Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Adlai Stevenson’

Whistle-Stop Campaign

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 9, 2015

Every once in a while, you’ll hear or read about a whistle-stop campaign, and it’s usually in the weeks leading up to an election (although not always).    A whistle-stop campaign refers to a series of brief appearances in a string of stops along a set route.

Of course, whistle-stop campaigns left the railway and took to the highways in 1992 when Bill Clinton decided to he and Al Gore would run with a whirlwind intercity bus tour to meet the people.  But the more traditional whistle-stop campaign had a good run — and continues to have good runs from time to time — with the railroads that criss-cross America.

On May 15, 1976 the Gadsden Times reported on the showdown battle between Ronald Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004) and President Gerald Ford (14 July 1913 – 26 December 2006).  It was part of the “red, white and blue Presidential Express” train and the headline read, “Ford On Whistlestop Campaign.”

On September 14, 1964 the Lawrence Journal World newspaper announced that wife of Lyndon B. Johnson (27 August 1908 – 22 January 1973) would be making the first ever whistle-stop campaign by a First Lady.  The train was aptly named the “Lady Bird” and was scheduled to travel 1,682 miles from start to finish.  The editor okayed the headling, “Mrs. Johnson Plans Whistle-Stop Campaign.”

On March 1, 1956 the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph announced that President Dwight Eisenhower (14 October 1890 – 28 March 1969) stated that leading up to the election, he wouldn’t engage in “whistle-stop” talking while Democrats trumpeted the fact that their candidate would be making multiple personal appearances in a vigorous campaign.  The article was entitled, “Whistle-Stop Campaign Ruled Out By President.”

Back in 1948 when Harry S. Truman (8 May 1884 – 26 December 1972) was running for President, he decided to visit Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California by train.  A special platform was set up at the rear of the train and it was from that Pullman railway carriage platform that Harry Truman gave speeches, sometimes as often as eight speeches each day.

Time magazine compared the campaign to a vaudeville act, and in Seattle, someone in a balcony shouted out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!

SIDE NOTE 1:  This phrase entered politics as a slogan meaning blunt, straight-forward campaigning.

Senator Robert A. Taft (8 September 1889 – 31 July 1953) stated to the media that Truman was “blackguarding Congress at every whistle station in the West” during his campaign tour.  Taking the Senator’s comments in stride, Truman stated that Los Angeles was the biggest whistle-stop he had visited on the tour.

While it’s true that campaigning via the railroad wasn’t new when Truman ran in 1948 (it had originated in 1896 with Democrat William Jennings Bryan (19 March 1860 – 26 July 1925) who traveled 18,000 miles by rail and gave 600 speeches in an attempt to unseat President William McKinley (29 January 1843 – 14 September 1901) who chose to campaign from his front porch in Canton, Ohio), after his comments about Los Angeles, such campaigns were noted in the media as being whistle-stop campaigns.

Four years later, on October 11, 1952 the Associated Press sent out a story to the newspapers titled, “Whistle Stopper Truman Pours It On In New York.”  The article began by stating this:

Whistle stopper Harry S. Truman lends a hand to Adlai Stevenson here today in the biggest “whistle stop” of them all.

He turns his “give ’em hell” technique from the rear platform of his 16-car campaign train to a park in Harlem to try to help build up a big enough Democratic margin in New York City to overcome normal Republican majorities upstate.

Two years before the first whistle-stop campaign, George Taft and Ava Gardner starred in a 1946 movie entitled, “Whistle Stop” that was based on the novel of the same name written by author Maritta M. Wolff (25 December 1918 – 1 July 2002).  When her novel was published in 1941 at the tender age of 22, it was declared a literary sensation, and critics referred to it was the most important first novel of the year.  She went on to write five more novels.

When George Bush ran for office in 1992, he did so by taking a page out of Harry Truman’s whistle-stop campaign handbook as he campaigned by train in Ohio and Michigan in a whirlwind trip before returning to Washington, D.C.

Originally, the term whistle-stop meant any small towns along the railroad lines that were of little to no importance to anyone except those who lived there, and those who visited there.  Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to refer to any town or city on a political whistle-stop campaign as being of little to no importance to anyone, most especially the candidate!

And now for a little history lesson:  For those who aren’t aware of the history of how railroads came to be, it was in 1851 that the Illinois Central was chartered to build a railroad to open up the entire state of Illinois to development and commerce, with an eye on transcontinental travel.  It required that federal legislation be enacted to allow for the first land grant railroad, and it set a precedent for all other railroad routes stretching back and forth across the United States.

SIDE NOTE 2:  The first presentation to Congress on the subject of a transcontinental railroad for the U.S. was made by Asa Whitney  (1791 – August 1874) in 1845, after returning from a trip to China from 1842 to 1844.

Back when the railroad was stretching across the country, not every town with a station could count on the train stopping.  In fact, most often, if a passenger wanted to disembark, he had to ask the conductor to inform the engineer to stop and let him (or her) off at the specific train station.  The conductor would pass along the message to the engineer by pulling on the signal cord, and in return, the engineer would sound the whistle twice to let the conductor know he’d gotten the message.  This is how some town became known as whistle-stop towns.

So while there were whistle-stop towns for decades before Harry S. Truman ran his campaign in 1948, it was indeed in 1948 that the idiom whistle-stop campaigning was coined by Harry S. Truman, with a considerable amount of help from Senator Robert A. Taft.

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

Fight Like Cats And Dogs

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 2, 2013

Have you ever known people to fight like cats and dogs? While it’s true that dogs like to annoy cats, it’s just as true that cats like to annoy dogs. But do they ever get into fights with each other? What we do know is that when people are said to be fighting like cats and dogs, they’re arguing loudly, relentlessly and without any resolution in sight.

On July 9, 2013 the News Tribune published a news article written by Melissa Santos entitled, “Senate Leader Suggests Fines To Speed Work.” The story focused on the concept of charging lawmakers for forcing the legislative session for going past the allotted length because senators were unable to agree on a budget during the 105 days of the 2013 session, resulting in the session lasting an additional 48 paid days to the senators. The state representative for Medina and Chair of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, Ross Hunter, was quote in the article as saying:

“This was a very difficult budget to negotiate,” Hunter said. “We are going to fight like cats and dogs for the next four or five years to get this problem resolved.”

Going back in time to November 17, 1958, the News and Courier of Charleston (SC) published a news article entitled, “Russia and Red China Are Firmly United.” The article was about Adlai Stevenson’s realization that the unity of Soviet Russia and Red China was solid and unshakable. At that time in history, many Americans were inclined to believe that the Soviet Union would fall apart, taking with it, Communist China. But Adlai Stevenson saw things differently. He was quoted in the story as saying:

” … it would be a very great mistake to underestimate the present solidarity of the Soviet Union and China, or indeed, as Mr. Khrushchev implied, of the whole Communist empire. They may fight like cats and dogs with each other, but as to the outside world their unity is formidable. They will stick together. Theirs is one universe; ours is another.”

On May 22, 1926 the Beaver Falls Tribune of Beaver Falls (PA) published Chapter v in a serialized story about John Milburn, partner in the advertising firm of Graham & Milburn. In this chapter, readers are treated to some delicious details about the curvaceous Nell Orme and her difficult marriage. Pat Forbes is very willing to share the story as readers can see from this excerpt:

Forbes lighted a cigaret and blew several lazy wreaths of smoke before he answered. “No, they don’t seem to get along. Doggoned if I can understand it, either. They’ve got a lot of money — he’s a fairly successful contractor — and they’ve both god looks’ but privately they fight like cats and dogs. You’d never suspect it to meet them in a crowd.”

When American author and literary critic, William Dean (W.D.) Howells (March 1, 1837 – May 11, 1920) wrote “Questionable Shapes” which was published in 1903, he wrote it with the precision he expected of others. With just over 43,000 words, the author captured reality with such passages as this one:

“Did they ever?” I asked.

“Oh, yes–oh, yes,” said the psychologist, kindly. “They were very fond of each other, and often very peaceful.”

“I never happened to be by,” I said.

“Used to fight like cats and dogs,” said Minver. “And they didn’t seem to mind people. It was very swell, in a way, their indifference, and it did help to take away a fellow’s embarrassment.”

“That seemed to come mostly to an end that summer,” said Wanhope, “if you could believe Mrs. Ormond.”

According to the Webster Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, the expression fight like cats and dogs came about around 1550. Idiomation was unable to trace the exact phrase back to 1550, however, a variation was traced back to at least 1610.

The Tragedie of Cymbeline: King of Britaine” by William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was written sometime in 1610 or earlier.  It was performed at the Globe Theater in 1611.    The play is based on the Celtic legend of King Cunobelinus. Some critics refer to it as a tragedy while others refer to it as a romance. And while the word “fight” doesn’t appear in this passage, the reference to killing creatures certainly means that cats and dogs fight.

CYMBALINE:
What’s this, Cornelius?

CORNELIUS:
The Queene Sir very oft importun’d me
To temper poysons for her, still pretending
The satisfaction of her knowledge, onely
In killing Creatures vilde, as Cats and Dogges
Of no esteeme. I dreading, that her purpose
Was of more danger, did compound for her
A certaine stuffe, which being tane, would cease
The present powre of life, but in short time,
All Offices of Nature, should againe
Do their due Functions. Haue you tane of it?

IMOGEN:
Most like I did, for I was dead

The word cat has its roots in the the 12th century with the French word chat, the Spanish word gato, the Italian word gatto, the Breton word kaz, the Welsh word kath, and the Gaelic word cat. The word dog has its roots in the French word dogue and the Danish dogge from the 16th century.

English physician, Johannes Caius (6 October 1510 – 29 July 1573) — also known as John Kays — wrote about the “Mastiue or Bandogge” in 1570 and referred to such dogs thus:

For it is a kinde of dogge capeable of courage, violent and valiaunt, striking could feare into the harts of men, but standing in feare of no man, in so much that no weapons will make him shrincke, nor abridge his boldnes.

Since some dogs were bred to be violent, it stands to reason that a cat that was cornered by such a dog would fight back just as violently and just as valiantly, with neither side giving in.

So although Idiomation was unable to trace the expression back to 1550, the early forms of the expression are found in late 16th and early 17th Century literature.  It is therefore very probable that the idiom does, indeed, date back to at least 1550.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Skin Of His Teeth

Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 17, 2011

If you know someone who tells you that something happened to him or her by the skin of his or her teeth, it means that person either narrowly escaped a negative experience or narrowly managed to succeed,  and it all happened at the last minute! 

In Ontario, the recent provincial election at the beginning of October (2011) was a real nail biter in some regions.  In fact, it was reported on the website www.viewmag.com that some candidates barely won their seats.

In Thunder Bay–Atikokan, Liberal Bill Mauro held on again by the skin of his teeth, although this time he increased his plurality to 452 votes over the NDP.

The Democratic Convention back in 1956 also had its nail biting moments during their primaries.  In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the following in an article entitled, “Adlai Skins His Teeth” in their May 31, 1956 edition:

By the skin of his teeth, Adlai Stevenson has taken 22 of Florida’s 28 Democratic convention votes in an apathetic primary contest with Senator Estes Kefauver.  The closeness of the vote, however, will soon be forgotten.  The important thing is that Mr. Stevenson won.

It seems that the world of politics like to use the phrase moreso than others.  The phrase is found in the New York Times article of June 22, 1912 in an article entitled, “Democrats’ Method Of Nomination Best” where the following appears:

The Democratic way is really the better way.  It prevents a mere majority, by whatever means obtained, by bribery or force or promise, from compelling the party to accept the leadership of the candidate chosen by the skin of his teeth to do battle for the party.  Better make the choice of candidates a little harder than subject the party to defeat, even for the sake of making an Oyster Bay holiday.

On April 11, 1846 the Courrier de la Louisiane published a news story entitled, “Whig Victory” where the newspaper reported the following in part:

But in all the multitudinous and infinitely diversified changes and shiftings of political parties ever imagined, who expected to hear S.J. Peters affect to exult over a triumph of the Second Municipality?  And what is the triumph over which he exults?  He is re-elected by the skin of his teeth Alderman in the second ward, and two sound Democrats are elected in the same ward, where, four years ago, Peters would have told any man he was made who should have thought of opposing him or his Whig followers: Crossman is elected Mayor although is in a very small minority — other branch of this magnificent “triumph of the people!”

Now the phrase did appear in the King James Bible of 1611 with the entire verse being:

Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.

However, before the King James Bible, the phrase appeared in 1560 in the Geneva Bible, where, in Job 19:20, the literal translation of the original Hebrew is given as being:

I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe.

That being said, the phrase appears in Latin in the Medieval Latin Bibles produced by hand before the invention of printing and in Greek in Greek texts.  And so, the phrase dates back to Biblical times but how far back? 

Based on information provided in the Book of Job, readers know that it happened well after Noah and the flood and it happened in the time of Esau who was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.  The name of Job is found in the Amarna letters of 1350 B.C. and in the Egyptian Execration texts of 2000 B.C. 

So while Idiomation is unable to put an exact date on the first use of the phrase skin of his teeth, it absolutely dates back far enough for readers to know it’s a very ancient saying.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Jewish, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teed Off

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 29, 2011

It’s easy to see how someone might think the expression “teed off” is directly related to golf.  After all, a tee is a small peg with a concave top for holding a golf ball for its initial drive.  And indeed, when someone strikes a golf ball from a tee when starting a hole, it’s said that the golfer is teed off.

However, “teed off” is also a euphemism for making others angry, disgusted or annoyed for any number of reasons. 

In fact, sometimes the euphemistic use of the phrase can be intertwined with the literal sense of the phrase to make for interesting reading such as what was found in a news article published on August 2, 1993 in the Morning Star-News in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The story, from Honolulu, began with:

A golf course dispute between two foursomes over alleged delays on the tees escalated to gun shots.  No one was wounded.

The title of the news story was, of course, “Teed Off Golfers Fire Gunshots.”

The News-Dispatch newspaper of Jeannette, Pennsylvania published a news article on February 26, 1971 from the UPI feed in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.  The article was about famous golfer, Arnold Palmer and was entitled, “Palmer Teed Off After Shooting 3-Over-Par 75.”  The story began with:

Arnold Palmer was in a blue funk.  He was teed off about the golf course and the weather but most of all he was teed off at himself.  Arnie had come here, to the home course of the PGA, to try, at age 41, to add his first PGA Championship to his collection of 56 other professional golf titles.

On October 25, 1956 the Baltimore Sun ran a story on the Queen Mary Ocean Liner and its possible seizure by the U.S. government for having carried 2 1/2 year old Tanya Shwastov to a foreign short.  The story was entitled, “Tanya Poses Liner Threat: Queen Mary Held Possible In Case Of Child” and read in part:

Hennessy explained to the sub-committee that he guessed he was “teed-off — my first reaction was to withhold clearance.”

The St. Petersburg Times edition of March 28, 1953 published a story about Virginia-born Viscountess Lady Astor and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin.  It touched upon a comment she had made while attending a party given by Senator Robert A. Taft and his wife for the President and Mrs. Eisenhower four days earlier.  One newspaper editor in Wisconsin was so incensed that he suggested Lady Astor be jailed for her comments.  

A few days later, at a luncheon where she spoke before 200 ladies, she vowed she would “never make a joke again” only to break that promise 15 minutes later while cutting the Red Cross Anniversary cake.  The news story was entitled, “Lady Astor Tees Off On McCarthy” and began with:

With a gleam in her eye, Lady Astor described herself as “a dove of peace” yesterday — and then teed off anew on Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin.

On October 7, 1952 the Calgary Herald newspaper ran a story about Illinois Governor and Democrat Adlai Stevenson, Republican Ike Eisenhower and a give-day, seven-state campaign swing he had just embarked upon.  The story, entitled, “Stevenson Tees Off On Eisenhower” included this paragraph:

The Democratic presidential candidate teed off on Eisenhower, his Republican opponent, as the general moved through the Pacific Northwest engaged in a long-range verbal duel with President Truman over public power.

With comments like that, it’s easy to see that if someone “teed off” on another, the other person would have good reason to be angry or upset with that person.

So somewhere between 1953 and 1956, the expression “teed off” adopted the euphemistic term.  That being said, the literal sense of the phrase is found in a set of rules for golf that was published by the Edinburgh town council in 1744.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the phrase “teed off” used in its literal sense was first published in 1665.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Egghead

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 8, 2010

An airhead is someone who hasn’t got any sensible or realistic ideas and appears to be lacking in intelligence.  The opposite of an airhead is an egghead, who is very studious and is, quite naturally, an intellectual.

Far from being a compliment in the United States over the past 75 years or so, egghead has been used as an anti-intellectual epithet, directed at people who are described as being out-of-touch with ordinary people and hyperfocused on intellectual interests and pursuits only.

The term egghead was used during the 1952 Presidential campaign, when Stewart Alsop — a powerful Connecticut Republican and the brother of newspaper columnist Joseph Alsop — labeled Adlai Stevenson an egghead because of Stevenson’s perceived intellectual air.  In Alsop‘s syndicated column of September 1952, Alsop wrote:

After Stevenson’s serious and rather difficult atomic energy speech in Hartford, Conn., this reporter remarked to a rising young Connecticut Republican that a good many intelligent people, who would be considered normally Republican, obviously admired Stevenson.  “Sure,” was the reply, “all the eggheads love Stevenson.  But how many eggheads do you think there are?”

Alsop defined the word egghead as “what the Europeans would call ‘intellectuals’ … interested in ideas and in the words used to express those ideas.”

A 1918 letter written by Carl Sandburg to his former newspaper boss, Negley Dakin Cochran indicates that Chicago newspapermen used the term egghead to refer to highbrow editorial writers out of touch with the common man.  In his letter, Carl Sandburg wrote:

Egg heads is the slang here for editorial writers here.  I have handed in five editorials on Russia and two on the packers, voicing what 95 percent of the readers of The News are saying on the [trolley] cars and in the groceries and saloons but they have been ditched for hot anti-bolshevik stuff … At that it isn’t so much the policies of the papers as the bigotry and superstition and flunkeyism of the Egg Heads.

Before Sandburg’s use of the term, however, author Owen Johnson published a story in 1909 entitled “The Triumphant Egghead” in the book “The Eternal Boy: Being The Story of the Prodigious Hickey.”  Hickey is the main character in the book and he gave nicknames to his friends. 

In the Masillon (OH) Evening Independent newspaper, an article published on December 5, 1910 quoted Mr. Johnson as stating that the nicknames came from friends with whom he attended school.

In the Varmin” he said, “I was writing of a period from 1893 to 1897, when there was a particularly bright lot of youngsters in Lawrenceville: pioneers of a peculiar sort of English literature I called them … [snip] … all of them appear off and on in the book.”

I was unable to find a published reference that pre-dates 1893, however, for the term to be so easily used in stories in 1893, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the term was already established as a word referring to an individual of certain developed intellectual abilities.

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