Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1944’

Ballpark Figure

Posted by Admin on July 10, 2021

When someone asks for a ballpark figure or a ballpark estimate, they are interested in a somewhat qualified number guesstimate and are willing to accept a very rough estimate where necessary. Sometimes the figure guessed at is pretty close to bang on and sometimes the estimate is so far off-base as to be completely without merit. That being said, one shouldn’t confuse a ballpark figure with a good faith estimate.

In the Fall of 2019, Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith told the media that the first space trips on New Shepard would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Speaking at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF conference, he stated new technology is never cheap but that the cost of a ticket for middle-class people would eventually be affordable. Until then, GeekWire‘s Alan Boyle reported Bob Smith “hinted at a ballpark figure.”

The Polk County Enterprise newspaper of Livingston (TX) — a semi-weekly newspaper that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising — ran an story with an interesting headline in Volume 117, Number 64, Edition 1 of their newspaper published on 12 August 1999. The article by Enterprise reporter, Emily Banks, reported County Judge John Thompson had asked Clyde Arrendell who was the chief appraiser of the Polk Central Appraisal District to a budget workshop. Emily Bank reported:

Emphasizing that all figres were “ballpark figures” Thompson reviewed the budget schedule, as well as the county’s tax history from 1982 forward.

The title of the news article was this: Court Studies Budget with Ballpark Figures.

In the book “Surviving in the Newspaper Business; Newspaper Management In Turbulent Times” written by William James (Jim) Willis (born 19 March 1946) and published in 1988, the writer paraphrased what Marion Krehbiel, former president of the major newspaper brokerage firm Krehbiel-Bolitho Newspaper Service, Inc. had stated in the late 1970s with regards to arriving at a fair market price for a small to medium size daily newspaper.

Krehbiel added a caveat to these indexes, however, when he noted in 1979 that this forumula is only meant to provide purchasers with a ballpark estimate of a newspaper’s worth.

The 24 June 1957 edition of The Des Moines Register included the column “Washington Memo” which purported to report on what was going on in Washington DC. In this edition, immediately after reporting on how an Army colonel felt about one of this tasks which came about after a Southern congressman “yelped about [the Army’s] handling of racial relations.” Here’s what readers learned next.

CODE: Pentagon language continues to produce new bafflers. One of them is “a ballpark figure” meaning a very rough estimate which doesn’t do much more than indicate that a given program is going to cost somebody an awful lot of money.

Kenneth Patchen (1911 – 1972) wrote “Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer” which was published by the New Directions Publishing Corporation in 1945. In this book, the concept of the ballpark figure is used in conjunction with being out in left field on page 101 in the chapter titled, “The Last Party I Ever Went To.”

“Miro complicates it simply because he doesn’t know how to handle his material.”
“But Arp does, I suppose.”
“Of course he does.”
“You’re way out in left field.”
“And you not even in the ball park.”
I poured it out. The sand looked very sticky and the leaves on the tree were getting sort of yellow around the edges.
“And what about De Niro? This is a serious young painter.”
“All right, what about Kamrowski? – or Lee Bell? – or Jackson Pollock? – or Arthur Sturcke?”

He wasn’t the first to coin the phrase though as some sources claimed. On 1 May 1944, The Morning Herald in Hagerstown (MD) was reporting that on what a senator claimed about U.S. aid for that year.

Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., said in a speech that total U.S. aid for the current year is about $250 million. He said “a ballpark figure” is that his proposal would halt $150 million to $180 million.

Idiomation realizes that many websites claim the expression dates back to the mid-sixties with the understanding we have of the idiom these days, but obviously it was around before then for it to be used in a newspaper article twenty years earlier with the expectation that readers would understand what the idiom meant.

Unable to find an earlier published version of ballpark figure, Idiomation pegs this idiom to at least ten to fifteen years earlier for it to be used to freely in a newspaper article in 1944.

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

Vegan

Posted by Admin on March 5, 2015

What is a vegan?  A vegan is someone who abstains from using animal products.  Not only do they not eat meat, fish, or poultry, they don’t use anything that uses animal products or by-products.  They don’t eat eggs, dairy products, or honey, and they don’t wear leather, fur, silk, or wool.  They don’t use cosmetics, crayons, medication in capsule form, or soaps that are derived from animal products.  And they are not to be confused with vegetarians.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune of December 10, 1997 led with a story on the front page of Section E with an article written by Jessica Wehrman that discussed the vegan lifestyle in detail.  The subheading read:  The trend toward a meatless diet is driven by religion and consideration for health, environment and animals.  Along with the article was a list of resources for readers interested in learning more about the vegan lifestyle, and, of course, the article was titled, “Going Vegan.”

In Volume 49 of “Today’s Health” published by the American Medical Association in 1971, the issue was discussed in an article.  It included this passage:

Does the word “vegan” mean vegetarian? Are vegetarians healthier than persons who eat animal products? A vegan is considered to be a strict vegetarian — that is, a person who eats no animal products.

And in Volume 106 of the “Journal of the Royal Society of Arts” an article can be found on page 117 that included this passage:

In some vegan women (teachers and housewives, for example) their dietary protein provided only 8.7 to 10. 1 per cent of their total dietary calories, as compared with an average of about 12 per cent in normal British post-war diets.

Interestingly enough, entering the 1950s, vegans can be found in a number of science fiction stories, especially those in the pulp fiction genre.

However, sandwiched between all the great science fiction stories that include extraterrestrial vegans lies the historical facts of vegans who do not consume animal products or by-products.

In November 1944, a strict vegetarian by the name of Donald Watson (2 September 1910 – 16 November 2005) who was also a member of the Leicester Vegetarian Society decided to begin his own movement.  He and others had grown dissatisfied with vegetarians who consumed dairy and eggs.

He issued his first newsletter entitled, “Vegan News” and he was quoted as stating that the word vegan was meant to represent “the beginning and end of vegetarian.”  The word, in a nutshell (pardon the pun) was a stand against vegetarians who consumed dairy and eggs.

Shortly thereafter, the first vegan cookbooks were published:  “Vegetarian Recipes Without Dairy Produce” by Margaret B. Rawls, and “Vegan Recipes” by Fay K. Henderson.

Even today, within the vegetarian community there are factions:  pollotarians (those who eat chicken and eggs), pescetarians (those who eat fish), and flexetarians (those who eat primarily plants but occasionally include small amounts of meat).  But the only group to break away from the vegetarian movement and create a movement all their own are vegans.  All the others are vegetarians of a different color.

Idiomation conclusive pegs the term vegan to 1944 and Donald Watson.

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

For The Birds

Posted by Admin on January 17, 2011

If it’s worthless, not to be taken seriously, and no good, and if the individual speaking deems it useless, and unacceptable, chances are you’ll that person say the idea, group, individual, ideology or event is strictly for the birds.

Sixty years ago, on December 2, 1951, the Telegraph Herald newspaper of Dubuque, Iowa reported on U.S. gamblers who were leery of the federal gambling tax stamp.  The stamp didn’t license gamblers. The stamp meant the gambler was eligible to pay a 10 percent tax on his “handle” — the amount of money he took in on bets.  The law had come into effect just a month earlier on the first of the month.  And what was the effect of this new law?

The sheriff’s office at Los Angeles, where only 26 registrations were on the books, reported that many bookies were switching to the dope racket, prostitution and other “non-taxable” pursuits.

A Washington, D.C., bookie declared:  “I’m quitting.  This racket was tough enough in the first place.  Now with the G-men breathing on your neck it’s strictly for the birds.”

A few people bought stamps because they thought it would legalize their gambling business. When they discovered it wouldn’t, they wanted their money back.

On October 20, 1944, the Lewiston Evening Journal in Illinois ran an article from guest star, Sgt. Buck Erickson of Camp Ellis.  He was quoted as saying:

“Don’t take too seriously this belief that we have football at Camp Ellis solely for the entertainment of the personnel — that’s strictly for the birds.  The Army is a winner.  The Army likes to win — that’s the most fortunate thing in the world for America.”

But long before then and long before cars were the preferred mode of transportation, horse-drawn carriages in New York left reminders along the way that let people know horse-drawn carriages had passed that way. To put it as politely as possible, the scavenger birds in New York found those reminders to their liking. 

Back in the day, when someone in New York politely said that something was for the birds, they were not-so-politely saying it was something else altogether.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Cold Day In Hell

Posted by Admin on January 10, 2011

When you hear someone say it will be a cold day in Hell before something happens, it means it will either never happen or it’s highly unlikely to happen.  The phrase hasn’t lost much of its punch over the years and has the same bite it seems to have always had.

On July 20, 1990, the Los Angeles Times reported on the Republicans block of the Democrats’ $55.4 billion spending proposal.  In fact, it was reported that Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, the representative for San Francisco said:

I know you (Republicans) hate people on welfare. Well, I was one of those poor children on welfare. I was raised on welfare. There are a lot of poor children out there who deserve our support, who deserve to be able to eat, who deserve to be able to sleep. I’m going to fight for those children. It will be a cold day in Hell before I participate in a society giving up on its children.

Back in 1944, after Ernest Graham lost his bid for governor for the state of Florida, the Miami Herald wrote:

It will be a cold day in Hell when anybody from Miami will be elected governor.

Going all the way back to July 7, 1886, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper published an article written by F.B. Doyle with a headline that read:

It Will Be A Cold Day In July And Mighty Late In The Evening When The People Desert General Gordon

Considering that the article was only 183 words long, the 20-word headline summed up the article quite nicely.  At the time, General Gordon secured the necessary majority of the delegates-elect to the Democratic state convention.

It was widely believed that his nomination — and having two-thirds of the delegates behind him — and election to the governorship would follow as a matter of course.  It was widely reported in the newspapers of the day that Gordon’s campaign — in its inception, progress and results — was without precedent or parallel in the history of Georgia.

And while the phrase a cold day in Hell or a cold day in July seems to be commonplace in the late 1800s, Idiomation was unable to find a published reference to the phrase prior to 1886.

As a side note, it’s a fact that Hell — which is between Flint and Ann Arbor in Michigan — froze over in 2004.

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Basket Case

Posted by Admin on December 20, 2010

The term basket case usually refers to a person who is a nervous wreck.  It also refers to a country or organization as evidenced by a story run by the Los Angeles Times on September 23, 1994.  The headline read:

Haitian economy, infrastructure a basket case
Nation lacks everything, needs repair from ground up

However, back in 1971, due to the war for independence that Bangladesh waged against Pakistan, Bangladesh was labeled by an official in Henry Kissinger’s U.S. State Department as an “international basket case.”

A year earlier, in 1970, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was suffering from severely degraded ecosystems.  The U.S. National Park Service considered the park to be an “ecological basket case.”  Over the years, the damage was reversed but this does not negate the fact that 40 years ago, it was an “ecological basket case.”

Before that, it was a grim slang during World War I, referring to a person who is physically disabled in all four limbs because of paralysis or amputation.  This bulletin was issued by the U.S. Command on Public Information in March 28, 1919 on behalf of Major General M. W. Ireland, the U.S. Surgeon General and read in part:

The Surgeon General of the Army … denies … that there is any foundation for the stories that have been circulated … of the existence of ‘basket cases’ in our hospitals.

The Syracuse Herald newspaper carried the story in March 1919 and added the following explanation to its readers:

By ‘basket case’ is meant a soldier who has lost both arms and legs and therefore must be carried in a basket.

The term was retired after WWI and resurrected in WWII when a denial from the Surgeon General Major General Norman T. Kirk was issued in May 1944 which stated:

… there is nothing to rumors of so-called ‘basket cases’ — cases of men with both legs and both arms amputated.

It is therefore easy to see that until the latter quarter of the 20th century, the term basket case referred to quadriplegics whose catastrophic wounds were as a result of a battle in which they were involved. 

The term basket case in this instance has been around since about the American Civil War.  In fact, there are American museums who have wicker body baskets, circa 1870, now on display.  It is believable that these baskets were indeed the basket cases in question and that the term originated with these baskets as the following item dated November 6, 1875 in The Constitution newspaper published in Atlanta, Georgia contained this as part of the advertisement:  12 Stylish Basket Case Suits $14.

References to basket cases prior to this date could not be found by Idiomation.

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

Weasel Out

Posted by Admin on September 9, 2010

This is an American colloquialism from the early years of the 1900s.

The Daytona Beach Morning Journal reported on July 27, 1973 that then-Ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan sent a cable to the U.S. State Department threatening to resign.  In part, Mr. Moynihan wrote:

I quite understand that it might appear that we are off our rocker out here, but it comes down to a simple matter of good faith.  The trust account agreement of May 1966 … states that nonexpendable property shall be transferred to the Government of India when no longer required for the support of the U.S. assistance program.  We might have tried to weasel out, but you will need another Ambassador for such work.  The U.S. keeps its word.

Nearly 20 years earlier, on May 19, 1955, The Spokesman Review out of Spokane, WA headlined an article reporting on the dissent within President Eisenhower’s administration with regards to minimum wage proposals.  The headline boldly proclaimed:  “Extending Wage Floor Is Urged: Solon sees Effort to ‘Weasel Out’ of Proposal.”

A decade before that the St. Petersburg Times reported on February 13, 1944 that:

There is no tendency here to even think about any peace that would let Japan weasel out of complete occupation by Allied troops.

The Los Angeles Times published an article on February 16, 1938 entitled “Farmers of Pacific Coast Organize to Defend Rights” where the staff reporter wrote:

Rathburne said the board had tried to “weasel out of a tight situation and to play politics” including Postal employees in the Northwest and in Boston, Kansas City, Indianapolis and Jacksonville from the election.

While there appears to be good reason to believe that the phrase was used in the mid-1920s, since it was used with ease by print journalists in the 30s with the expectation that readers would know what was meant by the phrase .  Still,  the earliest published use of the phrase “weasel out” is from 1938.

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