Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Boys’ Life magazine’

Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap

Posted by Admin on December 1, 2015

It wasn’t all that long ago that children had to give serious concern to the threat of having their mouth washed out with soap!  These days, the threat of having someone wash your mouth out with soap is said to draw attention to a rude or offensive word or comment that someone else has made.

In the past, a child’s mouth was washed out with soap for swearing, lying, biting, verbal disrespect, and using tobacco.  Although it’s supposedly no longer an acceptable form of punishment, in July of this year, a 23-year-old man in Great Britain was ordered to pay 100 GBP after washing a six-year-old’s mouth out with soap after the child kicked a pensioner’s walking stick and used foul language towards the senior.

In 2000, when President Bill Clinton announced that he hoped to make American debt free for the first time since 1835, Vice-President Al Gore added to that proclamation by saying that the U.S. should continue to pay down the debt even when the economy slows.  Economist and Nobel laureate Robert Solow had this to say about Mr. Gore’s pronouncement.

He should wash his mouth out with soap.

Some of you may be familiar with the movie, “A Christmas Story” in which nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, who had the misadventure of helping his father change a flat tire.  The family had gone out to buy the yearly Christmas tree after supper, and on the way home, the suffer a flat tire. While Idiomation won’t spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it yet, suffice it to say that things go awry, and Ralphie says:

Only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!

The end result is that once home, safe and warm, Ralphie’s mother has him chomp down on a new bar of Lifebuoy soap.  And you’ll never guess who he blames for having said the word he had spoken.

The April 1937 edition of Boys’ Life magazine published a humorous cartoon of a little old lady, a pastor, and a parrot.  The little old lady was pleased to share with the pastor that she had washed the parrot’s mouth out with soap.  One can only wonder where the parrot heard the bad words (and from whom) that led to the punishment.

Boys' Life_1937
In the October 1916 edition of Young Men magazine (Volume 42) an article titled, “The Cordon of the Inner Circle” talked about adolescent males across the United States who were feeling the “tightening cordon of common high ideals for their school and their own thinking, speaking, and doing.”  These young men, through Bible study groups, were standing up for their principles and putting them across to their peers.

After creating public sentiment against profanity among their high school mates, members of one Inner Circle determined that the only remedy for one of the leaders was to “treat him like a kid.”  So they captured him and washed his mouth out with soap and water.

The magazine was a publication of the Young Men’s Christian Associations — or what we’ve come to know as the YMCA.

In 1892,a collection of child study pamphlets were collated and printed under the title, “Collection of Pamphlets on Child Study.”  In one particular case, a study conducted by Margaret E. Schallenberger of Stanford University addressed the fictional scenario of a child named Jennie whose actions were well-intended but ill-conceived.

The set-up was that Jennie, having received a beautiful new box of paints, painted all the chairs in the parlor one afternoon while her mother was away on errands.  Upon her return, Jennie ran to meet her, and said, “Oh, mamma, come and see how pretty I have made the parlor.”

The respondents were children and adolescents who were not yet parents, and they were asked what they would have said or done if the respondents were Jennie’s mother.  The study reported the following:

Often the feeling of revenge is shown in the piling up of punishments, as in the following:  “If I had been Jennie’s mother, I would of painted Jennie’s face and hands and toes.  I would of switcher her well.  I would of washed her mouth out with soap and water, and should stand her on the floor for half an hour.”

For those who are interested, of the 2,000 respondents under the age of six, 1,102 boys and girls said they would whip Jennie.  Out of 2,000 respondents asked who were eleven years old, 763 said they would whip Jennie.  And of 2,000 respondents who were sixteen years old, only 185 would whip Jennie.  The data from the study showed a decline (although it wasn’t a uniform decline) from year to year, and indicated that as children matured, they were less likely to consider whipping as a best method of punishment.

Interestingly enough, of those same children under the age of six, none considered explaining to Jennie why what she had done was wrong.  At eleven years of age, 181 thought to explain things to Jennie, and at sixteen, 751 thought that explaining what she had done wrong would be effective.

Back in 1832, the practice of putting soap in another person’s mouth as punishment was alive and well in England, not just in America.  The case in question was one of a man (identified as Mr. Smith from the town of Rugby) whose wife left him and took up with Frank Treen (from the town of Harborough just three miles away from the town of Rugby), with whom she had a child.  Frank Treen demanded support money to pay from the husband for his wife.  The husband thought he was obligated to give Frank Treen support money for his wife, so he did.

However, he was informed by another source that while his wife lived in adultery, there was no obligation on him to pay for her, and so he stopped paying.  But when his wife’s lover died, the courts determined that not only was he responsible for paying for his wife (whom he had not divorced during the time she lived with Frank Treen), but for the bastard child as well.  The information about the situation included the following factual commentary.

It appeared that he had not lived with his wife for about seven or eight years; that when they lived together, they were constantly quarrelling; and that one evening, on the man’s return home, he found his wife intoxicated; upon which, being a miller, he threw his wife into the mill pond.  Be he dragged her out again immediately.  However, perceiving a piece of kitchen soap lying on the ground near the spot, he crammed it into his wife’s mouth, saying, “She has had plenty of water to wash with, she ought now to have a little soap.”  However they lived together for a year after this fracas.

It could be said that somewhere along the line someone decided that because the adage was that cleanliness was next to Godliness, Proverbs 21:23 should be taken at its word.

Whoever guards his mouth and tongue, keeps his soul from trouble.

That being said, while the punishment was very real for a very long time, with the move to a kinder, gentler parenting approach has led to the rise of the expression as the actual activity disappears from parenting options.

Idiomation has been unable to put an exact date on when the threat moved into idiom territory.  Perhaps one of our readers or visitors has the answer and is willing to share it in the Comments Section below.

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All And Sundry

Posted by Admin on November 12, 2015

When someone uses the expression all and sundry, it’s just another way of saying everyone and/or everything, individually and collectively.  An example of using this idiom correctly would be to say, “All and sundry love Artie Q‘s music.”

For example, just today in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus newspaper, Walter Carpenter of Montpelier wrote a Letter to the Editor that made use of all and sundry.  His letter was in response to comments by David Sunderland, Chair of the Vermont Republican Party, in a commentary published in the October 29, 2015 edition and titled, “Democrats Are Driving Workers Away.”

It should be known by all and sundry now that oil companies like Exxon Mobile, for example, have poured millions of dollars into the denial of climate change to protect their vast profits, earned largely by gouging us at the gas pumps. Mr. Sunderland ignored this.

In the book “Canada and the Russian Revolution: The Impact of the World’s First Socialist Revolution on Labor and Politics in Canada, Volume 2” by Tim Buck (6 January 1891 – 11 March 1973) and published in 1967, the author used the idiom in describing the events that transpired at the Toronto Labor Temple hall on Church Street in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) in 1918, after the October Revolution (also known as Red October, the October Uprising, and the Bolshevik Revolution) of November 1917.

The squad was composed mainly of men who were on active service and in uniform.  It included a few demobilized veterans who were wearing civilian clothes.  Armed with baseball bats and headed by an officer, the squad marched across the center of the city announce to all and sundry its intention to “Beat up the Reds and the Pacifists!”  Not on police officer questioned them or warned them — or considered it  necessary to warn their intended victims.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  Tim Buck was one of the top leaders of the Joseph Stalin-era Communist International (2 March 1919 – 15 May 1943) also known as the Third International.  This was an international communist organization that advocated for world communism.

Tim Buck was also the general secretary of the Community Party of Canada, later known as the Labor-Progressive Party, from 1929 through to 1962.  The party name was changed in 1943 when it refounded itself after the Communist Party of Canada was banned in 1940.  After the provincial elections in Ontario in 1959, the party renamed itself the Communist Party of Canada and continues to exist to this day.

The story “Grand Spring Opening” by Zoe Hartman (who only published stories between 1905 and 1920) — illustrated by Bert N. Salg (September 1881 – 19 May 1937) — published in the April 1924 edition of “Boys’ Life” was all about Newt Crumper, the hired boy, and Miss Cate who had just opened a millinery shop across the street from the Altenburg grocery store and two doors south of Jake Knapp’s store.

A. Sid McVay, the Unicorn (that’s the name of the brand, not what he’s selling) salesman with the vivid handkerchief comments on the store’s grand opening.

Meanwhile, McVay’s prediction to Newt, “These sleepy galoots are going to laugh; but oh, boy! watch us block traffic on this corner to-day!” was almost literally fulfilled.  Mercantile Pockville held its sides with Homeric laughter, a grocery “opening” was too exquisite!  All and sundry stopped to gaze and giggle and point their fingers at the spectacular show window.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2:  Zoe Hartman (a junior at the time) won the Guilford Essay Prize at Cornell University at the 38th Annual Commencement for the 1905 – 1906 scholastic year at Cornell University.

A hundred years earlier, in the book “The Private Memoirs and Confessions of A Justified Sinner” whose author identified himself only as himself.  The book was about George Colwan, a man who was married to the sole heiress and daughter of Baillie Order of Glasgow, and this George Colwan inherited the estate of his father (also named George Colwan).  The estate had been in the family for at least 150 years at the time of the inheritance.

As with all legal documents, what was granted to George Colwan of Dalcastle and Balgrennan, his heirs and assignees whatsomever, heritably and irrevocably (according to the Registrate of the Court of Whitehall on 26 September 1687) was considerable.  However,  His Majesty the King, as prince and steward of Scotland, and with the advice and consent of his foresaids, knowledge, proper motive, and kingly power was provided for in this legal document as well, and read in part:

 … with court, plaint, herezeld, fock, fork, sack, sock, thole, thame, vert, wraik, waith, wair, venison, outfang thief, infant thief, pit and gallows, and all and sundry other commodities.

This passage proves that the phrase was used in legal papers in the 17th century.  But how much older is the phrase than 1687?

In 1615, all and sundry appears in the “Foedera, Conventiones, Literae et Cujuscnque Generis Acta Publica Inter Reges Angliae et Alios Quosvis” in the “Proclamatio contra Comitem de Bothwell.”  The proclamation addressed the actions of Frances (referred to in the document as the sometimes Erle of Bothwell).  The document referenced is dated 1591 A.D. and reads in part as follows:

Wherefore his Majestie, with Advise of the Lordes of his secrett Counsell, ordeynes Letters to be directed, charging Officers of Arms to passe and make publication and intimation hereof, by open Procolmation, at the Mercat Crosses of the hed Burrowes of this Realme, and other places needfull, wherby none may pretend Ignorance of the fame; as also to command and charge all and sundry his Highnes Lieges, That none of them take upon hand to Receit, Supplie, Shew favor, Intercomon, norfurnish him Meat nor Drinck, House or Harbery under whatsoever Colour or Pretence, under the Payne to be repute holden and pursued as art and partakers with him in all his treasonable Crymes and wicked Dedes.

The phrase also appears in Volume 15 of “The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland” from 1523.  It should be noted that these rolls run from 1264 through to 1600 (23 volumes all tolled), and Cardiff University has a catalog record of these documents.  The exchequer developed from the King’s chamber that oversaw the royal finances and as such, it’s one of the earliest government departments in Scotland.

In 1420, King James I divided the duties between the Comptroller (also known as the Receiver General) and the Treasurer.  One controlled the revenues from Crown lands and burghs while the other controlled the revenues from taxation and profits from justice (in other words, fines levied against by a court of law).

The excerpt from 1523 reads thusly:

Witt the ws with avise, autorite, and consent of our darrest cousing and tutour Johnne duke of Albany etc. protectour and governour of our realme to have sett and for maile lettin and be thir our lettres settis and for maile lettis to our weelbelovit brother James erle of Murray, his airis and assignals ane or maa all and sundry oure landis of the erledome of Ross and lrdschip of Ardmanach with the milnys of the samin with thar pertinentis liand within our schirefdome of Invernes, togidder with the keping and capitanery of oure castellis of Dingwall and Reidcastill.

Now the meaning of the word sundry meaning several dates back to 1375 in the “Scottish Legends of the Saints” where we find written in II. Paulus:

In a creile he was latin fall;
and in Ierusalem he was bofte,
spyit, waitit, and bundyn ofte;
and eftere in sesaria
bundyne, and tholit panis ma;
and sailand in Italy
In parelis wes he stad sindry.

The word also appears in Book V of epic poem, “The Bruce” by Scottish poet and churchman John Barbour (1325 – 13 March 1395), Archdeacon of Aberdeen during the reigns of David II and Robert II of Scotland.   He is sometimes called the father of Scots literature.

In 1357, as Archdeacon of Aberdeen, he was involved in the negotiations that would allow Scotland to pay England ransom for the return of David II who had been their prisoner since his capture in 1346 in the Battle of Neville’s Cross. His poem, “The Bruce” was the first major work of Scottish literature and documented Scottish political history from the death of Alexander III in 1286 through to the burial of Bruce’s heart in 1332.  The poem was published in 1375.

And for to mak in thair synging
Syndry notis, and soundis sere,
And melody plesande to here.

And so somewhere between 1375 and 1523, the word sundry became the expression all and sundry.  With 148 years between the two dates, and allowing for how long it would have taken in the 14th century for a phrase to catch on, Idiomation split the difference and suggests that 1450 would be about the time that all and sundry began to make its way into the English language, eventually making its way into legal documents by the early 1500s.

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