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Posts Tagged ‘1945’

Kneehigh To A Grasshopper

Posted by Admin on January 15, 2022

Recently, Billie Morgan asked Idiomation to research Whoa Nellie. She shared that she had heard the expression since she was kneehigh to a grasshopper. Upon reading that, Heather Farley asked Idiomation to research kneehigh to a grasshopper‘s origins, and this week’s entry does just that.

First off, for those who may not know, when someone is kneehigh to a grasshopper it means they are (or were at the time) very young or are (or were at the time) very short in stature. At the beginning, referring to someone as kneehigh to a grasshopper was called ludicrous description by editors of various dictionaries, and yet, the expression persisted.

While the idiom fell out of favor for about 50 years beginning in 1960, in 2010, there was a marked uptick in the use of the expression. Of note is the fact that in the decade before it fell out of decade, there was a marked decline — as in a nosedive — from 1950 to 1960.

Idiomation suspects the United States War Department sincerely believed the idiom was one Russians might understand as they included it in their “Dictionary of Spoken Russian: English-Russian, Russian-English” published in 1945 with an entry on the Russian-English side.

And in 1924, the votes of fourteen leading children’s librarians regarding children’s books published in 1923 included a book by American novelist, illustrator, and children’s book author Anne Parrish (12 November 1888 – 5 September 1957) entitled “Knee-high to a Grasshopper” which was illustrated by her brother American painter George Dillwynn “Tim” Parrish (25 July 1894 – 6 August 1941). The book was 209 pages in length, and was published by MacMillan Publishers.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: Anne Parrish was a runner-up for the Newberry Medal three times between 1925 and 1951. In 1925, her third collaboration with her brother titled, “The Dream Coach” was nominated.

INTERESTING SIDE SIDE NOTE 1: George Dillwynn “Tim” Parrish attended Harvard University where he became friends with American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright Edward Estin Cummings (14 October 1894 – 3 September 1962) known as e e cummings, and Pulitzer Prize winner, writer, and poet Conrad Aiken.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: The year she published “Knee-high to a Grasshopper” she also published her first romantic novel, “Pocketful of Poses.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3: In 1925, her novel “The Pereniial Bachelor” won the Harper Prize from the publisher, Harper & Brothers, and was the eighth best-selling book on the New York Times Best Seller list for all of 1925.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 4: Anne Parrish’s book “All Kneeling” was published in 1928 which also made the annual best-sellers list. In 1950, it was made into a movie titled, “Born To Be Bad” which starred British-American actress Joan Fontaine (22 October 1917 – 15 December 2013) and American actor Robert Ryan (11 November 1909 – 11 July 1973).

The book was highly recommended by Elisabeth Knapp ( unknown – 15 April 1931), children’s librarian at the Detroit Public Library, and was suggested for even small libraries with limited selections available. Ms. Knapp went on to be come the chief of the Detroit Public Library Children’s Department.

In Volume 15 of “Popular Monthly” magazine published in 1883 and edited by English-born American engravor, illustrator and publisher Frank Leslie (29 March 1821 – 10 January 1880) a story was included titled, “On A Field Argent, A Swan Azure.” The story also appeared in Volume 8 of “Boys of England: A Young Gentleman’s Journal of Sport, Sensation, Fun, and Instruction” published in 1870 by Victorian editor and publisher Edwin John Brett (27 December 1827 – 15 December 1895). Unfortunately, in both cases, the author’s name has been omitted. The idiom is used in the story was in quotation marks.

All this was nine years ago. I am twenty-three, and have been married four years to a cousin of mine, or a cousin-germain, as the French call such a relation as he is to me; one Captain Belfait, who loved me so he says from the I was “kneehigh to a grasshopper.” My boy is a beautiful boy, too, but I have not forgotten “Petit Pierre,” nor has he forgotten me.

There was knee-high to a mosquito in 1824 and knee-high to a bumblee in 1833. There was knee-high to a splinter in 1841 and there was knee-high to a huckleberry in 1854. There knee-high to a bantam and knee-high to a cocksparrow in 1856, and knee high to a katydid in 1861. There was even knee-high to a duck in 1899 but being knee-high to a grasshopper — just a plain old grasshopper — is found in The Democratic Review in 1851:

You pretend to be my daddies; some of you who are not knee-high to a grasshopper!

The earliest idiom that used the comparison of being knee-high to anything is found in The Portsmouth Oracle in New Hampshire, published by Charles Turrell, back in 1814. This was the year farmer, shipbuilder, and statesman John T. Gilman (19 December 1753 – 1 September 1828) ran for Governor of New Hampshire.

“One … who, as farmer Joe would say, is about knee high to a toad.”

Knee-high to a toad?

Well, somewhere along the line, everything but the grasshopper seems to have fallen away and while the first published version with a grasshopper is in 1851, there were lots of other animals and insects and fowl who auditioned for the phrase before grasshoppers won the contest.

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

Shutterbug

Posted by Admin on November 26, 2010

Shutterbug refers strictly to the world of photography but in recent years, it has come to include video taping and animation. Photographers taking shots via cell phones, however, are not considered shutterbugs as those photos are for social networking purposes and not for the art or beauty of the photograph.

Over the years, the term “shutterbug” has been used in print and broadcast media and in conversations, however, the origins of the term “shutterbug” is far more difficult to trace.

The Pittsburgh Press ran a news story on December 30, 1945 about a book entitled, “Mr. Digby” written by Douglass Welch and published by Putnam Books.  The hero of the book, Mr. Robert H. “Happy” Digby, was a photographer for the Central City Informer.  The book review headline in the newspaper read:

Story About A Shutterbug: News Photographer Hero of Book

Elsa Maxwell’s Party Line was a column that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  On August 11, 1943 Elsa’s column was dedicated to Miriam Hopkins whom she referred to as a “winsome wisp of vitality.”  In her column she wrote:

For, if not an expert, she is, at least, a most competent shutterbug.  She photographed her way around Europe in 1936, and probably has the last pictures of the Vienna of yesterday.

The Los Angeles Times ran a column called Camera Corner and back in February 1939, Harold Menselsohn responded to a question sent to him by Raymonde Geemar.  His response read in part:

Shutterbug Raymonde Geemar wants to know how to focus a ground glass-type camera in making pictures at night when conditions are none too good. Use the same method press photographers employ.

Before 1939, I was unable to locate published references for the word shutterbug however it was most certainly being used frequently in every day conversations for it to be used so easily in newspaper articles of the day.

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

You Never Had It So Good

Posted by Admin on July 13, 2010

In the movie, the Princess Bride, the following exchange is witnessed:

MIRACLE MAX:
Get back Witch!

VALERIE:
I’m not a witch, I’m your wife and after what you just said, I’m not sure I want to be that anymore.

MIRACLE MAX:
You never had it so good.

So where exactly did this phrase originate?  Surely it must have a long and colourful history.  Well, not exactly.

The phrase “you’ve never had it so good” is associated with the Conservative politician, Harold MacMillan (1894–1986), and refers to a speech he made as Prime Minister on 20 July 1957.  His exact words were: “Let us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good.”

At the time he said those words, he was correct however soon afterwards, inflation, rising unemployment and disruptive labour disputes were responsible for undoing the slow economic growth Britain had seen up until that point.

However, MacMillan didn’t just happen across that phrase accidentally as itw as used as the Democratic slogan for the 1952 U.S. Elections.  We’d like to think that some hardworking public relations guy working on campaigns came up with that phrase but it’s a little older than that even.

You see, the U.S. newspaper The Sunday Morning Star reported in September 1945 that this was the stock answer used in the U.S. Army when enlisted men complained about U.S. Army life.

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

Two Bits

Posted by Admin on February 26, 2010

Back in 1720, the term “two bits” became part of the language in the American colonies.  Referencing “pieces of eight” when one spoke of “two bits” they meant two pieces of the eight that made up a dollar.

In time, since two pieces of the eight was a quarter of the dollar, two bits was also referred to as a “quarter.”

As with all phrases, in time it came to mean cheap and tawdry as in a two-bit saloon (first recorded use of this meaning was in 1875) and two-bit politicians (first recorded use of this meaning was in 1945).

The first reference to “two bits” meaning something cheap and tawdry was first recorded 1929

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