the Milwaukee Journal back on May 18, 1950 were delighted to find a recipe for Picture Perfect Strawberry Preserves printed in their local newspaper.  The description under the headline read:  “The whole fruit with  natural color and flavor make these out of this world.”  All it took to make Picture Perfect Strawberry Preserves was 4 cups of strawberries, 4 cups of beet sugar and 1/2 cup of water plus a lot of attention paid to just 3 ingredients while cooking up those preserves.

And a generation before that, the Reading Eagle newspaper published an advertisement for the Glen-Gery Shale Brick Brick Home on March 28, 1926.  The description read:

When you build your brick home make it a thoroughbred — brick footings, walls, bearing partitions, chimneys, and fireplaces.  And surround it with harmony that makes the picture perfect — brick walks, brick drive, and brick garage.  Banish painting, repairing and that “wish I had” feeling that comes when it’s too late.  Look for the “100% Brick Home” sign before you buy.  Cost?  Not so much more than for any type of construction.  You can even build with brick at no extra cost.  Come in – let’s talk it over.

In the end, however, the term “picture perfect” was coined in America at the turn of the 20th century. As early as January 1909, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper ran a story in its ‘Savannah Social News’ column that read:

Exquisite decoration made the setting for the wedding picture perfect, quantities of lovely flowers being used in the adornment of the four rooms.

Of course, all of this can be traced back to those who, when arranging a room just so during Victorian Times when family photographs were oftentimes posed in the parlour, insisted that the room and the subjects be “perfect” for the “picture” hence the term “picture perfect.”

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Talk Is Cheap

Posted by Admin on November 19, 2010

The phrase “talk is cheap” is actually a shortened version of at least two other commonly used American idioms —  “talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whisky”  and “talk is cheap but  it takes money to buy a farm.” 

The phrase means that it’s easier for someone to say that he or she will do something than to actually do it.  In its earlier incarnations an example was provided to assist with internalizing that message.

An article headling in the Portsmouth Times published on August 21, 1958 carried the headline:  “United Nations: Talk Is Cheap.”  The story was about another skirmish in the Middle East and reported in part:

Those who have criticized the United Nations for doing nothing but talk can be thankful there has been a place to talk, which is cheap and much to the preferred over armed conflict, which is costly.

Years earlier, on October 2, 1926 in the Gridley Herald and the Lyon County Reporter — just two of several newspapers who carried the same Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company Bell System advertisement, the focus was on talk being cheap. It was a quirky yet effective advertisement with a quaint story that stated:

Talk is cheap — but it takes money to buy a farm!” Many a school yard argument of boyhood days has been ended with this homely bit of philosophy.  For the American telephone user, talk is truly cheap — cheaper than anywhere else in the world.  But it takes money to keep his telephone service cheap and to make it ever and ever cheaper.

Bell was pushing their motto of “one policy, one system, universal service.’  What’s interesting about this is that it implied that the phrase “talk is cheap but it takes money to buy a farm” went back at least one generation, to when the decision makers in the home and business worlds were merely school children.

Indeed, the L.A. Times printed an article in July 23, 1896 wherein a news story reported:

It is that talk is cheap, but that it takes votes to elect a President. The Detroit Journal calls the platform adopted at the Chicago convention “a platform of cranks, by cranks, for cranks.”

The earliest date for publication of the phrase “talk is cheap” is found in the Chicago Daily Tribune on November 21, 1891. 

Although no one can say on what date exactly Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum said “talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer” but it’s believed it was some time after 1856, when the Jerome Clock Company of East Bridgeport in Connecticut —  the company in which Barnum had invested heavily — declared bankruptcy.  P.T. Barnum lost all the money he had invested into, and loaned to, the company which was a sizeable amount by then.  For P.T. Barnum, this began four very long — and expensive — years of litigation and public humiliation.

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

I’d Rather Drink From The Cup Of Mediocrity

Posted by Admin on June 2, 2010

The complete phrase is actually: “I’d rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity.”  While this phrase has a certain old world wisdom feel to it, it is actually a very recent expression thanks to Stella Artois.

For those among you who are unfamiliar with Stella Artois, it’s important to note that Stella is a thing not a person.  The first recorded history of Stella Artois is in 1366, when records of taxes exist on Leuven’s Den Horen Brewery, a brewery that is still in existence today.

In 1708, Sebastian Artois became the master brewer at Den Horen, and gave his name to the brewery in 1717.   Stella Artois was launched as a seasonal beer for the Christmas holiday market in 1926, however, it proved to be such a success that the brand became available year round.

The advertising slogan was so successful that it won in its category at the The Global Advertising Awards and has since found its way into the English language.

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