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Posts Tagged ‘Easton Free Press’

At The Drop Of A Hat

Posted by Admin on April 24, 2013

Nothing says urgency quite like doing something at the drop of a hat. When someone does this, it means they will stop what they’re doing at the time and immediately go on to something else without preparation or warning … and sometimes without stopping to think about the possible repercussions of their actions.

Back on June 5, 2009 the New Hampshire Business Review published an article entitled, “Sorry, Wrong Number.” It recounted (in 4 short paragraphs) the situation of Peter Burling, former Democratic State Senator from Cornish whose telephone service provider had claimed in a report to credit agencies that a matter of $17 had not been paid. The fact of the matter is that the bill had been paid long again by electronic payment. The article included this sentence.

That report apparently was enough for American Express to lower the credit limit on Burling’s longstanding account, something that — as many of us are finding out first-hand of late — credit card companies are happy to do at the drop of a hat.

On April 30, 1940 the St. Petersburg Times reported the latest on what was happening on the war fronts in Europe in an article entitled, “Allied Troops Throw Back Nazi Attack On Norwegian Rail Line: This Happened In The Past 24 Hours.” Not only was the activity in Norway reported, but news of special diplomatic envoy, Adolfo Alessandrini’s anticipated visit to New York was reported as well. The article included this in the news story:

Nevertheless, it would be premature to conclude that Russia would remain non-belligerent under all conditions while Italy would dash into the war at the drop of a hat. In the utterances of the Soviet leaders and press it has already been stated that Russia could not remain indifferent to any disturbances that might transpire on the Balkan-Black sea zone. ON her side, Italy has lit it be known that she regards the Balkans as her especial sphere of interests.

Going back almost another 50 years, the Easton Free Press newspaper of June 8, 1894 published an alarming article entitled, “Cripple Creek’s War.” Reporting on what was happening in Manown in Pennsylvania, readers were informed that 4,000 miners were willing to surrender to the militia but not to deputies, where deputies were protecting what they referred to as “negro laborers.” The story read in part:

Sheriff Bowers was waited on by a large delegation of deputies, who urged him to allow them to accompany him to Bull Hill. This may precipitate a row. The town is still intensely excited, and there was little sleep in camp last night. The presence of the militia does not bring any relief. The deputies want non of their aid, and strikers stand ready for a scrimmage at the drop of a hat.

In the book, “Life And Adventures Of A Country Merchant: A Narrative of His Exploits at Home, during His Travels, and in the Cities; Designed to Amuse and Instruct” by American novelist, John Beauchamp Jones (March 6, 1810 – February 4, 1866) and published in 1854, the following dialogue is found:

“Hang it, Polly! Ain’t you going to have me, after all your propositions and entreaties? You said you’d marry me at the drop of a hat! Once we were half married! And again, when I pleaded my honour, you said you would see if I couldn’t be made to disregard it.”

Some reference books identify this as the earliest use of the expression but I found on that goes back even further to October 12, 1837 in the Register of Debates in Congress where the following is recorded:

They could agree in the twinkling of an eye — at the drop of a hat — at the crook of a finger — to usurp the sovereign power; they cannot agree, in four months, to relinquish it.

Based on how the phrase is used in this instance, it’s clear that the expression was understood by those who read the Register which means it was already a recognized expression back in 1837. Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to trace the idiom back any further than this date and can only guess that it probably came into vogue at the very least in at the turn of that century.

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

Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth

Posted by Admin on March 8, 2011

When there are too many people trying to manage an activity, the chances increases dramatically that things will not turn out well never mind as expected.

On February 24, 1998 the Richmond Dispatch-Times ran a news story about the budget negotiators. Democrats outnumbered Republicans on the budget conference at the time 5 to 3 and it expanded the number of participants to include another 4 was hotly debated.  The title of the news story was:

Will Too Many Cooks Spoil Budget Broth?

But that’s not what readers of the St. Petersburg Times read about on September 2, 1950.  The International News Service had written the following about the residents of Wycombe (PA):

Too many cooks spoil the broth, but that’s not the way with the residents of Wycombe.  They’ve built their own firehouse.  This project was not to determine how many residents of this little community were born construction workers.  It was imperative.

Now, 50 years before that, in Pennsylvania, in the Easton Free Press of July 25, 1900, on the topic of “Friends of Chinatown: New York Mongolians Interviewed on the Situation” Minister Conger’s comments were included in the news story:

“Do you think the chances will be good for hustling Americans to go to China at the close of the war and make money, as you intend doing?”

“Well, maybe; if there are not too many of ’em going.  But, as the ‘Mericans say, ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth,’ you know.”

English clergyman, university professor, historian and novelist. Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875) wrote “Westward Ho!” published in 1855.  In Chapter XV, he wrote:

After which there was a long consultation on practical matters, and it was concluded that Amyas should go up to London and sound Frank and his mother before any further steps were taken. The other brethren of the Rose were scattered far and wide, each at his post, and St. Leger had returned to his uncle, so that it would be unfair to them, as well as a considerable delay, to demand of them any fulfilment of their vow. And, as Amyas sagely remarked, “Too many cooks spoil the broth, and half-a-dozen gentlemen aboard one ship are as bad as two kings of Brentford.”

Almost a century before that, Anglo-Dutch courtier, diplomat, art advisor, miniaturist and architectural designer Balthazar Gerbier (1592 – 1663) wrote “A Brief Discourse Concerning the Three Chief Principals of Magnificent Building” published in 1662.

When an undertaking hath been committed to many, it caused but confusion, and therefore it is a saying, Too many Cooks spoils the Broth.

Two generations before Balthazar Gerbier, John Hooker alias Vowell Joh Hooker of Exeter, friend, confidante and servant to Sir Peter Carew (1514 -1575) wrote “The Life of Sir Peter Carew” published in 1575, in which the following passage is found:

It chanced unto this gentleman, as the common proverb is, — the more cooks the worse potage, he had in his ship a hundred marines, the worst of them being able to be a master in the best ship within the realm; and these so maligned and disdained one the other, that refusing to do that which they should do, were careless to do that which was most needful and necessary, and so contending in envy, perished in forwardness.

But while John Hooker’s friend, Sir Peter Carew states that it is a common proverb, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this saying.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »