Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Calgary Herald’

Hold The Line

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 11, 2013

When you hold the line, you make sure you maintain an existing opinion, position, or status regardless of what outside or opposing forces may try to do. Even the military has a mission referred to as a Hold The Line mission.

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported on what was going on in Murrysville in their November 20, 2013 edition. It was all about mills and taxes: mills for the general tax rate, mills for capital improvements, mills for municipal debt repayment, mills for road improvements. It seemed that if there was a mill, there was a discussion. The opening paragraph read as follows:

Murrysville council members reviewed recommendations from the administration to hold the line on taxes for the coming year, giving unanimous approval Wednesday night to advertise an ordinance setting the tax rate at 12.15 mills for 2014.

Back on December 1, 1971 the Spokesman-Review reported on President Richard Nixon’s announced intention to veto his own tax cut bill. It seems that what had happened to the President’s bill was that the Senate attached additional provisions to the bill that, if the bill went through, would result in another $11 billion dollars added to the deficit. The story was entitled, “Hold The Line.”

During World War II, what was happening on the front was vigorously reported in the newspapers regardless of what country was reporting on the war. The Calgary Herald edition of October 27, 1941 carried international news that was cabled from the Calgary Herald‘s London bureau courtesy of the London Times. As the Russian campaign continued, battles raged near Rostov-on-Don anda round Kharkov. The Germans hoped to reach Roslov to cut the main railway line from the Caucasus to Moscow. The report included this news byte:

When the Red armies failed to hold the line of the lower Dnieper, German forces, with the aid of Hungarians, Rumanians and Italians were able to undertake a determined eastward drive and Marshal Budenny had no adequate line of defence available until he reached the River Don.

When the New York Times ran an article entitled, “Boxers Engaged In Big Battle” on June 8, 1900 many were alarmed at the events unfolding in China. The article claimed that the Daily Express had sent the following dispatch from Shanghai on June 7 with regards to the results of the Dowager Princess’s orders to General Neih-Si-Chong to take 3,000 men and protest the railroad at Peking. British was unable to send more than 900 troops as they were involved with the situation in South Africa, and the United States was urged to act. The article included this information:

Attempts to repair the damage to the railway between Tien-Twin and Peking have been frustrated by the Boxers who, thousands strong, hold the line against the engineers, gangs attacking the trains arriving.

Another show of force was reported in the American and Commercial Advertiser of August 23, 1864 — thanks to the New York Tribune newspaper — this time with regards to the skirmishes of the Fifth Corps against Rebel forces at Weldon Railroad just below Petersburg. The focus of this mission was to destroy the road completely this time. It was seen as a successful mission no three counts: It resulted in greater losses being inflicted than suffered; it prevented the Rebel forces from sending more troops into the Valley; and Fifth Corps achieved its main objective. The newspaper story reported the following in part:

Exactly one half of all the Rebel forces in Virginia are in the Shenandoah Valley awaiting Heridan. The other half hold the line from Richmond to Petersburg. From Gen. Birney’s Headquarters, the right of the line of operations, to Gen. Warren’s, the extreme left, is a distance of over twenty-five miles by the shortest roads. The whole distance is entrenched and two large rivers straddled. Grant having much the larger army, can afford to stretch the line of operations and thus attenuate Lee’s forces.

Jumping back to 1805, the idiom was used in “The Vindication of Mr. Maurice’s Modern India” also known as “A Vindication of the Modern History of Hindostan From The Gross Misrepresentations, And Illiberal Strictures of the Edinburgh Reviewers” by schoolmaster and former chaplain to the 87th regiment, Thomas Maurice. In his book, he wrote:

It seems however, by the Edinburgh standard of criticism, at least, that an author can no longer be permitted to mark out for himself the outline of any work which he may meditate, or of the limits by which his prudence may lead him to bound, or his temerity to extend his excursion in the wide field of literary research. The Reviewer must hold the line of demarcation, and let the author transgress it at his peril. The direst anathemas of critical vengeance, infallibly attend the slightest deviation.

The word hold is from the Old English word geheald which means keeping, custody, or guard and dates back to 1200, and the word line (as in demarcation) dates back to the middle of the 15th century. That being said, it doesn’t seem that the words met up and became an idiom until later. Although the idiom was used easily in Thomas Maurice’s book, and research hints at the idiom being used in the early 1700s, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version than the one in 1805. Taking into account that those who read Thomas Maurice’s book would have understood what he mean when he used the expression hold the line, it is most likely that the idiom hit its stride two generations prior to the publication date, putting it somewhere in the 1750s.

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

Give Someone The Gears

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 26, 2013

Believe it or not, to give someone the gears means to harass or pester someone, usually in a teasing way, but not always. It’s a Canadian expression that shows up primarily in Canadian newspapers, but making some headway in American newspapers in the northern states in the past decade.

Every once in a while, the Globe and Mail will run a humorous essay by Kevin Bray. On July 26, 2011 the article “My Dog Has Seriously Cramped My Style” had readers howling at the author’s predicament. Being the proud owner of a poodle, this entailed the grooming that’s part and parcel of poodledom including the pantaloon-style legs and lion-style mane haircut. He told the story of an ornery old gent who made an unkind remark about his adorable canine and what followed was a defence of his dog against the cruelty of a human.

However, my confidence in the combined intelligence of two species – homo sapiens and canine – blinded me to the prescient wisdom of an old man that sunny day who got out of his boat-like car, looked straight at me and loudly pronounced, “Glad I don’t have a dog. It would cramp my style!”

I don’t know why I reacted, but I responded just as crankily, “What style?”

He harrumphed and tottered into the coffee shop without another word. I think I gave him the gears because I was worried that he had a vision of my future.

Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch wrote an article entitled, “Heatley’s Pointed In Right Direction” where the possibility of Senators winger tying the NHL record for scoring in consecutive games that had been held by Wayne Gretzky since 1988 was palpable. The article stated in part:

Seriously, the former Atlanta Thrasher would be thrilled to put his name in the record book. His teammates have been giving him the gears about it, but the chase to equal Gretzky and beat his mark has created a lot of excitement.

On January 13, 1983 the Calgary Herald published a story out of Ottawa written by Charles Lynch and entitled, “Venom Boils When PM, Press Hit The Road.” He started the article off by stating that every few years, the longest running hate show on the international stage went on a road trip, and the main characters of this show were members of the national press corps and certain politicians.

The idea of politicians abroad being objects of abuse took hold in our media circles — so much so that when Joe Clark went traipsing around the world as Tory leader, a whole bunch of press people went along with him, and gave him the gears. Clark was polite to the press, but they wimped him anyway, leaving his image with scars that have never healed.

Because it’s such a recent addition to the English language, and because it was used to easily in the 1983 article, it’s safe to say that the expression dates back to about 1975 for it to make its way into the general lexicon by the time Charles Lynch made use of the expression.

And a Canadian expression at that! A first on the Idiomation blog that’s for sure!

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

On The Heels

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 23, 2013

Every once in a while, you’ll hear someone say that the police are hot on the heels or right on the heels of a suspected criminal. The idiom brings to mind one person in earnest pursuit of another and that’s exactly what this idiom means. When one person is hot on the heels of another, it means that person is following someone very closely, and perhaps has almost caught up to them and their actions. It can also mean that something comes very shortly after something else as can sometimes happen when laws are passed in government.

With the fast advancements in technology (especially over the past two decades), the New Straits Times in Malaysia published an article on April 12, 2000 about Sabeer Bhatia, a then-31-year-old high-tech guru who founded Hotmail. Hotmail made him independently wealthy, famous and hard at work trying to repeat his Hotmail success with a new venture: Arzoo.com. The article, of course, was entitled, “Hot On The Heels Of Hotmail.”

The Calgary Herald published a news story from the Ottawa bureau about Mike Pearson’s last day of campaigning in Canada. The story, published in the March 31 edition back in 1958, and written by Charles King, chronicled in a few quick words, what the Liberal party leader accomplished in his travels. The story was entitled, “Pearson In Top Form At Close” and opened with this teaser:

Mike Pearson’s last day of campaigning was unquestionably his best. The Liberal leader, following hot on the heels of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, outdrew the Conservative chief at every stop in a 300-mile sweep of Ottawa Valley points. Things looked so good for the Liberals that party hangers-on almost wept that the campaign was in its last hours.

An interesting and humorous news article was published in the Boston Evening Transcript about Mr. Carnegie, William Ellis Corey and Charles “Charlie” Schwab, the Carnegie Steel Company and the United States Steel Corporation. The story entitled, “The Head Of The Steel Trust” began with a subheading that read: Mr. Cory denies that he began to work for Mr. Carnegie for a dollar a day. It was less and he was only sixteen. William Ellis Corey had moved from Pittsburgh to New York, and newsmen quickly learned that he was a man of very few words. So few, in fact, that his friends were only willing to make two statements to print media about him, these being that “he will direct his energies wholly to the affairs of the corporation” and that “he does not speculate in any way, and never has.” Still, he was the subject of a great deal of media interest, and the article chronicled his history including this:

All the time Mr. Corey was following hot on the heels of Mr. Schwab, along every step of their common way, until he drew up on even terms when the highest goal in sight was reached — the presidency of the Carnegie Steel Company. Each of the two men was elected to this office, with its $50,000 salary in his thirty-fifth year. Then, in the race for the laurels of youthful supremacy, Mr. Corey has won by becoming president of the United States Steel Corporation at the age of thirty-seven; and there are times when he does not look a day more than thirty-five.

It was a term that was well-known and well-used by authors. In H.G. Wells’ novel “The War Of The Worlds” published in 1898 used vivid imagery to place his readers at the center of the excitement in his story. The idiom appeared three times without in this novel. The first time he used it here:

About six in the evening, as I sat at tea with my wife in the summerhouse talking vigorously about the battle that was lowering upon us, I heard a muffled detonation from the common, and immediately after a gust of firing. Close on the heels of that came a violent rattling crash, quite close to us, that shook the ground; and, starting out upon the lawn, I saw the tops of the trees about the Oriental College burst into smoky red flame, and the tower of the little church beside it slide down into ruin. 

The second time he used it here:

The thunderclaps, treading one on the heels of another and with a strange crackling accompaniment, sounded more like the working of a gigantic electric machine than the usual detonating reverberations. The flickering light was blinding and confusing, and a thin hail smote gustily at my face as I drove down the slope.

The third time he used it here:

So close on the heels of this as to seem instantaneous came a thud behind me, a clash of glass, a crash and rattle of falling masonry all about us, and the plaster of the ceiling came down upon us, smashing into a multitude of fragments upon our heads. I was knocked headlong across the floor against the oven handle and stunned. 

French novelist, poet and playwright Jules Verne (8 February 1828 – 24 March 1905) published “Around The World In 80 Days” in 1873. It came after publication of such classics as  “Journey To The Center Of The Earth” in 1864,  and “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea” in 1870. In the novel “Around The World In 80 Days” the author used the idiom on the heels in this passage:

The thought then struck Passepartout, that he was the cause of this new misfortune! Had he not concealed Fix’s errand from his master? When Fix revealed his true character and purpose, why had he not told Mr. Fogg? If the latter had been warned, he would no doubt have given Fix proof of his innocence, and satisfied him of his mistake; at least, Fix would not have continued his journey at the expense and on the heels of his master, only to arrest him the moment he set foot on English soil. Passepartout wept till he was blind, and felt like blowing his brains out.

And a generation before being found in Jules Verne’s book, Irish doctor and journalist, Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan (27 February 1797 – 29 May 1880) published a book entitled, “History of New Netherland Or, New York Under the Dutch: Volume II” published in 1848. He was a well-traveled man, born in County Cork in Ireland, studied medicine in Dublin (Ireland) and Paris (France), and finally immigrating to Canada in 1823 where he involved himself in the political reform movement. The idiom in appeared in his 1848 tome as follows:

In Holland, Van de Donck was still hot on the heels of Van Tienhoven. Prevented by the order of the States General from returning to New Netherland, the latter passed the winter in Amsterdam, where he succeeded in seducing a young woman, named Elizabeth Jansen Croon van Hoochvelt, under a promise of marriage, having represented himself as a single man.

William Shakespeare’s “History of Troilus and Cressida” published in 1609, carries a variation of the idiom using at instead of on as seen in this passage:

ACHILLES
Look, Hector, how the sun begins to set;
How ugly night comes breathing at his heels;
Even with the vail and dark’ning of the sun,
To close the day up, Hector’s life is done.

Ultimately, however, the version that seems to have started it all is found in the late 14th Century Middle English alliterative romance story, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” The story takes place at Christmas time in Camelot when the Green Knight rides into the hall on horseback, whereupon he immediately challenges everyone there to a Christmas sport. It’s a fascinating tale in many respects and borders on the horror genre in its own way. That being said, this passage is found in the story:

As he spurred through a spinney to spy the shrew,
there where he heard the hounds harry him on,
Reynard came rushing through the rough grove,
and all the rabble in a race, right at his heels.

It’s doubtful that the expression existed much before this piece as the word heel was from the Old English word hēla back in the 12th century, and was a variation of the Old Norse word hæll. Idiomation therefore places this expression at sometime in the mid-1300s.

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Duck Out

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 24, 2011

When someone ducks out it means they’re going to slip away, exit, go, leave, split, depart, skedaddle, take off, clear out, hightail, buzz off, beat it, make tracks, take a powder, fly the coop, vamoose, get out of Dodge and it’s oftentimes so the person ducking out can avoid doing something for which they are responsible or that puts the speaker in an uncomfortable position.

On August 7, 2011 the Calgary Herald published a story by reporter Kristen Odland entitled, “Taylor Shines For Stamps.”  It began by lamenting the fact that Larry Taylor had ducked out, leaving fans and media alike surprised by his quick exit.

Traditionally, the first one to duck out of the Calgary Stampeders’ dressing room post-game and post-practice following any media requests is soft-spoken wide receiver Romby Bryant.  But Saturday night as the remaining satisfied fans filed out of McMahon Stadium following a 32-20 Stampeders victory and the media swarmed into the home team’s jubilant locker room, it was speedy wide receiver and kick-returner Larry Taylor who was no where to be found.  Yeah, he’s that fast.

The Milwaukee Journal published a news story on September 6, 1969 about Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai.  Both the title and the first paragraph used the expression duck out.  The title of the article was “Russ Due So Chinese Duck Out” and began with:

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai ducked out of Hanoi Friday before the Saturday arrival of Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, and the maneuver increased international speculation that North Vietnam was caught in the middle in the bitter Russian-Chinese feud.

Ten years before that, the Milwaukee Journal published a story on September 2, 1959 entitled, “Congress Should Not Duck Out Because of Khrushchev.”  Public and media perception was that some in Congress simply didn’t want to be in Washington when Nikita Khrushchev arrived later in the month and some in Congress were pushing for a six-week recess or to have Congress adjourned.

From time to time, a brief news item appears in the newspaper that can’t help but make the most of a pun waiting to be made.  This was the case in the Reading Eagle edition of October 24, 1933 with the story, “Tries to Duck Out With Ducks: Court Stops Him.”  The article reported the following story from Chicago:

Joseph Duck believes in taking no chances.  He was about to walk out of a court room yesterday after winning a continuance of an alimony case when the judge noticed a bulky package under his arm.

“What is it?” inquired the court.

“Ducks,” said Duck.

He explained he had expected to go to jail and wished to eat duck dinners while there.  The court made him surrender the ducks to Mrs. Duck and her seven children.

On May 9, 1905, the Meriden Daily Journal reported on James J. Jeffries, champion heavyweight pugilist of the world who was retiring due to muscular rheumatism in his hands.  The article read in part:

“I have never known a day’s sickness and this makes life miserable,” he said.  “I am tired of the theatrical game and have informed the management that I want to duck out of the limelight at the end of the week.”

The earliest published version of duck out that Idiomation could find was in the Reading Eagle edition of August 9, 1903 in the story entitled, “Like A Dancing Dervish Is Corbett.”  The story discusses how pugilist Jim Corbett “jumps around Yank Kenny who impersonates Jim Jeffries in practice” and how this surprised boxing experts.

It looks as if Corbett’s only way to avoid those reachy sweeps at his ribs is to duck out of the enclosures, but Jim remains within the ropes and flits around in such a manner as to disarrange Yank’s plan of attack.

That the word is used with ease in this news article from 1903 and without quotation marks around the expression duck out which indicates it was an accepted part of the vocabulary of the time.  It is reasonable, therefore, to guess that the expression most likely dates back to the 1880s or 1890s.

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Devil Dodger

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 15, 2011

The devil dodger is usually found in the military and is in charge of the spiritual welfare of the troops.  Yes, a devil dodger is a man of the cloth, a minister, a clergyman in varying degrees of intensity.  It also occasionally refers to someone who attends churches of various kinds just to be on the safe side.

On September 13, 2006 the BBC News reported on a naval chaplain who had complained about the use of porn on the warships he was training on.  The news story was entitled, “Chaplain Told Porn Part Of Life.”  He left the HMS Albion and the HMS Manchester because of the pornography.  The article reported in part:

Now the rector of a shore parish, who is a father-of-four, told the hearing in Exeter he was known as “the bish” and was taunted with chantes of “bible basher” as well as “God botherer” and “devil dodger” while on board.

The Calgary Herald ran a short news column entitled, “R.A.F. Slanguage” in the June 17, 1940 edition.  Among the key terms used by the boys in the Royal Air Force were:

Quack – The doctor.
Blue-blood – Army officer.
Pay-bob – The pay officer.
Devil-dodger – The chaplain.
Stripey – Any non-commissioned officer
AC Plonk – Air craftsman second class.

Now back in September 1917, a black-and-white silent movie with a running time of 50 minutes was released by Triangle Film Corporation entitled, “Devil Dodger.”  It was a western starring Roy Stewart played as Silent Scott, John (Jack) Gilbert as Roger Ingraham and Carolyn Wagner as Fluffy, the saloon girl.  The story was of a minister who went West in search of health and came upon a town where Silent Scott kept a dance hall and saloon. 

There, the minister meets Fluffy who has a questionable past but the minister sees a great deal of goodness left in her and she sees a great more in the minister. There’s a moral struggle between the minister and the saloon keeper and in the end, the minister triumphs to some degree when he successfully awakens the good still in the saloon keeper’s heart.

On June 22, 1889 the New Zealand Observer newspaper in Auckland ran an interesting column entitled, “Round The Churches” where they dished the dirt on various churches in the area.  The final comment tidbit was this:

Another minister has been honest enough to confess that his work has been a failure, and that the world, the flesh, and the devil are too many for him.  A clergyman of Brooklyn, New York states that after many years’ labour “he has not even succeeded in breaking the crus of hell which surrounds that town.”  The simile is a new and striking one, but rather inappropriate.  Why should a parson wish to break the crust of hell, when the consequences would probably be the falling in of himself, flock, and collection?  We should fancy that his energies would have been better directed had he applied himself to placing a new cast-iron, copper-riveted covering over the hot place, and to strengthening its crust generally; but we forget — the average parson believes in keeping the pit open and giving his congregation an occasional glimpse of the fire and brimstone! When the crust of Sheol gets too thick for one-parson power to penetrate, the devil-dodger finds his occupation gone.

In the Guy de Maupassant  (1850-1893) story “A Lively Friend” the following exchange is found between two friends:

The curé left very early.

Then the husband gently remarked: “You went a little too far with that priest.”

But Joseph immediately replied: “That’s a very good joke, too! Am I to bother my brains about a devil-dodger? At any rate, do me the favor of not ever again having such an old fogy to dinner. Curses on his impudence!”

“But, my friend, remember his sacred character.”

Joseph Mouradour interrupted him: “Yes, I know. We must treat them like girls, who get roses for being well behaved! That’s all right, my boy! When these people respect my convictions, I will respect theirs!”

On December 7, 1867 the Hartford Daily Courant published a story entitled, “A Hint To The Ambitious.”  It told the story of a woman who allowed her friends to put in her head that she ought not deprive the world of the advantages of her wit and talent as a writer.  After all, the newspaper reported, she had been told she should try her hand at a “three-volume novel with plenty of sensation in it.” 

The story pointed out that her friends had urged her to look at “the trash that is published and paid for.” And so this woman set out to do just that and the reviews that followed publication of her book included this comment:

The spoon scene between Miss Whatdoyoucallher and the devil dodger is first rate.

The earliest reference Idiomation could find for devil dodger goes back to the “Memoirs” of James Lackington (1746 – 1815) published in 1791.  It’s in his book that readers find:

These devil-dodgers happened to be so very powerful that they soon sent John home, crying out, that he should be damned.

While Idiomation could not find an earlier reference, the fact that James Lackington used it with such ease in his “Memoirs” published in 1791 indicates that it was an understood expression for readers of the day and therefore, it would have been in existence at least the generation prior, putting it to about 1750.

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Printer’s Devil

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 10, 2011

While it’s been quite some time since the term printer’s devil may have been used, there was a time when the expression was quite common.  Back in the day, a printer’s devil was the errand boy in a printing establishment.  Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain and Lyndon B. Johnson all had jobs as a printer’s devil when they were young lads.  In time, any errors that were found in print were referred to as a printer’s devil and so a printer’s devil also came to mean mistakes in the printed media.

On August 15, 2010 the Sunday Observer in Sri Lanka published a weekly column by Edwin Ariyadasa entitled, “Sunday Monologue.”  In that particular column, the following is found:

In some instances, the impish printer’s devil slinks past the keen eye of the editors, and gets embedded in the text of a column. On one glaring occasion, this miscreant was at work, on my column titled “World without Sir Arthur C.”  The mischievous printer’s devil, detected a letter I quoted. It was written by Sir Arthur C. on my 85th birthday. It began with the routine Dear Edwin. Resenting this endeavourment, the terrible imp, Printer’s Devil turned it with “Deer Ediwn.”

On January 19, 1954 the Calgary Herald ran this obituary about retired Senator William Henry Dennis who had passed away suddenly at the age of 66.  The obituary read in part:

Senator Dennis was appointed to the Senate in 1932 by Rt. Hon. R. B. Bennett, former Conservative prime minister.  He joined the Halifax Herald when he was 12 years old as a printer’s devil and worked his way in managing director and then publisher.  He returned to Ottawa Sunday night from his home in Halifax for resumption of Senate sittings tonight.  He died at his Ottawa residence.

On October 23, 1902 the Fielding Star newspaper for Kiwitea and Oroua counties in New Zealand ran a story entitled, “Church And The Press.”  The story addressed the Church Congress, the opening address by the Right Reverend Dr. Harmer and newspapers.  The following is found in this news report:

After this excellent tribute, the Congress was prepared to join with interest in a debate on “Church and Press,” when the first speaker was an Adelaid Pressman, Mr. W. J. Sowden, who declared himself and his brethren to be emphatically on the side of the angels.  “Although there is a printer’s devil in the newspaper office, there is also a chapel,” said Mr. Sowden, and a clergyman quoted, “When God erects a house of prayer, the devil builds a chapel there.”

Slipped between serious news stories in the January 18, 1853 edition of the British Colonist and North American Railway Journal was a 4-line poem signed quite simply, Printer’s Devil.  The poem, in its entirety is reproduced here.

A dollar a year, said Dick for the Sun,
Isn’t that cheap? — young son of a gun!
As “cheap as dirt” — said I with a quiz
And so it should be, for dirt it is.

In the song “Ode To The Printer’s Devil” composed by Ned Ward in June 1823, the author states that it is “an ode founded on fact” and is written for the printer’s devil “who brought me a proof to be corrected, and who fell asleep while it was undergoing correction: — being.”

On January 3, 1791 the Connecticut Courant and Weekly Intelligencer ran a story in which the expression “printer’s devil” is used and again a year later on May 7, 1792 in an obituary for Reverend John Lewis, Pastor a church in Wethersfield.

The first printer — as well as the first retailer of printed books — in England was translator and publisher, William Caxton (1422 – 1492) whose first book printed in England was the self-published, “Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres” on November 18, 1477.  But this was not his first shot at being a printer.  Because “[his] pen became worn, [his] hand weary, [his eye dimmed” he decided to set up a press in Bruges in 1473. 

At the time, the printing industry was in its infancy and it was significantly influenced by German printing.  The first book produced by William Caxton at this press and printed in English was ” Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye” in 1474, followed by “The Game And Playe Of The Chesse” published in 1476.  He published most of the English literature available in his day including Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

As a side note, Chaucer imported printing blocks and letters from Germany where there was no “the” sound.  To solve the problem of the non-existent “th” he placed the letter “y” in its place.  And so, “the” appeared as “ye” in published works and the practice of using “y” in place of “th” continued for another 200 years until publishers finally used “th” where “th” was meant to be used.

Rumour has it that he had an apprentice whose last name was Deville.  Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to find proof that such an individual apprenticed under Caxton.  What Idiomation can confirm is that somewhere in the 300 years between William Caxton‘s death and the phrase appearing in a newspaper story in Connecticut in 1791, the printer’s devil was born.

Posted in Idioms from the 15th Century, Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chill Out

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 14, 2011

Chill, chill out, chellaxin’ … they all mean the same thing: to calm down and relax. And who doesn’t like to chill out? It’s such a cool term, that there’s a category of electronic music known for its mellow style and mid-tempo beats that’s been around since the early 1990s known as chill out music. And yes, chill out music is part of what dance clubs refer to as “smooth electronica” and “soft techno.”

The Mirror newspaper in London, England ran an article on August 20, 2005 entitled, “Your Life: Guide To Taking A Year Out.” It dealt with those people who take a year off between going to school and moving on to the next phase of their lives by travelling abroad.

India is cheap, thought not always cheerful. However, after the seething humanity of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, you can chill out on the golden beaches of Goa.

Back on October 20, 1992 the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah published an article entitled, “Memo to America, Canada: Chill Out.” It began with this comment:

I just made it through Canadian customs. This flag thing had me worried. This was no time to be an accidental tourist, stumbling off an airplane in Toronto. Before World Series Game 2, a Marine — apparently from the Atlanta barracks of “F Troop” — hung the Canadian flag upside down, creating an international incident.

The expression chill out first appeared on the scene in 1983 as a variation of the former expression which was simply, chill.

Back in 1979, the popular hip hop group Sugarhill Gang reworked Ecclesiastes into their hit song “Rapper’s Delight” resulting in this:

now there’s a time to laugh a time to cry
a time to live and a time to die
a time to break and a time to chill
to act civilized or act real ill
but whatever ya do in your lifetime
ya never let a mc steal your rhyme

And Ann Landers, in the March 25, 1972 edition of the Calgary Herald, heard from an unhappy “southern lady” who wrote in part:

My question is, should a wife be concerned about such a mutual admiration society? Should I chill the relationship? Or should I relax and not worry?

Oddly enough, the expression “chill out” and its earlier variant, “chill” don’t appear to go back past the 1970s and Idiomation was unable to find an published version that pre-dates the 1972 version cited. However, that it would appear so easily in a letter to Ann Landers indicates that the use of “chill” meaning to calm down and relax was part of every day language by 1972 means it most likely dates back to the late 1960s.

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