Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Daily Mail’

Telling Porky Pies

Posted by Admin on June 21, 2016

While reading the comments section on a YouTube video, one comment spoke of someone telling porky pies.  To those who aren’t familiar with the expression, telling porky pies means someone is lying.

The Mirror newspaper reported on September 21, 2015 that British Prime Minister David Cameron wasn’t being entirely truthful when he claimed he was unaware of Lord Ashcroft’s controversial “non-dom” tax status in the months leading up to the 2010 general election.  However, Lord Ashcroft told the Daily Mail that he and David Cameron discussed the matter in detail in 2009.  The article was titled, “Is David Cameron Telling Porky Pies When It Comes To Misleading Voters Over Non-Dom Tax?

Thirty years earlier, in 1985, Volume 29 of “Canadian Electronic Engineering” found a way to insert the expression into an article.  Regardless of what the article was about, a definite statement was made about the origins of the saying.

Gallium arsenide as a chip material has reached political levels.  At least it has in the UK, where recently an honorable member was taken to task by the technical media for telling “porky pies” in the House.   That’s rhyming slang for telling terminological inexactitudes.

In the British sit-com, “Only Fools and Horses” which ran from 1981 to 1984, written and created by John Sullivan, the expression was included in a number of episodes including, but not limited to, Episode 2 of Season 4.

RODNEY:
You don’t believe all them stories do you?

DEL:
What?  Do you reckon they’re porkies?

According to the Rocking Rhyming Slang website as well as Londontopia, telling porky pies or telling porkies is one of the most well-known slang expressions throughout London and the UK.  On the Londontopia website, the authors claim that rhyming slang originated in the East End of London in the 1840s.  As we all know, language is a living and breathing entity, and Cockney rhyming slang has continued to expand since its inception.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 1:  The term pork pie dates back to 1732.

That being said, pork pies were a British delicacy in England back in the day.  Hand-raised pork pies were first made in 1831 in Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2:  Joseph Hansom built the Belvoir Street Baptist Chapel in Leicester in 1845 which has been referred to as the Pork Pie Chapel because of its shape which resembles a Melton Mowbray pork pie!

The Melton Mowbray pork pies were mass produced (for the day) in the oldest surviving bakery, Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe, from 1851 onwards.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3:  Melton Mowbray Pork Pies are protected by European Union law.  For those who doubt this fact, click HERE to download the PDF confirming this fact.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 4:  The area is equally famous for its Stilton cheese.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 5:  If you’re looking for a recipe that closely resembles these pork pies, click HERE and download this freebie.

The shape of the Melton Mowbray pork pies was the influence and reason pork-pie hats were called pork-pie hats which originated in 1855.  The pork-pie hat was a popular woman’s hat (sometimes worn at an angle on the forehead) with a flat crown and a brim that made it look like a Melton Mowbray pork pie.

Brits will tell you that the expression telling porky pies has been around as long as there have been Melton Mowbray pork pies.

As a side note, Idiomation also learned along the way that porky pies and mince pies in Cockney rhyming slang aren’t the same thing at all.  One is all about lies, while the other is all about eyes.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Like Turkeys Voting For Christmas

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2013

If people are like turkeys voting for Christmas, it means they have decided to accept a situation that will end badly for them. In other words, the action taken to resolve a situation is also ont that’s self-defeating at the same time. This doesn’t make for a good situation or a good solution no matter how you look at it.

When Nuala Nolan in Galway wrote to the Independent newspaper on January 4, 2011 she was concerned with the water distribution systems and the installation of water meters that would be unworkable with the next cold spell in Ireland. She wrote succinctly, and ended her Letter To The Editor with this question:

Are we not just like turkeys voting for Christmas when we agree to water charges in circumstances where the majority of working people will find a huge drop in their pay as a result of the recent Budget?

In the Financial Times article of November 28, 2010 entitled, “Europe Is Edging Towards The Unthinkable” by journalist, Wolfgang Münchau, the macro-arithmetics of the financial crisis in Europe were of great concern.   The eurozone strategy appeared to be the last bail-out option available, even though there was a small cushion amount between how much had already been spent and how much could be spent. He wrote in part:

Ms Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, were last week putting the final touches to their new bail-in rules, to introduce collective action clauses in sovereign bond contracts. I would not be surprised if at least one member state rejected the Franco-German diktat. For example, I cannot see how Spain or Italy can conceivably support them. To use a seasonal analogy, it would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

It was on May 7, 2002 that Tobey Walne’s article “Equitable On The Brink” was published by the Daily Mail in London, England. The news story addressed Equitable’s assets and liabilities and the company’s current condition which was thought to possibly be worse than what was being presented. The second to last paragraph read:

Paul Braithwaite, chairman of the Equitable Members’ Action Group, says: ‘Equitable is running on paper-thin liquidity and the writing is on the wall. There are no prospects for it adding to holdings in stocks and shares or bringing back bonuses. For loyal policyholders, it has been like turkeys voting for an early Christmas.’

In 1978, Alistair Michie and English journalist and broadcaster, Simon Hoggart (born 26 May 1946) published a book entitled, “The Pact: The Inside Story of the Lib-Lab Government.” In 1977, James Callaghan (27 March 1912 – 26 March 2005) of the Labor government forged an agreement with the Liberal party led by David Steel to safeguard against a successful motion of no confidence pushing through. The pact was confirmed on September 7, 1978 and the Labor government was able to remain in power until May 1979 when a general election was called. This passage appears in the book:

“Us voting for the Pact is like a turkey voting for Christmas,” said David Penhaligon. But they did agree that Steel should see Callaghan that afternoon.

The person identified as having used the idiom was David Charles Penhaligon (6 June 1944 – 22 December 1986) — a British politician from Cornwall, and a Liberal Member of Parliament for the constituency of Truro. But contrary to what the Oxford Dictionary says, he was not the originator of the expression as the idiom was used in The Alice Glenn Report, Volume 1, Number 3 dated May 1986.  Alice Glenn (17 December 1921 – 16 December 2011) a Fine Gael candidate for Dublin Central in Ireland, was an outspoken person during the 1986 Divorce Referendum in Ireland, and in her leaflet of May 1986 she entitled the front page story, “A Woman Voting For Divorce Is Like A Turkey Voting For Christmas.”

The expression is actually an Irish proverb: A turkey never voted for an early Christmas. Idiomation hasn’t found any resource book disputing that the proverb is, indeed, an Irish proverb, however, a date cannot be affixed to the proverb.

That being said, turkeys were brought from America to England and Ireland by William Strickland in 1526, and it’s believed that King Henry VIII was the first to enjoy roasted turkey. When turkeys were introduced to England and Ireland, families ate goose, boar or peacock at Christmas. By the early 1600s, turkey was found at major Tudor banquets held by those of financial means and power. As the 17th century rolled around, families of means were able to add turkey to the options for Christmas meals. Just as turkey replaced good as the main dish at Christmas, so it replaced it in the proverb which used to be: A goose never voted for an early Christmas.

It would be at this point (one would think) that if geese and turkeys could vote, that they would vote for the other to be served up for Christmas.  It would be unthinkable that they would vote for their own kind to be on the menu.  Likewise, no reasonable person would put themselves in danger and vote to be put in an untenable position.

Idiomation, therefore, pegs the original saying of a turkey  never voted for an early Christmas to the early 1600s, with the variation following afterwards, modified as proverbs often are.

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

Water Off A Duck’s Back

Posted by Admin on August 26, 2011

When someone says something is like water off a duck’s back, what they’re telling you is that it has no short-term or long-term effect on them at all.  Recently former Miss Wales, Imogen Thomas was pelted with a water bomb according to the July 29, 2011 edition of the Daily Mail in the UK. It stated in part:

It appeared that Imogen soon put the water bomb incident behind her however — water off a duck’s back, as it were.

On October 7, 1961 the Prairie Outdoors column written by Morris Ferrie and published by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix saw this story published:

Often used is the phrase “like water off a duck’s back” when describing an attitude of indifference.  Well, this attitude was far from present the other day when farmers from around bone-dry Pelican Lake met with sportsmen and government representatives in Moose Jaw to discuss the situation.

In the end, the story ended well with the announcement that “any disagreement that may have existed with respect to the presence of Pelican Lake was completely overwhelmed when the following resolution was passed unanimously:  RESOLVED that Pelican Lake be restored and maintained for the purpose of providing for agricultural and waterfowl needs and that the lake be managed in a manner to make it permanent, and further be it; RESOLVED that this resolution be referred for immediate action to the Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the P.F.R.A. and Ducks Unlimited (Canada).”

On August 3, 1910 the Deseret Evening News ran a news story about Secy Ballinger who had denied the rumour that he would be tendering his resignation soon, after having met with Senator Crane in Minneapolis, MN the day before.  The headline read, “No Resignation For Ballinger: President Stands By Him.”  He was quoted as saying:

“All this vicious attack by unscrupulous men, backed by newspapers with even less scruples, goes off me like water off a duck’s back.  That never will induce me to resign.”

On September 25, 1894 the Lawrence Daily Journal ran an advertisement for Pearline soap.  The main copy, signed by a James Pyle of New York City, read:

Like water off a duck’s back — so dirt leaves, when Pearline gets after it.  No matter where it is, the easiest, safest, quickest and cheapest way to get rid of it is with Pearline.  Washing clothes is Pearline’s most important work.  That’s because it saves so much wear and tear, as well as labor, by doing away with the rub, rub, rub.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that Pearline washes everything.  Dishes, paint, marble, glass, tin-ware, silver, jewelry, carpets, hangings — there’s work to be saved with all of these, by using Pearline.

The saying also appeared in an advertisement in the March 14, 1893 edition of the Manawatu Herald in New Zealand selling this amazing new product.  The main copy read:

Have you see the new Rainproof “Impervanas” Dress Serges now showing at Te Aro House, Wellington?  “Like water off a duck’s back” describes their wonderful quality.  No one need now fear the heaviest shower of rain while wearing a dress of the impervious “Impervanas” Serge.  Procurable only at Te Aro House, Wellington.  “Impervanas” Serges will not spot, will not shrink, are not affected by sea water, and are made of the best New Zealand wools.  Write for patterns to the sole agent, James Smith, Te Aro House, Wellington.  The Showroom is abundantly stocked with choice good for present requirements of which we invite inspection and comparison.  Ross and Sandford, District Importers, the Bon Marche, Palmerston North.

The Grey River Argus published on May 23, 1874 reported on a serious situation in Nelson, New Zealand as it pertained to the Provincial Council and the Brunner Mine owned by the Government and purchased from the late Ballarat Company in 1868.  It stated in part:

This is one of the advantages of a non-responsible Government — that it can afford to allow hostile motions to glide like water off a duck’s back, or rather like a pellet from the scales of an alligator.  In support of his allegations that the Estimates were not framed in accordance with the requirements of the province, and that the department expenditure was too high, Mr. Donne said ….

The article quotes Mr. Donne word for word as he dissects the revenues and expenses of the Council in making his point that administration costs of 76 percent plus all the other deductions and expenses along with the quality of the work done in the department.  The Provincial Treasurer is said to have attempted to present a defence of the Estimates but in the end, the Estimates were returned for reconstruction according to the news story.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms claims the phrase is from the early 1800s and it may well be however Idiomation was unable to find a published reference prior to 1874.  That being said, it was used in the news story without quotation marks and as such, it was not a recent colloquialism.  Because news travelled at a more relaxed pace in the 1800s than it does in the technologically connected world of today, new expressions took time to be incorporated into the language, finally making it into books and, in the end, newspapers and magazines. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to believe that the word was in use for at least a generation prior to being printed in the Grey River Argus, putting the date to the late 1840s or early 1850s.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Handicap

Posted by Admin on July 25, 2011

If you’ve ever caught even a bit of a golf game on television, you’ll have heard the term handicap bandied about by the commentators. Just because a golfer has a handicap, however, doesn’t mean that he’s disabled in any way.  It means that he’s playing at a disadvantage.

On September 29, 1999 the Daily Mail newspaper in England published a news story written by Ian Wooldridge entitled, “Golf’s Great Handicap.”  It dealt with what the journalist referred to as “unprecedently appalling crowd behaviour” especially towards golfers Colin Montgomerie and Mark James.  The matter of what would happen in two years’ time at the Belfry was of considerable concern to all involved.  An unnamed source, speaking about how the situation should be handled, was quoted in the story as saying:

“Very simple,” uttered a quiet voice. “You merely restrict entry to spectators who can produce a golf club handicap certificate to prove they know something about the etiquette of the game.”

On July 28, 1958 the Edmonton Journal reported on an interesting story about William Wacht, a 60-year-old member of the Pines Ridge Golf Club in Ossining, New York who asked to have his handicap raised to 34 from 29.  The first sentence of the story entitled, “Supreme Court To Compute Golf Handicap” read:

A golfer has asked the new York Supreme Court to compute his handicap.

On May 26, 1922 the New York Times newspaper published an article entitled, “Harding To Play Golf In Newspaper Tourney.”  Warren G. Harding was to represent the Marion Daily Star newspaper in the Washington Newspaper Golf Club Spring tournament.  The 12 newspaper men turning in the lowest gross scores would go on to represent Washington correspondents on June 12th on Long Island and would enjoy a weekend as the guest of New Jersey Senator Frelinghuysen.  The story included information on Mr. Harding’s abilities as a golfer.

The participants will compete for a cup offered by Edward B. McLean, owner of the Washington Post, for the lowest net score.  The President’s handicap, based on recent scores, is 22, which indicates that Mr. Harding’s average for eighteen holes if between 95 and 100.

And on January 23, 1882 the West Coast Times in New Zealand printed a brief announcement in the Advertisements column.  Quite simply it stated:

Dunedin February Races:  Dunedin Cup, Dunedin Jockey Club Handicap, and Dunedin Forbury Handicap. Three Events.

On February 7, 1855 the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle newspaper ran advertisements with regards to a number of items.  One of these had to do with the horse races to be held on Thursday, March 8, 1855 at the Nelson Turf Club.  It included this description of one of the races:

The Forced Handicap of 10 Sovs. h. ft., for the winner of any races except the Port and Selling Stakes, and Consolation Plate; open to any other horse; second horse to save his stake.  Horses to be named at the same time as for the Consolation Plate, and to be handicapped in the same manner.  Once round and a distance.

The term handicap actually comes from an old card game known as “Hand I The Cap.”  In this card  game, players would drop the money they bid on a hand into a cap as the cards were dealt.  When the dealer won the hand, he, of course, won all the money in the cap.  Unfortunately, when a dealer won the hand, the next dealer was at a disadvantage in the game of “Hand I The Cap.” In time, this was shortened to “Hand I Cap.”  Mention of the game “Hand I The Cap” can be found in Samuel Pepys’ Diary under his entry of September 18, 1680 however his is not the first mention of a game by that name. 

Before “Hand I The Cap” was a card game, it was known simply as “hand in cap” and was a trading game with prized possessions and money involved as evidenced by documents dating back to the 14th century.  It required two players and a referee.  For example, if Trader #1 had a cloak to trade and Trader #2 had boots to trade, the referee would examine the items to trade and assign a monetary value to them based on condition, age, usefulness, etc.  Whatever the difference was between the two items had to be tossed into a cap by the trader whose item was of lesser value so that both items would now be of equal value.  The difference was referred to as “the odds.” 

At the referee’s mark, both traders would reach into the cap at exactly the same time and draw their hands out at exactly the same time.  An open hand meant there was agreement to trade; a closed hand was a refusal to trade. 

If the traders both agreed to the trade, each would receive the other’s item.  If the traders both disagreed to the trade, each would retain their item.  Regardless of whether they both accepted or both refused, the referee would get the money in the cap.  In other words, if they accepted, the referee was rewarded for having assigned fair value to both items; if they refused, the referee was compensated for the traders’ stubbornness.

If one trader refused while the other trader accepted, then the trader who accepted the deal would get the money in the cap; the trader who accepted the deal was compensated for the other trader’s stubbornness.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Face Like A Wet Weekend

Posted by Admin on April 13, 2011

When someone says you have a “face like a wet weekend” two things can be sure:  you seem to be very unhappy from all outward appearances and the person remarking on how you look is most likely very familiar with current British slang.

On March 15, 2009 the Scotsman published an interview with Fraser Gray, head of Zolfo Cooper in Scotland, that delved into the matter of insolvency practitioners:

It is not easy being seen as the corporate grim reaper, the man with a briefcase full of P45s and a face like a wet weekend. Insolvency practitioners are not the sort of people generally welcomed with unbridled enthusiasm and a beaming smile, but this is their time and they’re pretty busy right now.

The Daily Mail in the UK ran an article on September 3, 2007 by Louise Roe entitled, “Chic Or Freak? Can You Wear This Season’s Wacky Styles In Public?

We head to a nearby flower stall to take a photo with a bright background. Or at least we try to. The flower seller looks me up and down with a face like a wet weekend and refuses to let me buy anything from him, let alone have my picture taken next to his roses. No wonder goths have a reputation for always being so grumpy – the reaction I’m getting is overwhelmingly negative.

And on March 8, 2004 the Mirror newspaper in the UK ran a story on then-20-year-old Holly Valance and her then-boyfriend Peter Ververis, and their appearance at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia.  From the way the article reads, it was a wholly unpleasant experience all the way around.

Given that failed Holly Valance fled Britain last week with her tail between her legs, you would think she’d be extra nice to anyone still willing to pay attention to her.  But not stroppy Holly.  She rolled up at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne yesterday, with a face like a wet weekend and a personality to match.

Prior to this date, it appears that anything that speaks of a “wet weekend” appears to only address the weather however that the phrase “face like a wet weekend” was used easily in an article in 2004, it is safe to assume that this slang expression has been around at least since at least 2000.

Posted in Idioms from the 21st Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »