Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1958’

Shoot The Breeze

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 10, 2011

In brief, to “shoot the breeze” means to chat, gab, sit around and talk.  The phrase has been around for decades.  In fact, The Evening Independent newspaper of St. Petersburg (FL) reported on November 8, 1958 in an article entitled “TV Takes Dim View of ‘Bowery’ Chat” opened with:

Author Ben Hecht, who likes to include a little bit of everything on his nightly television chat, invited six Bowery bums to shoot the breeze with him on Friday night’s show.  But the anonymous gentlemen from Manhattan’s famous avenue of the down-and-out didn’t get close to mike or camera.  The management of stations WABC-TV was unwilling to take a chance on what they  might say.

It’s a phrase that’s been used by respected newspapers and on May 5, 1957, the New York Times ran an article about then-Senator Richard L. Neuberger’s suggestion to Congress, entitled “Congress Urged to Get, Not Shoot, the Breeze.

The Guide to U.S. Naval Academy 149 has an entry for the phrase “shoot the breeze” that states it means “to refight the Civil War, etc.”  In fact, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on April 20, 1942 that warned citizens that the new slang of the  modern Navy resembled  a completely separate language — a new and almost unintelligible jargon — a mixture of technical terms, abbreviations and sailorese.  To give readers a taste of the new jargon, the article included this line:

When two old seagoing friends get together again they’ll shoot the breeze but they won’t be hitting the shore until things are squared away.

Vic Bourasaw was aboard the U.S.S. Ramsay and stationed in Pearl Harbor at the time.  He wrote in his diary that his ship had the “Ready” duty beginning at 0800 on December 7, 1941 and then:

Our liberty was up at 0730. I came aboard about 0735 and went down to our (chief petty officer) quarters. There were eleven of us CPO’s. We were sitting around shooting the breeze and having our morning cup of mud (coffee).  There was some blasting as one of the chiefs remarked, starting at 0755. I got up and looked out from the forward hatch and what I saw caused me to say: “fellows man your stations we are being bombed by the Japs!”

Almost three weeks later, on December 26, 1941, he wrote the following:

Quite a few hours afterwards, while away aboard ship, shooting the breeze about our youngsters — seems like most of the men, older ones have kids or one at least. A Hawaiian girl that lives next door to us sure got a drag with me. Brought me over a shot of Alky. The liquor stores have been closed since Dec. 7th.

The phrase “shoot the breeze” is very likely a variation of “talking into the wind” which was recorded in an Ohio newspaper, The Portsmouth Times on March 26, 1932 when an article entitled “Dreamer’s Delayed Recognition” reported the following:

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the hundredth anniversary of whose death was marked with fitting ceremonies last Tuesday here and abroad, would have said the same thing.  A half hundred other searching dreamers would have sold it.  And they, like Doctor Hauptman, would be talking into the wind.  Deep and endless pondering produces prophecies sand criticisms for which there can be no understanding audience until the world closes the gap between the moss mind and the scouts who run centuries before it.

Idiomation was unable to find any published version of “shoot the breeze” or “talk into the wind” prior to 1932 however the ease with which it was used in the Portsmouth Times story indicates that “talk into the wind” was an idiom that was understood in the 1930s.  It is, therefore, reasonable to believe that the phrase “talk into the wind” was part of every day language in the 1920s.

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In Vivid, Living Color

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 24, 2010

Although movies had been filmed in colour since the 1920s, there were times when a movie theatre just had to make the most of it when promoting a new movie.  And there were times when advertisers made the most of the phrase “in vivid, living colour” outside of movie making situations.

As recently August 2009, the phrase “in vivid, living colour” was used in the daily internet publication,  American Thinker.  Devoted to the “thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans” the entry entitled “ObamaCare and Bush League Democrats” the author, J. Robert Smith wrote:

At a recent town hall, a pretty little girl, whose mother was an early Obama supporter, read a question from a slip of paper.  The President, knowing that the ball would be teed-up, swung hard and level.  Bang!  To the delight of his fans, a homer.  But tee-ball doesn’t matter, not if you can’t manage the game.   The President watches TV and reads the daily rags.  Not even MSNBC or The New York Times can ignore widespread popular unrest.  In vivid living color, the President sees very un-Alinsky seniors and middle class Americans give the what-for to shrinking, mealy-mouthed Democrats — daily. 

Back in the early 1980s, as inflation was running rampant in America, stories abounded, telling the woeful tale of poor housing markets and mortgages in default among other things.  In an article in the Deseret News run in May 28, 1981, the editor ran a story entitled, “Pity Poor Folks Who Live High Above the Tide Of Inflation.”  It read in part:

He bought his second home when they weren’t so popular.  He put down as little as he could and he borrowed the rest at interest rates less than half those of today.  If pressed, he refinanced.  Now he may rent his place at big prices to those with money beyond their immediate means.  These are among the people who own those places the day-trippers envy.  Unlike so many hourly and salaried workers, they  have the ability to float rather than be swamped by the inflation tide.  Various studies have long shown the sharp dichotomy in the two styles of life, but there is nothing like a day trip to the prime resorts near every population center to bring home the point in vivid, living color.

For Christmas 1966, the Gettysburg Times newspaper ran an advertisement for Ziegler Studios that read:

Have Your Family Portrait Taken For Christmas!  There’s still time … and it’s a swell idea either for a gift, or a gift to yourselves and your home.  But HURRY … the deadline for accepting appointments is near … and so is Christmas!  Don’t think about it anymore … call us today and make your appointment for a setting in your home and our studio.  Nothing will give more than your family in vivid, living color mounted in an attractive frame.

It wasn’t just e-magazines, bad economies and professional photographers that made use of the term either.  The Ludington Daily News ran an article in the June 24, 1963 edition entitled “Food Ads Criticized By Agency” in which it was reported:

“Our American system of food distribution is really one of the greatest show on earth,” Whitney said.  “It’s a giant, multi-million-dollar spectacular, staged in vivid living color, and exploding with human interest, scientific marvels, humor, fascinating, behind-the-scenes adventure stories, the snob-appeal of food as a status symbol, the romance of foods of far-away places, the emotional warmth of a mother’s instinctive desire to feed her young.”

Talk about making a leap from five years earlier when, in October 1958, the Chicago Daily Tribune ran an advertisement on page 6 in section C that promoted a movie that was reportedly a cinematic wonder on film of the “French love novel that shocked the world!” 

The movie was “A Certain Smile” and was released on September 22, 1958.  It starred Rossano Brazzi, Joan Fontaine and Johnny Mathis, who also sang the theme song, and was the first feature film for actor, Bradford Dillman (who went on to such movies as “The Plainsman” and “The Iceman Cometh”).  The movie hype was based in large part on the fact that the movie was “in vivid, living color!” 

So while the phrase may have been used in conversation, the first published use of the phrase “in vivid, living colour” appears to go back to this movie and no further.

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

Talk Is Cheap

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 19, 2010

The phrase “talk is cheap” is actually a shortened version of at least two other commonly used American idioms —  “talk is cheap but it takes money to buy whisky”  and “talk is cheap but  it takes money to buy a farm.” 

The phrase means that it’s easier for someone to say that he or she will do something than to actually do it.  In its earlier incarnations an example was provided to assist with internalizing that message.

An article headling in the Portsmouth Times published on August 21, 1958 carried the headline:  “United Nations: Talk Is Cheap.”  The story was about another skirmish in the Middle East and reported in part:

Those who have criticized the United Nations for doing nothing but talk can be thankful there has been a place to talk, which is cheap and much to the preferred over armed conflict, which is costly.

Years earlier, on October 2, 1926 in the Gridley Herald and the Lyon County Reporter — just two of several newspapers who carried the same Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company Bell System advertisement, the focus was on talk being cheap. It was a quirky yet effective advertisement with a quaint story that stated:

Talk is cheap — but it takes money to buy a farm!” Many a school yard argument of boyhood days has been ended with this homely bit of philosophy.  For the American telephone user, talk is truly cheap — cheaper than anywhere else in the world.  But it takes money to keep his telephone service cheap and to make it ever and ever cheaper.

Bell was pushing their motto of “one policy, one system, universal service.’  What’s interesting about this is that it implied that the phrase “talk is cheap but it takes money to buy a farm” went back at least one generation, to when the decision makers in the home and business worlds were merely school children.

Indeed, the L.A. Times printed an article in July 23, 1896 wherein a news story reported:

It is that talk is cheap, but that it takes votes to elect a President. The Detroit Journal calls the platform adopted at the Chicago convention “a platform of cranks, by cranks, for cranks.”

The earliest date for publication of the phrase “talk is cheap” is found in the Chicago Daily Tribune on November 21, 1891. 

Although no one can say on what date exactly Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum said “talk is cheap until you hire a lawyer” but it’s believed it was some time after 1856, when the Jerome Clock Company of East Bridgeport in Connecticut —  the company in which Barnum had invested heavily — declared bankruptcy.  P.T. Barnum lost all the money he had invested into, and loaned to, the company which was a sizeable amount by then.  For P.T. Barnum, this began four very long — and expensive — years of litigation and public humiliation.

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