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Posts Tagged ‘1929’

Savoir Faire

Posted by Admin on September 21, 2010

In a New York Times article published on November 24, 1929, journalist Edwin Clark wrote: 

Good Queen Anne, a dull and stubborn woman, resigned during a celebrated period of English history, a period comparable to that of Elizabeth or Victoria. The second oldest daughter of James II. she lacked the Stuart charm, intelligence and savoir faire.

The phrase “savoir faire” was in reference to the more genteel nuances of well-mannered behaviour.  Even those of modest upbringing could aspire to a certain “savoir faire” without appearing pretentious to those above and below their social class.

In 1850, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote to Mrs Jameson, stating:  

I have read “Shirley” lately; it is not equal to “Jane Eyre” in spontaneousness and earnestness. I found it heavy, I confess, though in the mechanical part of the writing – the compositional savoir faire – there is an advance.” 

In fact, throughout the 1800s, it appears that the phrase “savoir faire” was well known and well used.   W.P. Robertson wrote in a letter dated 1838 to Thomas Fair, Esq. that: 

Monsieur and Madame Bonpland arrived in Buenos Ayres from France.  The fame, the talents, and the science of the one — the accomplishments and fascinating matters of the other — and the savoir faire and unaffected urbanity of both — made their society to be generally sought in the capital of the provinces of the River Plate.

However prior to the 1800s, the term was used solely by the French.

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

Fuzz

Posted by Admin on August 24, 2010

The word came to mean the police  in American in 1929, when it was used as underworld slang and it gained popularity in the 1930s.   The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang marked the word as being  of unknown origin in its 1929 edition.  Two years later in 1931, it was recorded in Tramp and Underground Slang as meaning: “a detective, prison guard or turnkey.”

The explanation for hanging the term fuzz on the police is that when the police arrived at the scene of a crime, there was always a fuss.  And so, when a gang of small-time drug or liquor dealers and runners were  about to be raided by the police, they would refer to this as a fuss which eventually became fuzz.  The word fuzz stuck as slang for law enforcement officers.

The term surfaced in Britain in the 1960s and was used in both the UK and the US during the hippie era of the 60s.

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

Boondoggle

Posted by Admin on June 15, 2010

There are those who will tell you that American scoutmaster, Robert H. Link coined the term and there are those who will tell you that it was coined by a reporter for the New York Times.  What everyone agrees to regarding this term is that it is definitely a 20th Century term.

The term “boondoggle” was published in a New York Times article back in 1935 that claimed that over $3 million USD had been wasted on recreational activities for the jobless as part of the economic programs passed by Congress from 1933 to his re-election in 1936.  These programs were allegedly focused on the 3 R‘s:  Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat economic depression.  Some programs were declared unconstitutional, and others were repealed during World War II. 

However, in 1929, at the World Jamboree of Scouts in England, Robert H. Link, a scoutmaster from Rochester (NY) dubbed the standard plaited lanyard consisting of a cord worn around the neck or shoulder to hold a knife or whistle and as worn by boy scouts the world over, to be a “boondoggle.”   Such a lanyard was presented at the Boy Scout Jamboree to Lord Baden-Powell, Prince of Wales who was the founder of the Boy Scouts movement.

The New York Times adopted “boondoggle” and used it to describe the handicrafts that were being produced in the Depression-era programs and it very quickly became entrenched as a part of every day language.

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

On The Carpet

Posted by Admin on March 3, 2010

Whenever you hear that someone has been called up on the carpet, you know there’s trouble brewing for that person.

This term started in the early 1700s and referred to the cloth — known as a carpet — covering a conference table.  It came to mean that something was “under consideration or discussion.”

In 19th-century America, however, carpet meant “floor covering.”  In the day, only the boss had carpet in his office while all other offices sported bare floors.  And the only time an employee would be summoned to the boss’s office rather than to his superior’s office was when a reprimand was in order.

The first recorded use of the term “on the carpet” that referenced being reprimanded by an employer was in 1902.

One of the most famous recorded uses of the term “on the carpet” was in December 1929, Secretary of the Navy Charles Francis Adam delivered a blistering reprimand to Smedley Darlington Butler, commander the naval base at Quantico in Virginia, declaring that he was doing so at the direct personal order of the President of the United States.

This is the first time in my service of thirty-two years,” Butler is alleged to have said to Adams, “that I’ve ever been hauled on the carpet and treated like an unruly schoolboy. I haven’t always approved of the actions of the administration, but I’ve always faithfully carried out my instructions. If I’m not behaving well it is because I’m not accustomed to reprimands, and you can’t expect me to turn my cheek meekly for official slaps!”

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »