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Posts Tagged ‘Canberra Times’

Pipped At The Post

Posted by Admin on May 1, 2021

To be pipped at or on or to the post means to be defeated by someone by a very narrow margin or at a crucial moment. While it’s generally used when talking about a race or competition, but overall it has to do with not succeeding where success was almost guaranteed, or by the underdog gaining a small advantage at the last decisive moment resulting in the crowd favorite losing.

The pip in question has nothing whatsoever to do with the dots on a dice or domino. It has nothing to do with the diamond-shaped segments on a pineapple. It hasn’t any connection to the insignia on the shoulder of an officer’s uniform indicating rank. Those are all pips, but they aren’t the pip in the idiom.

The Oxford English Dictionary and Green’s Dictionary of Slang both refer to the pip as being depressed or out of sorts, and dates back to the 1830s. But from 1896 onward, the pip meant to annoy or irritate someone. From Idiomation’s point of view, losing at the last minute what was believed to be a guaranteed win would certain annoy and irritate the loser, so while the reason for the expression makes sense, when did it come about as an idiom?

The idiom is still in use today, as evidenced by the research paper published in Frontiers in Psychology on May 2019 titled, “Pipped at the Post: Knowledge Gaps and Expected Low Parental IT Competience Ratings Affect Young Women’s Awakening Interest in Professional Careers in Information Science” by Angela Schorr of the Institute of Psychology at the University of Siegen (Germany).

When Collins Dictionary released its words of the year that rise to use in the twelve months leading up to the list being published, most people thought Megxit was a shoe-in for first place in 2020 after Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, left the UK for Canada and subsequently America. But the pandemic had other plans and lockdown won the coveted first place by a nose as lexicographers announced lockdown as the word of the year.

The headline for the article on 10 November 2020 and written by Yahoo! News’ royal correspondent, Rebecca Taylor, announced:

‘Megxit’ Makes Shortlist of 2020 Word of the Year But Pipped to the Post by ‘Lockdown’

In the 18 March 2018 edition of the Messenger Newspaper in the UK they shared the news that The Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide had named Altrincham as the best place to live in North West Britain. According to the guide, Altrincham was “a cool slice of suburbia with big family houses” and was a 25 minute ride on the tram if one wanted a little city living to go with that. The headline read:

Altrincham Pipped at the Post as Best Place to Live

The Canberra Times used the expression in a story published on 9 May 1988. The Syndey Swans were playing against Geelong Cats (who were favored to win the game) in Melbourne. The Swans were trailing badly by halftime, and in the third quarter, there was a 22 point margin between the two teams.

Then something unexpected happened, and things began to go horribly wrong for the Cats and incredibly right for the Swans. Then, according to the newspaper, Geeling rover Robert Scott set up a shot that really had little to no hope in succeeding. He went with a shot at goal from 50 meters out, at a 30 degree angle … into the wind. A true Hail Mary play if ever there was one!

The ball hit the post, resulting in the winning goal being played by the Cats. The headline read: Geelong Pipped at the Post by Swans.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE #1: In the 1970s, when Digital Equipment Co was taken over by Compaq, there was a utility known as the Peripheral Interchange Program, or PIP. To transfer a file from disk to tape or another disk, users had to do so using this program and entering the correct commands, and because of this, to transfer was to pip. It isn’t, however, the same pip as in this Idiomation entry.

It appears the expression is mostly used by those who live in England, Ireland, and Australia as nearly all of the published instances were found in newspapers and books from England, Ireland, and Australia.

For example, the 5 September 1948 edition of the Sheffield Telegraph and Star told the story of a man who had been blind for at least 35 years and yet continued gardening and his relation to the Thomas Glossop Memorial Cup.

The gardening competition was started by the Abbeydale Amateur Gardening Society which had been started by Vicar of St. John’s Abbeydale. The cup was awarded on the most points scored.

Every year, the blind man did all his own gardening, raising his plants from seeds, and keeping his garden weed-free thrugh his sense of touch. He had won the gardening award from the time WWI broke out, up until his death in 1940. In 1958, the man’s son, Arthur H. Glossop, suggested the cup be the runner-up to the winner of The Kemsley Cup presented by The Star newspaper. He was quoted in the newspaper saying:

“My father always had a lot of sympathy for the man who was just pipped at the post, and I am delighted to think that his cup would be a consolation to such a competitor,” said Mr. Arthur Glossop.

In the 12 January 1926 edition of The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate newspaper reported on a horse race that was so close that the reporter wrote that “a majority of the onlookers thought that [Gadamin] had just got [to the finish line]” with regards to a the horse race in which Gadamin was racing.

It was an amazing race from a number of standpoints.

For one, this was said about one of the other horses: “Varney, from Vic Benyon’s stable, was also one of the field, but was not in the hunt until the race was practically over. He made up a lot of ground from the turn, and would probably be better suited by a longer trip.”

However the focus of the story was on the horse who didn’t win with the headline sharing the news.

Pipped On The Post: Gadamin’s Game Effort

Indeed, in the June 1903 edition of Baily’s Magazine of Sports and Pastimes in the story, “Our Van” a detailed accounting of horse racing was written across several pages, and within that writing was this passage:

In a Maiden Two-Year-Old race we saw a race thrown away. In Newsboy one was found to beat Bass Rock, but Land, having accomplished this, took matters too easily, and was “pipped” on the post by Extradition. When will jockeys learn?

And there we see the word pipped in quotation marks which indicates the expression was just coming into its own.

In the 19th century Britain, to pip someone meant you wounded or killed that person, usually with a gun. It was an effective way to defeat one’s opponent. Being defeated at the finish line by one’s competitor who wasn’t the crowd favorite would also wound, and Idiomation suspects this is how the expression rose to popularity around the turn of the 20th century.

This leaves the earliest published version of pipped at or to or on the post to 1903 with only a few years before that to account for the use of the quotation marks in the 1903 article.

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Pieman

Posted by Admin on June 28, 2016

Many are familiar with the nursery rhyme about a young man named Simon who meets a pieman going to the fair.

Simple Simon met a pieman
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
“Let me taste your ware.”

Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
“Show me first your penny.”
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
“Indeed I have not any.”

Clearly, a pieman is simply that: Someone who makes  or sells pies.  But have piemen existed for as long as pies have, and do piemen still exist in today’s world?

According to the October 25, 2015 edition of the Mirror newspaper in the UK, piemen still exist and are worthy of news articles from time to time.  In an article published in the paper that day, it was reported that the boss of Morrison’s pie-making factory in Bradford had reached a milestone of sorts.  The article was titled, “Pieman‘s Appetite Is Off The Charts.”

A month earlier, however, the Canberra Times in Australia reported on September 24, 2015 that the southside Canberra was reeling from the passing of their last pieman, Leicester Donoghoe.  The funeral processions was lead by a 1936 Chevrolet van that had served as the pieman‘s original pie cart.

His was a colorful life, apprenticed as a baker and pastry cook at Duncan’s in Queanbeyan before buying the pie cart from Tom Wilkinson from the Top Hat Café in Manuka.  The article marked the man’s passing with the headline, “Leicester Donoghoe, Last Pieman Of Canberra’s South, Leaves With Tragic Wish.”

In Volume 25 (on page 57) of the “Materials Engineering” magazine published in 1947, an interesting line was inserted into an editorial titled, “Simple Simon Met A Pieman.”  Obviously an OpEd piece, it addressed a social injustice the author wanted known.  The piece began with this set-up.

Once upon a time there was a pieman named Getmore in fact there was a whole family of Getmores up to their necks in the pie business but not making a great deal of dough at that.

Perhaps it’s because the nursery rhyme lends itself so easily to being rewritten that a different version was published in “The Common Cause” on page 25 in 1912.  This version was titled, “Simple Simon On Capital” and was written by W.M. Ramsay.  It was actually part of a larger publication titled, “Great Anti-Socialist and Anti-Communist, Anti-communist Movements.”

Everybody knows that I met the Pieman, but they don’t know as I got a pie from him. This is how it same about.

“Let’s have a pie, Pieman,” says I.

“All right, says he, “let’s see your brass.”

“I ain’t got no brass now,” says I, “but I’ll soon get the brass at the fair.”

The focus of the story was to sell both sides of the concept.  At first, the story claimed that capitalism was “stealing from the poor, grinding down the workers and taking their profits, letting ’em starve and making bloated millinaires [sic]” as voiced by Thomas.

But Simon rebutted the definition by saying that capitalism wasn’t that at all.  Simon said:  “Capital keeps the sheep alive till the grass grows.  It puts something in your inside and sets you a-going at your job, and it grubs the men a-making the railroad and their wives and their little-uns, and buys ’em clothes and pays the lodging till the trains are running and the profits come in.”

It sounds to Idiomation like the Pieman from W.M. Ramsay’s story taught Simon quite a bit about capitalism.

Volume 4 of “Vick’s Monthly Magazine” published in 1881 had an article titled, “Notes And Reminiscences” that talked about the hopes the writer had for the Valley of the Murray in Australia.  Mentioning an article in an earlier edition, the writer — known only by his initials S.W.V. and the fact that he lived in Sandhurst — stated:

One character, “the pieman,” I offer a few additional remarks about, which may be of interest.  The pieman not only sold, but was open to the speculations; the pie was supposed to be of a standard commercial value, one penny, and his proposal for business was “‘Ot pie, toss o’ by” (Hot pie, toss or buy) and the adventurer would “spin a copper,” the pieman crying, “head or tail,” as the case might be.  If the pieman cried wrong he had to shell out the “‘ot pie” for a half penny; au contraire, if he called right the spectator lost his half penny.  It is, perhaps unnecessary to say that in any case the pieman was the winner, even if he always had to sell the pie at half penny, seeing that said pie was but a small bit of puff paste, and as to the meat or fruit it contained, it required a magnifying glass of high power to find it at all.

A generation earlier, in the 1851 edition of “London Labor and the London Poor: A Cyclopaedia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Can Not Work, and Those That Will Not Work: Volume I” by English social researcher, journalist, playwright, and social reform advocate, Henry Mayhew (25 November 1812 – 25 July 1887), a similar situation is described.

The London piemen, who may number about forty in winter, and twice that number in summer, are seldom stationary.  They go along with their pie-cans on their arms, crying, “Pies all ‘ot!  eel, beef, or mutton pies!  Penny pies, all ‘ot — all ‘ot!”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  Henry Mayhew was co-founder, along with Mark Lemon,(30 November 1809 – 23 May 1870) of the satirical and humorous magazine Punch first published in 1841. 

In “The Boston Weekly Magazine” published in 1802, it too mentioned of a pieman in a short insert titled, “Sagacity of a Dog.”  It was an amazing story that included this passage.

The next time he heard the pieman‘s bell, the Dog ran to him with impetuosity, seized him by the coat, and would not suffer him to pass. The pieman, who understood what the animal wanted, showed him a penny, and pointed to his master, who stood in the street door, and saw what was going on.

The concept of a pie being something where meat or fish are enclosed in pastry dates back to the 1350s.  Undoubtedly there have been piemen selling their wares since then, but somewhere between the 1350s and 1802, the term wasn’t published in books, pamphlets, or newspapers.  Or if it was, it has escaped Idiomation’s eyes.

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Black Maria

Posted by Admin on January 8, 2014

In some circles, Black Maria is a form of whist in which players avoid winning tricks containing hearts or the queen of spades, but in other circles, Black Maria is a police van used for transporting prisoners. Black Maria is also referred to as Mother’s Heart because no matter how many are already in the van, there’s always room for one more.

On July 10, 1931, the Canberra Times carried a brief description of how the Black Maria came to be. The paragraph at the bottom of page 3 read:

The expression “Black Maria” with application to a prison van originated in America over 60 years ago. A big negro woman called Maria Lee kept a seaman’s “lodging-house” in Boston. the men were usually unruly and Maria was often called upon to help to get them under lock.

Travelling back twenty years, the Lodi Sentinel edition of October 22, 1912 attributed Black Maria to an African-American woman living in Boston, MA during Colonial times. Allegedly, it all began when Maria brought three drunken sailors to the lockup all at the same time because they were too much trouble to keep in her boarding-house. And the story goes that she became of greater and greater help to the police, especially when sailors in the area got so out of hand that even the police couldn’t subdue them. The article states this:

Few people know of Black Maria Lee as the boarding-house keeper of Colonial days, but she handed her name down as a menace to the vicious of future generations, in the modern jail wagon. To “send for the black maria” is as much of a threat now as it was in Maria Lee’s times.

A decade before that on January 31, 1902 the Amador Ledger carried the story about Black Maria. Also a brief story, it read thusly:

The following is given as the origin of the term “Black Maria.” When New England was filled with emigrants from the mother country, a negress named Maria Lee kept a sailors’ boarding house in Boston. She was a woman of great strength and helped the authorities to keep the peace. Frequently the police invoked her aid, and the saying, “Send for Black Maria,” came to mean, “Take him to jail.” British seamen were often taken to the lockup by this amazon, and the stories they spread of her achievements led to the name of Black Maria being given to the English prison van.

But that explanation disappears completely and is actually dispelled in the monthly magazine, The Guardian” in the February 1859 edition. The magazine was devoted to “the social, literary, and religious interests of young men and ladies.” when the editor, Reverend H. Harbaugh, wrote:

What do we mean by Black Maria? That is a proper question, and it shall be answered. It is not a colored woman, as the reader perhaps hastily supposed, that is to form the subject of our present article.

Not to prolong suspense we will at once proceed to define. Black Maria is the name given to a certain strangely constructed vehicle, used in some of our larger town and cities to convey prisoners from the prison to the court house and back again.

The editor’s research indicated that Mary (or Maria) in Hebrew meant bitterness, and then offered his opinion that “he who rides in [the police wagon] was made in the image of God, and designed for a better end.” By choosing the ways of crime, the accused, riding in disgrace through the streets courtesy of the Black Maria, was surely bitter about his disgrace of riding in the Black Maria.  The wagon, of course, was painted black hence the color reference.

According to the St. Louis Police Veteran’s Association website run by the City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in Missouri, the City of Saint Louis Police Department purchased its first Black Maria in 1850 because it was too difficult for patrolmen to walk their suspects back and forth to jail.  It was a horse-drawn carriage, also painted black, with the carriage acting as a secure prison cell complete with iron bars on the windows and doors. Years later, on April 9, 1866, another Black Maria was purchased, and the idiom is used in the minutes of the board meeting of the St. Louis Board Of Police Commissioners.

In “The Knickerbocker” also known as the “New-York Monthly Magazine” in Volume 17 which was published in June of 1841, the magazine included a story entitled, “The American At Home: A Ride In An Omnibus.”  The story included this passage:

One of them I knew; and a better patriot, when he is not drunk, is not to be found in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At the east wing was standing, pensive and melancholy, the Automedon of ‘Black Maria,’ the equipage used in carrying criminals to court and thence to their prisons, melancholy, no doubt, in apprehension of being turned out of office. These are fearful times! This public functionary is in the thief-taking line, and doubtless, availing himself of his official influence, has been meddling in politics, thereby subjecting himself to the displeasure of government. His black wagon stands just underneath the Philosophical Society, a conspicuous figure in the group; bearing about the same relation to the other equipages as the hangman to the rest of the community.

It’s a fact that magistrates Sir John Gonson, Sir Thomas De Veil, and, Henry and John Fielding were responsible for creating the first professional police and justice system in England in 1720. This resulted in a number of horse and foot patrols, at night and during the day, and this police presence deterred most criminals for committing crimes. Fifty years later, the Middlesex Justices Act of 1792 was responsible for the creation of seven police offices, and each office had three stipendiary magistrates plus six constables responsible for detecting and arresting criminals. Then in 1800, the Thames Police Office at Wapping opened with three stipendiary magistrates and one hundred constables.

With the passage of Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act in 1829, the concept of policing was firmly entrenched in England. When the second Metropolitan Police Act was passed in 1839, constables were no longer employed by the magistrates, and became a police organization instead. Somewhere between 1839 and 1841, police wagons came into use to aid officers on foot and horse patrol.

Idiomation therefore places believes it is reasonable to peg the idiom Black Maria to 1840, between the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 and the publication of the story on published in June of 1841 in the Knickerbocker magazine.

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