Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Elyse Bruce’

Article: Unintentional Changes

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 13, 2016

Living languages are fluid.  New words are added while archaic words are left to gather dust on the shelf.  Sometimes new words are a result of invented words authors have created to fit their stories.  Sometimes new words are a result of misspelling.  And in the case I’m about to share, should this word ever become a new word included in the dictionary, it will be as a result of ignorance and social media oversharing.

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) published a story on their website that has its roots as much in politics as it does in social media with a side trip to whole language reading and writing, and illiteracy.  Earlier this week, Kevin O’Leary offered to invest $1 Million CDN into Alberta’s energy industry on the condition that Premier Rachel Notley resign.  This in turn led to a number of spirited discussions on social media, with some defending O’Leary, and others defending Notley.

One of these discussions yielded this exchange among some Facebook people.

kudatah-facebook-2

Needless to say, the “new” word kudatah is actually a misspelling of the real phrase (which is made up of two words), coup d’état which, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means a “violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.”  The pronunciation of this phrase is kü-dā-ˈtä or phonetically speaking koo-day-tah.

It’s easy to see how someone who struggles with a language (even if it’s the person’s mother tongue) could spell the word with quotation marks as Maure Kyle did.

INTERESTING NOTE 1:  Maure Kyle has since deactived his Facebook account.

Tyler Bienderra came to Maure Kyle’s defense when others pointed out Maure Kyle’s spelling mistake.  He insisted that Maure Kyle was using the English spelling and not the French spelling of the word (points to Tyler for creativity), dragging misspellings of his own into the discussion.

When the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) published an article on their website about the discussion, Tyler defended his use of the word spelt by arguing that it could be spelled that way and be correct.  Except that Tyler is from Grande Prairie, Alberta in Canada and because of this, his defense fails miserably.

If you live in Canada or the U.S., the accepted use is spelled.  If you live in the UK, the accepted use is spelt although spelled is generally accepted.  Spelt is used in North America to refer to a kind of wheat.  But regardless of how he chose to spell the phrase — spelled or spelt — what made his comment humorous was the fact that coup d’état in French is written exactly the same way in English.

This situation has yielded a great many memes included this politically charged meme poking fun at both the misspelled word and the suggestion made by Maure Kyle.

Kudatah Happening Soon

There was also this meme that incorporated a nice Lion King Disney feel to it for added political punch.

Kudatah Matata

This meme had Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride” deliver the message that the word in question didn’t exist.

Kudatah_Princess Bride

And, of course, if you’re going to lay claim to using the UK spelling of the word spelled, and you insist on defending the murder of a perfectly good phrase like coup d’état, the Queen of England absolutely must weigh in on the matter, meme-wise.

Kudatah_Royal

Whole language reading and writing is a sight-based only method that leaves the individual without strategies for reading unknown words.  It also relies heavily on guessing, and encourages “invented” spelling.

Studies have proven the phonics instruction is superior to whole language instruction as those who were taught phonics have strong word identification, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension skills which are very weak in those who were taught whole language instead.

However if social media and the #kudatah hashtag are sufficiently influential, it’s possible that within a few years, the word could find its way into the dictionary regardless of whether language purists agree.  Still, this is the way words,phrases, idioms, expression, clichés, sayings, et al change over the generations.

Elyse Bruce
Owner and Author
Idiomation: Historically Speaking

P.S.  Kudatah, I am led to believe, is the name that J.J. Abrams considered for Princess Leia and Han Solo’s son before he settled on Benjamin Kylo Ren — or Ben Ren to his friends.

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Devil’s Lane

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 16, 2015

Did you know that the devil’s lane is the narrow area between two spite fences erected by disputing neighbors?

This definition is attested to in Volume 75 of the Farm Journal published in 1951 when Anna Shoemaker of New Jersey wrote a letter to the editor with the following opening sentence:

When I was a child, our farm was next to that of a cranky old man who always had a “devil’s lane” between his property and ours. Instead of a single fence, there were two.

On March 9, 1900, the Pittsburgh Press published a story by Colonel William Lightfoot Vischer in the Friday evening edition.  The story was about two men who had been the best of friends until two years earlier when a serious misunderstanding happened between them at hog killing time.  After that, the two men had erected two fences between their respective properties.

 As we drove the doctor remarked:  “Those youngsters will probably get paddled.”
“For what?” I asked.
“You observed that lane they came from, didn’t you?”
“Yes, and I intended to ask what it meant.”
“It means that these two farmers are bitter enemies.  The boy, Sam, is the son of Tom Riggins, whose house we passed just yonder, and the girl is the daughter of Dick Rutherford.  This is his place, just ahead of us.  The dividing line between their farms lies inside of those two zig-zag fences, and the men hate each other so that they’d rather die than join in a partnership line, hence each has built on his own, and thus we have such an eyesore as that.  Country people, knowing the cause of a double fence, call it the Devil’s Lane.”

In Chapter 15 of the “Tell Tale Rag And Popular Sins of The Day” by the blind Methodist lay preacher, Reverend George W. Henry (1801 – 1888) and published in May 1861, the author used the idiom.

He said his master had a sore quarrel with a neighboring farmer, which was of long standing.  They hated each other so intensely that they would not unite their line fences, so each built a fence near the line, making was it commonly called “the devil’s lane.”

Now the word lane is from the Old English word lanu that means narrow hedged-in road.  But despite Idiomation’s most valiant attempts, no earlier mention of the devil’s lane than the one found in George W. Henry’s book in 1861 could be found.

Perhaps one of our eagle-eyed readers or visitors has uncovered an earlier published version of devil’s lane.  If so, please leave a message in the Comments section below.

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

Is The Pope Catholic?

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 8, 2015

When a question is asked to which the answer is obvious, you sometimes hear someone ask the rhetorical question:  Is the Pope Catholic?  The answer to that question (regardless of what religion, if any, you may observe) is a resounding YES!  The idiom is a polite way of inferring that the person asking the initial question is either stupid or needlessly ignorant.

In 1999, John Cantwell Kiley published a book entitled, “Is The Pope Catholic: A Novel Autobiography.”  The book is entirely fictional and is centered around Pope Peter II (a pope who never existed except in the mind of the author and on the pages of this novel).  As the author states in the Preface:  “The 21st century will be a spiritual century or there will be no century at all.”

This isn’t the first time the idiom has been used for entertainment purposes.  On April 23, 1987, Ira Rifkin of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote an article about two Irish Roman Catholic brothers (one working as a counselor, the other working as a psychologist) from Boston who came up with an alternative to bingo for Catholics who enjoyed games.  The game was a cross between “Trivial Pursuit” and “Monopoly” and was named, “Is The Pope Catholic?

The board was set up so players advanced along a rosary, starting off as altar boys and finally becoming Pope.  All players had to do was to answer questions about topics such as pagan babies, Patron Saints, spiritual works of mercy, the Commandments,and more.  The game was four years in the making and cost the two brothers $50,000 USD to develop.  Do board game aficionados consider the game a vintage board game?  Is the Pope Catholic?

At the Proposed Amendments to Federal Transportation Laws Hearings of April and May, 1962, Senator Monroney asked Mr. Carter:  “Do they still have in the furniture business, from your competition in Baltimore or other large centers, the switch-up, the “nail to the floor” selling, in some of these things, when bait advertising is used?”  The answer Mr. Carter gave in response to this question was:

My little boy has a saying, “Is the Pope Catholic?”  I am sure there are many, many areas in this type of merchandising where you have the bait and switch.

In other words, back in 1962 this expression was so well-known that even children were known to use it.  Four years earlier it was also found in the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company “Field Notes” Volume 58/59 where George G. Everhart of Kansas City, Missouri was quoted on page 9 as saying:

Is the Pope Catholic?  This is a smart answer!  Certainly making the Million Dollar Round Table adds a lot of prestige and stature.”

In the September 16, 1967 edition of Billboard magazine, an interview with Voyle Gilmore, then Capitol Records’ A&R vice-president, he told a story that dated back to the late 1950s about American jazz singer Keely Smith and Frank Sinatra.

“Easing back in his swivel chair, Gilmore, 55 years old, streaks of gray in his hair and a former band drummer in the San Francisco area, explained:  “I had been after him to record a duet with Keely Smith.  He came in with two tunes, one from a Bob Hope picture which he’d promised Hope he would record.  So I called Keely one afternoon.  I asked her, ‘Do you want to make a record with Frank Sinatra?’  She said:  ‘Is the Pope Catholic?‘  I’ll never forget that.  We made the record but it didn’t sell well.”

The saying was a recognized and established expression if everyone from insurance agents to singers to little boys were using it in every day conversations.  Although Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this idiom, it’s safe to say that it was floating about in the lexicon in the early 1950s and possibly in the late 1940s.

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

Holy Toledo!

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 6, 2015

Driving through Toledo, Ohio recently, the idiom Holy Toledo came to mind.  Today, Toledo is thought of as a quiet and conservative town, but it wasn’t also so.  In fact, from the late 1800s through to the 1930s, Toledo’s reputation was anything but quiet and conservative.  It was known as a den of inequity overrun by gangsters and mobsters and crooked politicians — an immoral and corrupt city where it was open season for gang violence, illegal bootlegging, gambling, and corruption.

For example, in the 1890s, the Governor of Ohio, William McKinley (yes, the same William McKinley who was elected President of the United States of America in 1896) was debt ridden.  People such as Andrew Carnegie, Charles Taft, and other wealthy associates came to his rescue, and once elected President, McKinley repaid their help with special favors and special privileges.

In the 1930s, Purple Gang member Yonnie Licavoli was running Toledo’s bootlegging and gambling interests and was perceived as untouchable by the police.  Licavoli’s biggest claim to fame was that he was one of the few people ever to tell Al Capone where he could and couldn’t go with his business, locking him out of Detroit, and living to tell the tale.

What this means is that Toledo was oftentimes called “Holy Toledo” as a euphemism because it was the farthest thing from holy.  But everyone understood that, just like everyone understood that the expression Holy Toledo was meant to be one of surprise or astonishment (as are many idioms that being with Holy such as holy cow, holy smoke, and holy moley).

The expression remained in use well after the Depression era as well.

Taking a peek at how it’s been used over the last few decades, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette of January 13, 2009 described Toledo as Ohio’s Glass City as well as Frog Town, and revealed that the population of Toledo was officially larger than the population of Pittsburgh by more than five thousand residents!  The article by journalist Rich Lord was titled, “Holy Toledo, Look What City Just Passed Us By In Population.”

The Miami News edition of May 12, 1980 published an article about Danny Thomas who supposedly startled his audience at a $100-a-plate fundraiser in Lansing, Michigan by admitting that he hated no-caffeine coffee.  It was a shock because just a few years earlier, he was the spokesman for a commercial that peddled a no-caffeine coffee.  The story headline read:  “Holy Toledo! Danny Thomas Has Been Lying All Along.”

Back on October 11, 1971 there was an article published by Sports Illustrated about the Toledo Rockets who, at the time, were enjoying the nation’s longest winning streak. Writer Joe Jares discussed how Ohio University came close to putting a period at the end of all that for the Toledo Rockets were it not for what the writer referred to as “this hobgoblin quarterback named Chuck Ealey.”  The quarterback had a remarkable history, having played in 57 games of varsity football in high school and college, with each game being a winner. The article was aptly entitled, “Holy Toledo! Chuck Ealey Nearly Lost One.”

In the book “Red War” by  mystery and detective author, Judson Pentecost Philips (August 10, 1903 – March 7, 1989) and journalist Thomas Marvin Johnson, published by Doubleday Doran in 1936, the expression was used.

“You seem to know everything, Mr. McWade.”
Holy Toledo, I wish I did!” groaned the Westerner.  “But there ain’t one of us can figger out what’s up — except somebody’s in for a well double-crossin’.”

Unfortunately, there’s considerable confusion about how the expression initially came about and it doesn’t appear in publications prior to the mid-1930s.

What is known about Toledo, Ohio is that it was named after Toledo in Spain, and that city in Spain is known as the “Holy City of Toledo.”  Likewise, it would seem that Toledo, Ohio was known back in the day for having as many churches as it had bars and taverns, with the greatest concentration of churches located on Collingwood Boulevard. But there’s no proof to substantiate this as being the reason for the saying.

It’s also a fact that comedian Danny Thomas (6 January 1912 – 6 February 1991) — who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, attended Woodward High School as well as the University of Toledo, and began his professional career in 1932 — popularized the expression Holy Toledo in his comedy routines.  Between the comedian’s use of the expression and it’s appearance in “Red War” published in 1936, it’s safe to say the saying was used and understood by most everyone during the 1930s.

As a note of interest, back in the 1590s, Toledo steel (from Spain, not Ohio) was used in the manufacture of medieval swords.  Toledo, Spain had been a steel working center since the 5th century BC.  Toledo steel swords were chosen by Hannibal for his army, and legions from the Roman Empire relied on Toledo steel swords. In other words, Toledo steel swords set the standard in excellent weaponry.

The Toledo steel swords were the swords that defeated Muslim armies during the Holy Wars in medieval times.  And it was Toledo steel rapiers that became the choice of French Musketeers.  The reputation of Toledo steel swords was so widespread that even Japanese Samurai had their katana and wakizashi forged in Toledo with Toledo steel.

In another side note, it was in 1085 that Toledo, Spain became one of the recognized centers of Christian culture after it was liberated from the Moors by Alfonso VI of Castile, Leon and Galicia (June 1040 – July 1109). When the Crusades began (1095 – 1291) it was Toledo steel swords that went into holy battle.

While it would exciting to peg Holy Toledo to the Crusades or to Medieval times, the fact of the matter is that Idiomation was unable to find the idiom published before the 1930s and as such, the best that can be guessed at is that it first came into use sometime in the 1920s, gaining ground in the 1930s.

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

Think, Thank, Thunk: SPIN

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 3, 2014

ITEM #001_ SPIN (SPUN or SPAN)_small

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Thanking Those Who Visit Idiomation

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 31, 2013

I want to thank each and every one of my readers and visitors for visiting Idiomation in 2013.  Over the past year, Idiomation has continued to grow and our “Friends Of Idiomation” has increased in number.  As we make our way towards 2014, I’d like to share some milestones with you.

With hundreds of unique hits to the blog daily, our best day was March 12 with 579 hits!  While many of those visits went to the “Devil’s Bedpost” entry, there were other entries that were nearly as popular as the “Devil’s Bedpost.”

Busiest Day_Unique Hits_IMAGE

With hundreds of unique visits each and every day, it’s easy to understand how our monthly totals are in the five digits every single month (and in the six digits for the yearly total)!

Top 5 Idioms in 2013_IMAGE

As popular as the “Devil’s Bedpost” was, there were 5 idioms that garnered excellent averaged hits throughout 2013.  I was surprised to learn what the top 5 idioms were, and at the same time, pleased to see that many of them had their roots in serious literature.

I wasn’t surprised to see that Facebook and Twitter were among the top 5 referring sites in 2013.  But I was pleased to see that the Smithsonian and Wikipedia snagged the #2 and #3 spots respectively on the list of top referring sites, with Yahoo! Answers rounding out the group.

Top Referring Sites in 2013_IMAGE

This year, the blog spawned the first in a series of books, and is available through Amazon.com.  Just click HERE to visit Amazon and pick up your copy of “Idiomation: Book 1” and look for a follow-up book in months to come.

Idiomation_Book_1_Cover

I’m looking forward to adding more idioms to the blog in 2014, making IDIOMATION one of the premiere blogs for important information on idioms used in English-speaking countries around the world.

As the last few hours of 2013 bring us closer to 2014, I’m thanking all of you for visiting this blog site as well as my other blog sites — the Elyse Bruce blog, the Missy Barrett blog, and the Midnight In Chicago blog — as well as my Twitter (@ElyseBruce and @glassonastick), ReverbNation, SoundClick,  and Facebook profiles (both my personal Timeline as well as my Fan Page), and my websites: Midnight In Chicago, and Elyse Bruce.

May 2014 bring you health, wealth and happiness, and may all your heart’s desires come true this coming year.  I’m looking forward to seeing you back here in 2014 to read up on the histories of some of your favorite idioms, and to find out the meaning and histories of idioms you’ve always wondered about.

Elyse Bruce

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It’s Out!

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 28, 2013

When I began the Idiomation blog in 2009, I intended it to be a reference source for my teen son.  Like so many others, he struggled with what clichés like “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” meant.   From the time he was a toddler until he reached high school, I found myself explaining sayings to him on a daily basis … sometimes more than a few times across the day.

Once he hit high school, I knew that more and more situations would crop up where an expression would be used and not make sense to the literal thinkers of this world, and so the Idiomation blog was born.   What I hadn’t counted on was that celebrities like Charlie Sheen would be quoted in the media, leading to my son asking me one day if Charlie Sheen was an example of “star craving mad.”  Of course, he meant “stark raving mad” but his literal version made far more sense to him than the actual idiom (which some might say was also accurate in this instance).

The decision to not only explain what the idiom meant, but to provide its history as best as I could proved to be far more helpful (and fun) than I had anticipated.  In tracking down the first published instance for each saying, the evolution of each idiom was that much easier to follow and understand.

Within months of starting the Idiomation blog, more and more people were flocking to the blog site as idioms were added to the list.  People began to email me or phone me or ask me in person if I would explain this idiom or that expression.  This is where the concept for the “Friends Of Idiomation” came from, where people who suggested idioms were acknowledged for having suggested idioms.

Now the first book in the Idiomation series is finally available for purchase on Amazon.  With the history of 75 sayings, expressions, clichés and idioms you hear in day-to-day conversations, you’ll find out where they came from, and who was the first one to say or publish them.

The book is currently available in traditional paperbook form, and within days, it will also be available in eBook format,   Click HERE and order your copy of Idiomation: Book 1 today.  Once you’ve added this resource book to your personal library, you won’t ever find yourself wondering what people mean when they say they make no bones about it.   You’ll know the difference between being in the dark as opposed to being in the black or in the pink.  You won’t be a sitting duck when a wolf in sheep’s clothing asks you if you’re teed off.

And in the end, isn’t it just a lot of fun to know that you have the background on 75 clichés that are commonly used in every day conversations?  Yeah, me, too!

Idiomation-_Book_I_Cover_for_Kindle

LINK:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1481160079

  • Paperback: 246 pages
  • Published:  July 28, 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481160079
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481160070
  • Book Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches

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My Pears Are Poaching

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 13, 2011

When someone says their “pears are poaching” they mean that something they have said or done in the past is sneaking up on its intended goal for the sole purpose of overtaking the goal and making an example of the goal by way of using the goal’s own claims or words in such a way as to make overtaking the goal all the sweeter!

The phrase was originally posted by Danielle Carey Corley on her Facebook page on May 9, 2011.  She was actually poaching pears at the time however Elyse Bruce thought the phrase sounded very much like some of the popular idioms people are apt to use in polite discussions.

After much thought, a proper definition for “my pears are poaching” was arrived at on May 12, 2011 and was included in the list of idioms at Idiomation the following morning.

Posted in Idioms from the 21st Century | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

WordPress Reviews Idiomation’s First Year

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010 — Idiomation‘s first year in existence — and here’s a summary of this site’s overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter reads This blog is doing awesome!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747 400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

Started on January 20th, there were 219 new posts; not bad for the first year!

The most popular post was She’s A Pip.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, en.wordpress.com, en.search.wordpress.com, twitter.com, and alphainventions.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for never cast a clout till may is out, she’s a pip, absence makes the heart grow fonder shakespeare, never cast a clout, and wewoka switch.

Attractions in 2010

Thanks to WordPress and our readers for supporting the Idiomation blog site.  And to end off this blog entry, here are the top 5 posts and pages of 2010!

1

She’s A Pip July 2010

2

Never Cast A Clout Until May Is Out March 2010

3

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder March 2010

4

Friends of Idiomation March 2010

5

I Brook No Truck With You July 2010

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