Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Edmonton Journal’

Jack Canuck

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2015

When you hear tell of Jack Canuck, it’s important to realize that he’s not a real person but rather the Canadian counterpart to America’s Uncle Sam.  Yes, Jack Canuck means a Canadian.  Of course, that’s not to mean that there aren’t some Jack Canucks who were named Jack Canuck at birth because there are, but for the most part, Jack Canuck refers to a Canadian.

In the Rome News-Tribune edition of July 22, 1969 the question as to the whereabouts of Jack Canuck was put to readers.   The short news bite was quick to point out that Uncle Sam had been around long enough to be part of American folklore with his top hat, long coat-tail coat and old codger appearance, and to personify America to the rest of the world.  But it wondered where Jack Canuck had gotten to over the years.

Meanwhile, what has become of Canada’s Jack Canuck?  While Uncle Sam can be crafty looking (particularly in Pravda) and England’s John Bull too fat, Canuck used to be beyond reproach as a trim, youthful, vigorous ranger of the wide, open spaces.

Nearly twenty years earlier, the Ottawa Citizen reprinted a brief article from the Edmonton Journal on December 27, 1952 entitled, “Jack Canuck With Wings.”  It reported that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) bigwigs and the company manufacturing the new all-Canadian CF-100 jet fighter planes were against having them referred to as Canucks.

Hostility to the name is hard to understand.  For nearly a century, Canuck has been the commonest unofficial designation of Canadians.  How it attained that position is obscure.  Most dictionaries suggest that is was originally an Indian word, applied to French-Canadians and later extended to the whole Canadian people.  However that may be, Canadians are familiarly known as Canucks throughout the English-speaking world, and “Jack Canuck” has become the symbol of Canada, as John Bull is of Britain or Uncle Sam of the United States.

In the August 11, 1945 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, Prime Minister King spoke of the “world-shaking and world-changing events” that had happened the previous week that underscored the urgency for reconstruction after World War II.  The article was titled, “Jack Canuck And Uncle Sam To Wage Peace Side By Side.”

Twenty years before the Toronto Daily Star article, the Carp Review newspaper published an article by Beatrice Plumb on June 11, 1925.  It was all about the Dominion Day celebration coming up on July 1, and was aptly titled, “A Dominion Day Jamboree.”  With regards to sending out invitations, the following was suggested by Beatrice Plumb.

Your invitations may be written on white note paper with a small Union Jack or picture of Jack Canuck stuck to the outside page.  On the left-hand inside page of your invitation write a patriotic verse.  On the opposite page write the necessary directions, such as place, time and special events of picnic.

In the next paragraph, Beatrice Plumb continued with this wonderful suggestion.

Coax some dependable man to dress up like Jack Canuck and be master of ceremonies.  Now you are read to plan the program.

Now back in 1915, there was a magazine published titled, “Jack Canuck” and was considered a daring magazine in its time.  It carried articles that reflected on how everyday people saw things and spoke about them, and was said to prod Canadian politicians mercilessly.  The magazine is also said to have been responsible for shaping and framing voters’ ideas with regards to the members of parliament and what they were up to once elected.

The idiom was used in cartoons as well.  Jack Canuck was in a cartoon published by the Toronto World newspaper on January 26, 1916 where he said, “It’s up to us, boys, honest Canadian khaki now — or the Hun’s dirty livery later.”

January 1916
And Jack Canuck was in a cartoon published in the Daily Mail And Empire newspaper on January 13, 1898 where Jack Canuck asks Sir Wilfrid Laurier, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to refine our own metal?” to which Sir Wilfrid responds, “A good thing for Canada, no doubt, but think how discourteous it would be to our neighbours.”

January 1898
Just because Jack Canuck was used in cartoons and in newspaper articles, should that mean that the term was understood by most people to mean Canadians?  On March 29, 1899 Sir Wilfrid Laurier is said to have stated this in Parliament in the House of Commons.

It’s hard to think that for twenty years I vowed to woo dear Uncle Sam, and then after clothing him in sealskins from our seas, and sprinkling his hair with gold dust from our mines, he should calmly take my clothes and show me empty-handed out.  How shall I present myself at home to Jack Canuck?  I guess I’ll have to tell Jack to thank God I did not lose my hide.

Nearly a generation earlier, in 1877, author Ella Farman — later known as Ella Farman Pratt — wrote and published, “Good-For-Nothing Polly.” Ella Farman (1 November 1837 – 22 May 1907) was an American author who wrote juvenile literature, and was the editor of “Wide Awake” and “Our Little Men And Women” magazines.

When it came to “Good-For-Nothing Polly” the assumption by many is that this is a story about a girl or woman, the fact of the matter is, the main character was known as Polly Witter away from home and at home was known as Willy Potter.  He was from a family of four, and his sister’s name was Pollie.  The term Canuck was used in this book to describe Canadians.

“You get out,” said another of the young Canadians.  “Thet ar’d be jest the capital to start a newspaper. Ye ain’t wantin’ to hire a first-rate reporter now?”

Willy didn’t get mad at the chaffing.

“Never you mind what I’m going to do with the money.  If you’ve got the stamps you can get that knife mighty cheap.  You Canucks don’t see just such a knife as that every day.  That knife cost the old gentleman two dollars — it needn’t cost a fellow here more’n fifty cents.  That purse goes for fifty cents too. Why, the silk cost more’n that.  And them fish-hooks is five cents.”

Since Canada became a country in 1867, one wonders if the term Canuck was used before Confederation.  The answer to that question is yes, as it appeared in Volume 33 of “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” published in 1866.

The following comes from very near the Canada line, and was perhaps as fearful to the subject of the story as the great Fenian scare was to the Canucks.

In the book “Acadia, or, A Month With The Blue Noses” written by American humorist Frederic Swartwout Cozzens (5 March 1818 – 23 December 1869) who had previously published “Sparrowgrass Papers.”  This books was published in 1859, the term is used in the story with the expectation that readers will know what is meant by its use.

The mail coach was soon at the door of our inn, and after taking leave of my fellow-traveller with the big hat, I engaged a seat on the stage-box beside Jeangros, a French Canadian, or Canuck — one of the best whips on the line.

Interestingly enough, Cozzens use of the word in 1859 to describe a French-Canadian is in keeping with the claim made by the Edmonton Journal nearly a hundred years later in their December 27, 1952 article.

It should be noted that the first official use of Canada when referring to the country that is now known as Canada was in 1791 when it was known as Upper Canada and Lower Canada.  In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada became known as the Province of Canada.

As a side note, in 1535 Jacques Cartier mistook the Huron-Iroquois word kanata (which means settlement) to mean that was the name for the country as a whole.  Maps in 1547 referred to everything north of the St. Lawrence River as Canada.  As explorers and fur traders expanded their territories to the west and south of what already considered to be Canada, much of the American Midwest as far south as present day Louisiana was known as Canada.

All that cool historical information aside, the first reference Idiomation was able to find for Canuck was in Frederic Swartwout Cozzens’s book published in 1859 and the first reference to Jack Canuck was in 1899.  Somewhere between 1859 and 1899, Jack Canuck was understood to mean everyday Canadians.  Idiomation therefore pegs Jack Canuck to sometime after Confederation in 1867.

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

Queen For A Day

Posted by Admin on June 28, 2013

You might think that the expression Queen for a day is self-explanatory and in many respects it is.  However, there’s a modern-day history to that expression. 

In the American legal system Queen for a day refers to a meeting that is set up when a Defendant believes he or she has information that can be leveraged in exchange for a favorable plea deal.  Before a Queen for a day deal can go through, three main points have to be met in the debriefing agreement.  But things can go awry since there are so many components to creating a successful Queen for a day deal.

The Lakeland Ledger edition of July 2, 2001 published a story compiled from Ledger wire services that trumpeted Betsy King’s win on the LPGA tour that year. Betsy King won the ShopRite Classic for the third time when she closed with a 4-under-par 67.  The story was aptly entitled:

King is Queen For A Day

All in good fun, the July 5, 1983 edition of The Robesonian published in Lumberton, NC detailed all sorts of festivities that took place across North Carolina for the 4th of July Independence Day celebration.  From traditional parades to sporting events, mudslinging to skydiving, the story covered the gamut including this interesting one in Greensboro:

Greensboro celebrate its 175th birthday Monday as the nation celebrated its 207th.  In Marion, Bruce Edwards became queen for a day when he wowed the crowd at the town’s first male beauty contest in his red minidress with blue pantyhose “and a girdle.”

On August 14, 1974 journalist Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote an article that was carried in the Edmonton Journal newspaper among others.  The subject of his story was a man by the name of Jack Bailey … a man with an interesting past where addiction and success had crossed paths.  For those who were unfamiliar with the name, the article included this:

Bailey’s trimmed moustache and semi-bald pate were familiar to millions of housewives during this 20 year run in radio and television with Queen For A Day.  By the time the show shut down 10 years ago, he had crowned more than 5,000 queens and bestowed $23 million worth of merchandise.

A generation before that interview, the Waycross Journal Herald had news about a new movie … a gala premiere program featuring Jack Bailey.  The article, published on April 12, 1951, began with this:

The world premiere of “Queen For A Day,” the Robert Stillman-United Artists picture based on the popular Mutual network program, will be held at the Lyric Theatre tomorrow night at eight o’clock with the kleig lights, crimson carpet,  Hollywood stars and all the colorful trappings of a film capital premiere.

A gala stage program will be presented by Jack Bailey, emcee of the Mutual network “Queen For A Day” program and a star of the film, prior to the initial showing of the picture.

The fact of the matter is that the show was very successful over the 20 years it ran, beginning in July 1945.  But even before the creation of the radio and television show, people were being called Queen For The Day.

In fact, the Providence News of March 16, 1928 proudly announced that Miss Louise Hutchins, a student at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, OK was elected queen of the engineering college’s St. Patrick Day’s festivities.  The article was entitled:

She’s Shamrock Queen For A Day

Undoubtedly, the expression goes back as far as the days when queens were first called queens.   However, at the beginning of this entry, it was mentioned that a “proffer” was also known as “queen for a day” meeting. 

According to an article by Todd Spodek in the January 2, 2010 edition of the Global Politician, the moniker has its roots in the vintage television show. In an essay by Benjamin A. Naftalis entitled, “Queen For A Day” Agreements and the Proper Scope of Permissible Waiver of the Federal Plea-Statement Rules published in the Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems in 2003, he wrote:

The term “Queen For A Day” derives from the popular 1950s television “sob show” Queen For A Day.  Host Jack Bailey (famed voice of Disney’s “Goofy”) would interview four women before a studio audience about their daily misfortunes.  Whoever was judged to be living the hardest life — as determined by the audience’s applause  meter — was crowned “Queen For A Day.”

It appears that the term began with the United States v Mezzanatto, 513 U.S. 196, 216 which appears to date back to 1990s.

And why would a proffer be colloquially known as a Queen For A Day deal?  Perhaps the answer can be found in the Shawn Hanley article of December 16, 1996 for the “Mass Media History Seminar” where the following quote is found:

“Sure ‘Queen‘ was vulgar and sleazy and filled with bathos and bad taste,” wrote producer Howard Blake in an article for Fact magazine. “That was why it was so successful. It was exactly what the general public wanted….We got what we were after. Five thousand Queens got what they were after. And the TV audience cried their eyes out, morbidly delighted to find there were people worse off than they were, and so they got what they were after.”

Based on that explanation, it certainly seems to fit (in legal terms, anyway).  However, the much kinder version of Queen For A Day is one that’s been around longer than Idiomation was able to trace, and so it’s being categorized as timeless.

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Spit Or Go Blind

Posted by Admin on June 12, 2013

It’s not often that you hear someone say they don’t know if they should spit or go blind, but when someone uses that expression, what they’re really saying is that they’re confused about what they should say or do next.  Of course, the question begs to be asked:  Who exactly uses that kind of language and where did the expression come from in the first place?

On March 14, 2012 a new entry was published in the series discussing digital formats, sampling rates, and more on the audiophile-musings blog.  It was a condensed yet comprehensive piece that made the subject easier to understand for those who didn’t work in the music industry.  Midway through the entry, the following was written:

Musicians, producers, and audiopphiles alike are all about to “spit or go blind” when it comes to the future of digital audio. The Blu-Ray disc, with its infancy in 2002, created a storage medium exactly the same physical size as the CD but with over 7 times the storage capacity. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Almost a generation before that, Reg Silvester wrote an article for the Edmonton Journal that was published in their September 17, 1980 edition.  The article, entitled “Choreopoem Reaches Out Across All Barriers” reviewed a theater performance at the Rice Theatre.  The review began with this:

Every so often, somebody comes at you with something from a cultural or social base so strange that you don’t know whether to spit or go blind.

Now, 22 years before that (to the day) outfielder Harvey Kuenn was quoted as having said this about a home run hit by Mickey Mantle at Tiger Stadium:

I didn’t know whether to laugh, spit, or go blind!

The fact of the matter is that the expression doesn’t appear very often in newspaper articles or in literature before this, however, readers know for Harvey Kuenn to have used it so easily in 1958 that it was a recognized idiom of the day.  This implies that it goes back at least to the generation previous pegging it at sometime in the 1920s.

That being said, the word blind has its own interesting history that gives a twist to the expression spit or go blind.  The original sense of the word blind meant confused and not sightless, as attested to in the early 1600s.  In fact, Geoffrey Chaucer (1300 – 25 October 1400) wrote “The Chanouns Yemanns Tale” (part of “The Canterbury Tales“) where the following passage using the word blind (blynde) is found:

Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
Wher dwelle ye, if it to telle be?”
“In the suburbes of a toun,” quod he,
“Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
  
Where as thise robbours and thise theves by kynde
Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
As they that dar nat shewen hir presence.

In this context, blind meant the alley was closed at one end (a dead end).  By 1702, blind also meant anything that obstructed one’s sight, and thus the blind alley became one that was not only closed at one end, but beset by obstacles that prevented one from seeing to the end of the alley.  Ergo, if things were blocked from sight, it left people blinded (albeit temporarily).

As a secondary side note to this first side note, it should be noted that on September 19, 1702 Jupiter occulted Neptune from the Earth (such planet occultations being extremely rare according to astronomers).  While some use the words occulted, eclipsed and transited interchangeably, there are very set differences between the three conditions.

An eclipse  happens when an object moves into another object’s shadow (you can sometimes still see both objects).

A transit happens when an object passes in front of another (but does not obstruct the view of the planet).

An occult is when an object is completely hidden from view because the object passing before it lies directly in one’s line of sight.

So, yes, on September 19, 1702, Jupiter blinded people on Earth … but only if they hoped to see Neptune that night!

Getting back to the expression spit or go blind, that exact expression (as previously mentioned) can be tagged to the 1920s but Idiomation was unable to take it back any further.  However, it appears that the expression was about 200 (if you go with 1702) or 300 (if you go with 1610) years in the making before it was first used.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Blue Plate Special

Posted by Admin on June 3, 2013

A blue plate special is a specially low-priced meal, usually offered at diners and cafes, that consists of one meat (or fish if it was Friday) and one potato, and two vegetables, and served up on one plate as a single menu item.  Or, as it was referred to in the 1930s, a square [meal] for two bits.

On August 21, 2003, a Special to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer written by Judy Wagoner discussed glasswork by John Miller that was created to look like fast food.  She referred to it as an homage to the greasy spoon, small-town diner.  The article was aptly entitled:

Blue Plate Special‘ Casts A Congealed Eye On Diner Fare

When Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote about politics in Washington, the article was carried in the Vancouver Sun.  As with any political situation, there are the pros and cons of this party or the other.  But Richard Cohen had things to say about the goings on in Washington and it started with this paragraph:

There is something about politics that reminds me of the Blue Plate special.  You have to take it all or you take none of it.  The rule in politics as in all cheap restaurants is usually the same — no substitutions.

On December 20, 1946 the Edmonton Journal published a photograph with an interesting caption beneath it.  With an opportunity to inject humor into the daily news, the editor decided to allow that to happen.  And so, beneath the photo of cattle in Colorado, the following caption was placed:

This is a case of serving the ‘blue plate special‘ dinner to future blue plate special dinners.  It is a photograph of Colorado ranchmen feeding their beef cattle by tractor-drawn sleds after a blizzard left thousands of cattle stranded and starving in the snow.  Airplanes were also used to drop hay to herds which could not be reached by sled.

In the January 1929 edition of “The Restaurant Man” periodical, an article entitled, “Quick Lunchplaces Have Own Vernacular” was published where a quick mention was made about blue plate specials:

A blue plate is the label given a special daily combination of meat or fish, potatoes and vegetables, sold at a special price, and is ordered with the words, blue plate.

Now long before then, Frederick Henry Harvey (who, at the time, was working as a general freight agent at the time for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad) opened a string of Harvey House restaurants at railroad stations (making Fred Harvey the creator of the chain restaurant concept).  These restaurants served train passengers riding on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, the Kansas Pacific Railway, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, among others.  When a Harvey  House restaurant was built in Hugo (Oklahoma) in 1914, it was no different than the others.  Right there on the menu, passengers with only a short period of time between trains could order the blue-plate special.

The company established in 1875 is said to have created the expression blue plate special, debuting it on a Harvey House restaurant menu on October 22, 1892.  It was described as a “daily low-priced complete meal served on a blue-patterned china plate.”  With this new addition to his already high standards set for his staff and the food they served, Fred Harvey continued to build his reputation by presenting fine dining on china plates to train passengers sitting at tables dressed with fine Irish linens with Sheffield silver to complete the experience.

If there are any historians out there who know more about this fascinating bit of railroad history, Idiomation would love to hear from you.

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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 »