Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘1940s’

Nitpicking

Posted by Admin on April 5, 2016

A nitpicker is a fussy, finicky fault-finding critic who finds small mistakes or flaws in everything, be it a person, an activity, an item, an event, et al, although sometimes the criticism is justifiable and warranted.  Usually, however, no matter how insignificant the flaw, a nitpicker will raise petty objections over the mistake or error.  Nitpicking is what nitpickers do.

In October 3, 2002, CNN News reported on the Iraq resolution that was introduced in the Senate, and hailed by then-President Bush as a show of unity at a time when war with Iraq might be unavoidable.  Then-Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had this to say about the resolution and the direction in which the White House was moving on this matter.

I’m sure the argument will be why are we nit-picking, but what I want to do at a minimum in the debate is lay out what I understand what the President’s committing to do.

Some in the Senate and in Congress were uneasy with the concept of authorizing war where no international support was perceived, but the resolution seemed to sit well enough with the majority.  In the end, Senator Lieberman declared that the moment of truth had arrived for Saddam Hussein, and America marched off to war.

It was Richard Reeves column writing for the Universal Press Syndicate (UPS) on May 16, 1992 that addressed whether Ross Perot’s political aspirations had the “endurance, perseverance, and agility” to last more  than a couple months.  He talked about the “Capitol game” where senators and representatives jostled against the rest for media attention, but not necessarily on behalf of their state’s best interests.  It was an explosive column aptly titled, “The Rise Of Nitpicking Lawmakers.”

On October 25, 1978 the Associated Press (AP) reported a situation happening in Washington, DC that had to do with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  It addressed what many called “Mickey Mouse rules” that took the focus away from major problems in the workplace.  For years, the agency had dictated even the smallest of things to employers in America including, but not limited to, mounting of fire extinguishers, how to handle portable ladders, and what toilet seats to select for the workplace environment.  The first sentence in the article said it all.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration made good on a promise to businessmen and scrapped 928 “nitpicking” safety standards Tuesday.

I’m sure that millions of employers across the nation breathed a sigh of relief over not worrying about the 928 safety standards that were stricken from the roster!

On September 6, 1988 The Telegraph published in Nashua, New Hampshire ran a quick quiz in Richard Lederer’s column, “Looking At Language.”  The columnist asked readers to figure out which of three dates for each word in a list of words was the correct date each word entered the English language.  From airsick through to yogurt, there were thirty-six words in all, and nitpick was among them.  The answer for when nitpick entered the English language was 1951, which was, of course, correct.

And how do we know this?  Because it was what was published in an article in the November 1951 edition of Colliers magazine.

Two long-time Pentagon stand-bys are fly-speckers and nit-pickers. The first of these nouns refers to people whose sole occupation seems to be studying papers in the hope of finding flaws in the writing, rather than making any effort to improve the thought or meaning; nit-pickers are those who quarrel with trivialities of expression and meaning, but who usually end up without making concrete or justified suggestions for improvement.

To make into Colliers magazine in November 1951, it was certainly an expression that was used prior to 1951, and coming from the Pentagon, it is at least from 1950 if not the 1940s.

As a side note, if you’re wondering, according to the energycommerce.house.gov website, flyspeckers and nitpickers are still employed in the Treasury department.

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Brown Out (as in “no power”)

Posted by Admin on June 3, 2011

Brown out as in “no power” (electricity) is a drop in voltage in an electrical power supply, so named because it typically causes lights to dim.  A controlled power reduction decreases the voltage on the power lines, so customers receive weaker electric current.  Brown outs can be used if total power demand exceeds the maximum available supply. The typical household does not notice the difference.

On December 28, 1965 the New York Times ran a story entitled “Merchants Fight Rome Traffic Ban, Plan Brown-Out of Stores To Force End Of Test.”  The first paragraph read:

Merchants in central Rome voted tonight to “brown out” their stores and eventually close them if the city persisted in an experimental curb on movement of private vehicles in a 35-block shopping and residential area.

During World War II, the New York Times published an article on December 11, 1943 entitled, “WPB Aide Assaults Brownout Cheats; Lack Of Voluntary Cooperation In Saving Needed Power Scored By Vanneman.”  The first paragraph read:

An end of unnecessary brilliance in the lighting of the Broadway sector and some other parts of the city was urged yesterday by Donald K. Vanneman, government requirements representative of the War Production Board, who said that “too many” business establishments had failed to do their part in the voluntary brownout intended to conserve electric power, coal and other resources. 

As you can see, the expression brown out in this instance is a derivative of the expression black out from the World War II era.

See “black out” for additional information.

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Brown Out (as in “unconscious”)

Posted by Admin on June 2, 2011

Brown out as in “unconscious” is the dimming of vision caused by loss of blood pressure or hypoxia.  It is sometimes referred to as a grey-out

A brown out can be caused by any number of things however the most common causes are shock, standing up  too quickly, experiencing positive g-force, or, oddly enough, hyperventilation from such activities as the fainting game or self-induced hypocapnia.  

Full recovery from a brown out is rapid and can be reversed quickly and effectively by lying down.  This allows the cardiovascular system to allow blood to reach the brain.

Interestingly enough, brown outs are the reverse of red outs — reddening of the vision — which is the result of negative G forces.  During brown outs, individuals can still hear, feel and speak.

A brown out can also refer to a night of heavy alcohol consumption where the individual remembers some of what happened during the time alcohol was consumed but with periods of time within that time frame where there is no recollection of what happened.  This definition has been around since the early 1980s.

Even though it’s a lesser known expression, along with the expression black out, brown out has its roots in the 1940s.

See “black out” for additional information.

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

Wheel and Deal

Posted by Admin on June 25, 2010

This term comes from gambling in the American West where a wheeler-dealer was a heavy bettor on the roulette wheel and at cards.  In time, it grew to mean to take part in clever but sometimes dishonest or immoral business deals. 

Anyone who could “wheel and deal” in this way was certainly someone who could operate, manipulate and control situations for his or her own interest, especially in an aggressive or unscrupulous way.

By the 1940s, this colloquialism came to be mean the unsavory business dealings associated with perceived and actual big-time operators.

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