Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1957’

Icing On The Cake

Posted by Admin on November 1, 2016

The best part of any cake is the icing, or so most people say.  When the icing on the cake is something other than the sugary topping we all know, it means a pleasing situation was made even better due to an unexpected bonus.  Of course, there are those who are pessimists and who will use the expression sarcastically but most people seem to be optimists when it comes to using this idiom.

This year, the Chicago Cubs are battling it out with the Cleveland Indians for the title of World Cup winners for 2016.  After Game 5, Chicago was trailing two games to Cleveland’s three.  The idiom was used in the New York Daily newspaper article, “Eddie Vedder, Jon Lester Help Give Retiring Cubs Catcher David Ross A Night To Remember At Wrigley Field” published on October 31, 2016.

That Ross was able to contribute to the Cubs’ first World Series home win in 71 years was icing on the cake. His fourth-inning sacrifice fly proved to be the game-winning RBI, while he also threw out Francisco Lindor trying to steal second, doing his best to counter Jon Lester’s well-documented issues with holding runners on base.

Canadian-born character actor and playwright John McLiam (24 January 1918 – 16 April 1994) wrote and published his play, “The Sin Of Pat Muldoon” in 1957.

PAT:
You’re wasting your time.  The things you call sin have been to me the beauties of life.  They’ve helped me to know more of myself and people and the world I live in.

FATHER:
Sin is death to the soul.  Sin is an insult to God.

PAT:
There are sins and there are sing, but the sins I speak of are the chocolate icing on the cake of life.  Father, you ought to be more careful, if nobody sinned, you’d be out of a job.

FATHER:
Since you won’t recognize me as your priest, you may perhaps accept me as a man and friend of your family.  There is something I must say to you.

PAT:
Go ahead.  Shoot the works.

In Victorian times (20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901), the more refined the sugar used in making icing for cakes, the whiter the icing.  Because it was difficult to secure very fine sugar and because it was a costly luxury, the whiter the icing on a cake, the wealthier the family was thought to be.  Of course, if you were already enjoying cake, this was a good thing.  If you were enjoying cake with icing, this was an even better thing.  And enjoying cake with very white icing was the best thing imaginable.   But how far back does icing actually go?

The previous century, in 1769, Elizabeth Raffeld published her book, “The Experienced English Housekeeper.”  In this very helpful tome, the author shared the first published recipe for confectionery icing for cakes.  That being said, icing for cakes had been around for over 200 years at the time of publication even if this was the first published recipe for icing.

According to this recipe book, sugar and icing were part of making a Good Great Oxford-shire Cake.  Here are the directions as they are found in “The Compleat Cook, Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, For Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry” published in 1658.

ice-the-cake_1658

To make a very Good Great Oxford-shire Cake

Take a peck of flower by weight, and dry it a little, & a pound and a halfe of Sugar, one ounce of Cinamon, half an ounce of Nutmegs, a quarter of an ounce of Mace and Cloves, a good spoonfull of Salt, beat your Salt and Spice very fine, and searce it, and mix it with your flower and Sugar; then take three pound of butter and work it in the flower, it will take three hours working; then take a quart of Ale-yeast, two quarts of Cream, half a pint of Sack, six grains of Amber-greece dissolved in it, halfe a pint of Rosewater, sixteen Eggs, eight of the Whites, mix these with the flower, and knead them well together, then let it lie warm by your fire till your Oven be hot, which must be little hotter then for manchet; when you make it ready for your Oven, put to your Cake six pound of Currans, two pound of Raisins, of the Sun stoned and minced, so make up your Cake, and set it in your oven stopped close; it wil take three houres a baking; when baked, take it out and frost it over with the white of an Egge and Rosewater, well beat together, and strew fine Sugar upon it, and then set it again into the Oven, that it may Ice.

But nearly 200 years before that recipe, frosting (or icing — whichever term you prefer) was already happening to cakes.  Marchpanes became frosted marchpanes in 1494 when a paste of almonds and granulated sugar was used to add a decorative topping to them.

Even with all this information about icing and cakes, when did the icing on the cake become the saying we know it to be and not just something that pastry chefs did, and continue to do, to cakes?

Hostess Bakery was mass producing cupcakes by 1919, but it wasn’t until the early 1950s that buttercream frosted cupcakes made with confectioner’s sugar, butter, cream, and flavorings began to appear.  So those yummy Hostess cupcakes weren’t just yummy cupcakes in the 1950s.  They were yummy cupcakes with frosting.  They were iced!  BONUS!

Oddly enough, Idiomation was unable to find the expression published prior to John McLiam’s play “The Sin Of Pat Muldoon.”  This means that the icing on the cake meaning an added bonus to an already good thing happening has only been happening for about seventy years.  Idiomation therefore pegs this expression to the mid-1950s, and it may just be John McLiam who coined that phrase.

So does icing on the cake mean the same thing as frosting on the cake, frosting your cookies or cherry on top (from the French idiom la cerise sur le gâteau)?  Idiomation is looking into the historical backgrounds of these three expressions, and will publish findings in the near future.

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Pour Salt In An Open Wound

Posted by Admin on December 9, 2010

Whether it’s “pour salt in an open wound” or “rub salt in an open wound” or simply “salt in wound” the meaning is the same.  Whatever has been said or done, hurts as much as having salt applied to a wound in the hopes that it will make everything better eventually.

In May 1965, “A Hurt Mother” wrote to Dear Abby wherein she complained:

I have never been a butting-in mother-in-law, but my sons’ wives never cared much for me.  I’ve never gone to their homes without an invitation, and those invitations were very rare.  But the wives’ families were always in and out.  I wasn’t missed.  My sons slowly turned away from me.  On Mother’s Day I always get expensive gifts with beautiful cards with verses saying what a wonderful mother I am and how much they love me! It is like rubbing salt in the wound.  One son hasn’t been in my home for three years.

Back on September 12, 1957, the Milwaukee Journal carried a somewhat amusing story about President Eisenhower.  It seems that he had taken some time away from his formal duties as President for a round of gold in Newport, Rhode Island.  The news bite entitled “Ike’s Gold Slips, Then He Gets Salt In Wound” relayed that:

President Eisenhower has been playing something less than satisfying golf since he started his vacation at this seaside resort.  He has been shooting two and three strokes over par on an embarrassing number of holes at the Newport Country Club.  And as though his own efforts were not enough, the chief executive underwent a shaking experience the other day.  A man playing in front of him shot a hole in one.  The lucky golfer was Gus Pagel, an electrical designer who plays at the country club on week ends.  Pagel, of course, was delighted to the point of jabbering to every person within range of his voice.   The president made the clubhouse turn and encountered Pagel, who told him in painstaking detail about his wonderful shot.  “I’ve only seen two of those,” the president said seriously.  “Well, sir, I’ve only seen one,” Pagel replied.

In 1949, The Spartanburg Herald carried a column by Robert Ruark.  On March 4 he wrote a piece entitled “Robert Ruark Says Navy and Air Force Carrying On Cold War.”  It was a lengthy piece and near the end of the piece, he wrote:

A lot of Navy feels today that if Mr. Symington fulfills an undeclared but fairly obvious aim to control everything that flies then the big Navy is a defunct duck.  Along these lines the Air Force’s successful public relations coups, such as stealing the Navy’s present show with a dashing feat like the round-the-world nonstop trip, is sheer salt in wound, and regarded as remarkably dirty pool.  The assumption is that a tour de force like the big round-tripper is coldly designed to impress Congress and the public with the fact that you no longer need a special air branch in your sea forces, and that ground-based airpower can win all alone.

The Glasgow Herald published a review of the movie “Sweet Devil” on June 21, 1938 that read in part:

British comedy films in many foreign countries have the reputation (however unjustly) of being close to the custard pie stage.  It would have been much better in this film if the custard pie throwing had been omitted — it was too much like rubbing salt in the wound.  Bobby Howes and Jean Gillie can hardly be expected to rise above such adolescent humour.  Such characters as t hey are supposed to portray never existed, except in Mack Sennett’s earliest efforts.

In the end, though, the phrase “salt in the wound” comes from the days when salt was rubbed into wounds as an antiseptic.   During the earlier centuries, when England was establishing its navy, most sailors were forced into service.  While at sea, punishment was often lashes with a cat’o’nine tails. These whippings would almost always break the skin, and salt was rubbed into the wound to prevent infection.  In this way, “salt in wound” was a very literal, stinging phrase.

And then there are those who will tell you that the early beginnings of the phrase come from the Bible.  Jesus did not tell his disciples, “You are the sugar of the world.” He is credited as saying to them, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Even back then in ancient times, doctors would sprinkle wounds with salt in the hope of fighting off infection. 

Since salt was an antiseptic that performed the negative function of preventing meat from spoiling and the positive function of disinfecting wounds.  The sting of having one’s negative behaviours brought to the forefront by the teachings of the disciples was akin to “salt in wound.”

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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.

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