Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘1936’

Egg On Your Face

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 3, 2018

To have egg on your face usually has a negative connotation even though it’s been a cosmetic remedy for facial blemishes for at least 300 years. When someone says another has egg on their face, it means that person looks foolish or has been embarrassed at their own hands or has made a serious mistake, although the first two meanings are more often associated with the idiom than the latter.

On the USA Today website, an article titled, “Recruiting Column: Keep Your Options Open” published on 22 April 2015 advised high school students going through the college recruiting process to be wary of how they approached the situation. A quick play-by-play on the pitfalls and power ups for student athletes were touched upon in this brief write-up. The second last paragraph included this comment.

Until you sign a National Letter of Intent, you have to keep your options open. Even college coaches will agree that you really need to be pursuing and communicating with as many schools as possible so you don’t end up with egg on your face.

In a newspaper article from the Associated Press on 7 April 1974 titled, “Keep Those Tapes Rolling” Jerry Buck interviewed American television host and media mogul Merv Griffin (6 July 1925 – 12 August 2007). In discussing how his television shows ran, Merv Griffin had this to say about the process:

We never stop the taping. I don’t care if the walls fall down. My orders are to keep the cameras going, even if I’ve got egg on my face. That’s equally interesting.

On page 5 of the January 4th edition of the Spokane Daily Chronicle in 1936, there was a news story titled, “Show Hostess You Enjoy Her Hospitality” written by Emily Kimbrough. The idiom egg on my face was used within the context we use today.

Even the American Management Association included this idiom in an article in their journal in 1934, warning those in managerial positions not to ignore or overlook problems as they came up.

If you try to sweep it under the rug, everyone ends up with egg on their faces.

Despite Idiomation’s most ardent efforts, the expression could not be found in published format earlier than 1934. However, because it was used in an article by the American Management Association where the intended readership was management at all levels, this indicates the expression was known and understood in 1934, and therefore had to be part of everyday language.

Idiomation therefore pegs this idiom to the early 1900s.

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Diamond In The Rough

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 16, 2010

The phrase “diamond in the rough” pertains to a person or an item that has potential that, to the untrained eye, is overlooked or missed completely.  The Japanese have a saying that’s not dissimilar to the phrase “diamond in the rough” — a jewel, unless polished, will not sparkle (tama migakasareba hikari nashi).

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955) was responsible for establishing the Bethune Nursery School — the first child care centre in Lynchburg (Virginia) — in February 1936.  She gave the school its motto: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Almost a century later, Mary Bethune Academy as it’s now known, believes this as much now as when the Nursery School first threw open its doors.

On February 3, 1877, the Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper ran an article about the annual anniversary meeting of the Young Men’s Christian Association held the previous Thursday in the Music Hall.  The audience was said to be very large, select and appreciative and the Hall was said to be well heated.  In the report, readers found the following:

There he was taken hold of by good John Currie, himself a brand snatched from the burning, a diamond in the rough — a good, honest, faithful, trusting Christian, who received just such men into his house, although he scarcely ever knew where he was going to get his next meal, and prayed over them until they were brought to God.  This young engineer was now leading a sober life, — a gem of Christian piety and Godly service.

The phrase is a figurative interpretation of the literal meaning as it pertains to unpolished state of diamonds, especially those that have the potential to demand the highest prices once polished.  The first recorded implied use of the phrase “diamond in the rough” can be found in John Fletcher’s A Wife For A Month written in 1624, where the author writes:

She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.

Diamond is from the early 14th century from the Old French word diamant, which is from the Middle Latin word, diamantem.  This Latin word is from an even older Latin word, adamantem which means “the hardest metal.” As a side note, the word “adamant” is from this same Latin word.

Rough is from the Old English word ruh which means “rough, untrimmed, uncultivated.” This hails from the Germanic word rukhwaz which means rough.   As a side note, use of the word rough to mean “approximate” is first recorded in 1600. 

Based on the etymology of the words “diamond” and “rough” it is reasonable to assume that it is highly unlikely any author before John Fletcher made use of the phrase prior to the publication of his book.

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