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Posts Tagged ‘Coronation Street’


Posted by Admin on April 14, 2014

If you’ve ever been gobsmacked, you know that whatever happened absolutely and completely astonished or astounded you … and not necessarily in a positive way either!  That means that you’re speechless due to surprise.

On November 19, 2013 the Valley Advocate published an entertainment article written by Chris Rohmann about local readings of Court Dorsey‘s new play. The play was inspired by James Douglass‘ 2010 book “JKF and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.”  The article was entitled, “Stagestruck: Gobsmacked By History.”

In the 1980s, the word was used by Alan Bleasdale in his television series about five Liverpudlian tarmac layers titled, “Boys from the Blackstuff” and in the daytime soap opera, “Coronation Street” which was set in a fictional suburb of Manchester.

Jack Reynolds wrote the book “A Woman of Bangkok” which was first published in 1956, then republished in 1959, and subsequently reprinted by Monsoon Books (Singapore) in 2011.  The Asian Wall Street Journal touted the book as being “among the ten finest novels written  about Asia” and reviews are a mixed bag of polarized opinions.  The following is found early in the book:

I’m so amazed that only the Malderbury dialect can express my condition: I’m ‘properly gob-smacked.’  I’d been thinking I was holding my own in this male company.  I’m drinking as fast as they are.  With two well-chosen words I created the biggest laugh of the evening — and in a foreign language, too.  But there is more to being a man than being a good fellow.

So what exactly is a gob?  In the July 1912 edition of the Ossett Observer it was reported that William Henry Hayes, aged 56, and a pit deputy had been killed at Wrenthorpe pit which was part of the Low Laithes Colliery.  The article read in part:

Ezra Ramsden, of 11 East Parade, Eastborough, Dewsbury, coal miner, said that the accident happened on Friday at 12:30 p.m.  In a few minutes he would have finished the job of filling up a “gob.”  There had been a fall of roof three or four days before in the Silkstone seam, and deceased, who was assisting to remove the dirt, was working about half a yard from the witness.  Suddenly, a stone fell down on the deceased, who was sitting on his right foot and left, and was in the act of using his shovel.  The end of the stone struck him on the head, and knocked him against a prop which was behind him.

The expression, as you can see, appears to have its roots in coal mining lingo.  The space left behind by mining is known as the gob and it is packed with waste rock and left to collapse.

Gob In Mining_IMAGE

The term gob was used in Volume 2 of “Mining: A Journal Devoted to the Interests of Miners and Mining Students” which was published in 1894, and in Volume 5 of “Transactions of the Federated Institution of Mining” published in 1893 by the Federated Institution of Mining Engineers, in an article by Joel Settle entitled, “Spontaneous Combustion In Coal-Mines.”

The term was included in the 1883 book by William Stukelby Gresley, “Glossary Of Terms Used In Coal Mining.” It was identified as an alternate word for “goaf” or “goave” and meant:

That part of a mine from which the coal, etc., has been worked away and the space more or less filled up.

The term was in use at the early coal mines of Newcastle in the district county of Northumberland in New South Wales in 1804.  Connecticut settlers in the Wyoming Valley began mining in 1762, and knowingly left gobs as they went.

History points to the fact that before the Industrial Revolution, coal was mined from two types of mines, both of which made for easy coal mining:  drift mines and bell pits.  But in 1700, the demand for coal increased dramatically and coal shafts began to read hundreds of feet into the ground in search of coal seams.  Once a coal seam was found, it was mined horizontally thereby creating gobs.

As mentioned previously, the space left behind by mining was known as the gob or goaf and it was packed with waste rock where it was left to collapse.  What this meant was that it was expected that at some point the gob would inevitably collapse albeit without prior notice of the impending collapse.   Since gobs retained moisture to varying degrees (sometimes 9 and 12 inches of water) in each of these caves, when a gob roof collapsed, it smacked the ground.   If you’ve been in a cave, you know how loud the smallest noise can be as it reverberates against the walls. Miners who were startled when a gob roof caved in were said to be gobsmacked.

Based on historical information and the accepted use of the word gob by miners and professional engineers coupled with factual information on the collapse of gobs and their impact on miners, Idiomation pegs the idiom to 1700.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

Posted by Admin on March 15, 2013

You’ve probably heard someone say that a leopard can’t change his spots before and what it means is that no matter how hard someone may try to change that true nature, they’ll never succeed in changing who they are naturally. It’s another way of saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  As Popeye was famous for saying: “I am what I am.”

For example, in the August 25, 2008 edition of the Mirror, a quick write-up was provided about the upcoming episode of Coronation Street (a popular British soap opera). Summing it up in two lines, Jane Simon wrote:

A leopard can’t change its spots and it looks like Tyrone was right to be suspicious about his mum Jackie having turned over a new leaf. After Tyrone and Molly spend a worried night in the car waiting for Jackie to return, Tyrone’s mood turns to anger when she crows about pulling yet another scam.

In Sports Editor, Al Abrams’ column “Sidelights On Sports” published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 17, 1950, sports fans were abuzz about was Ezzard “No Hazard” Charles, the NBA heavyweight king of boxing. It was said that he fought just enough to win without taking unnecessary risks which cost him in box office appeal and popularity with what Abrams called “members of slug society who pay the fright to see him in action.” Throwing in his two cents worth, he wrote:

Ezzard, no hazard, like the leopard, can’t change his spots. There’s no denying he is a good fighter, the best heavyweight around until the night the aged Louis proves otherwise, but he could be a far greater and exciting one if he’d just “give” a little more. That he never will. We’re all convinced of that.

The Jeffersonian Gazette of November 1, 1900 had a similar take on the subject of politics in an article entitled, “Party vs. Principles.”  The story led off with this paragraph:

It is an old saying, that it is difficult for the leopard to change his spots. It semes from actual experience that it is almost as difficult for the old time republican to leave his party. With many of us upon whom party affiliation sits lightly; what we mean is that we care nothing for the name, it is principles we want; we can’t fully appreciate how a man who voted for Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, and that long line of illustrious heroes and statesmen, now dead,will put so much stress upon a party name.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer states that it was first recorded in English in 1546, but no source was provided. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t first recorded in English in 1546, only that Idiomation has not identified what that source may be.

What Idiomation could confirm is that a version of the idiom is found in the Bible in Jeremiah 13:20-25 where it states:

20 Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

21 What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?

22 And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.

23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

24 Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.

25 This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.

The Book of Jeremiah in the Bible was written between 630 and 580 BC, at a time when the Law Of The Medes and Persians was a forgone conclusion. The Mede were an Indo-European people who inhabited ancient Media, and who had established an empire during the 7th century. And as with the law of the Medes and Persians, it was believed that the laws of nature could not be altered or changed either.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Greece | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »