Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘food’

Pimp Steak

Posted by Admin on July 26, 2013

WARNING:
THE FOLLOWING POST MAY NOT BE
SUITABLE FOR MINORS DUE TO CONTENT.

When you hear someone exclaim in horror: “Pimp steak again?” don’t be alarmed. They’ve just found out they’re being served a hot dog. So how is it that the perfectly good name for a hot dog wound up with this moniker as well?

For one thing, the term pimp didn’t always mean someone who procures customers for a prostitute or brothel and lives off the earnings. Back in the 1630s, it was used to describe any despicable person, and in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, the term has been used since the mid-20th century to identify a spy or an informant.

The Boston Phoenix reviewed “The Old Settler” by John Henry Redwood on November 4, 1999. It was playing at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston and critics had identified the play as one of the Top 10 most-produced plays of the current season. The reviewer, Carolyn Clay, referred to the play as “theatrical comfort food, rich in ethnicity and emotion, served warm.” The play, set in 1943 Harlem, centered on relationships and healing. The review read in part:

The Old Settler is sentimental and easy to see coming (’40s Harlem meets The Heiress), but it is carefully wrought. And it paints a colorful picture of African-American life in an earlier time, a particular place where magical if disreputable spots called Small’s Paradise and the Savoy Ballroom duke it out with a strong, supper-slinging black Church. Moreover, there is in the elegiac evocation by Bess and Husband of the Southern places they come from a feeling of displacement that’s one of the themes of August Wilson. Redwood tells a tighter story than Wilson does (though at first, with Husband searching like haunted Harold Loomis for his lost mate, The Old Settler seems like a lightweight Joe Turner’s Come and Gone). And if he doesn’t make as vivid and musical use of black speech as Wilson, Redwood does doodle a linguistic tune. Quilly’s conjuring of the chitterling dinner at Singleton’s Restaurant on Lenox and 136th Street is a feast in itself. And who ever knew that a hot dog was called a “pimp steak” or that “swamp seeds” were rice?

Now back in the 1940s, Dan Burley chronicled Harlem nightlife for the Amsterdam News. He was born in 1907, the son of a Baptist minister, he spent his childhood in Kentucky and Texas.  By the time the Black Migration of World War I slowed, the Burley family lived in Chicago, and one of his classmates at Wendell Phillips High School was jazz musician, Lionel Hampton.

He became a journalist for the Chicago Defender after leaving school, and in 1937 (at age 30), he joined the Amsterdam News as a reporter, city editor, nightlife columnist, theater editor and sports editor. What came of his time at the Amsterdam News was a 157-page book entitled “Original Handbook Of Harlem Jive” which was published in 1944. And right there, among the many other expressions that came out of Harlem was this definition for a frankfurter: pimp steak!

But in reading Cab Calloway’s book “Hepster’s Dictionary: Language of Jive” published in 1939, the term doesn’t show up anywhere in his listings.  Either the expression wasn’t in vogue at the time or it was in vogue but not popular enough to rate inclusion in Cab Calloway’s dictionary.

Either way, the earliest this expression can be pegged at is sometime during World War II (1939 – 1945). Hope that works for all you hep cats out there.

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In Vivid, Living Color

Posted by Admin on November 24, 2010

Although movies had been filmed in colour since the 1920s, there were times when a movie theatre just had to make the most of it when promoting a new movie.  And there were times when advertisers made the most of the phrase “in vivid, living colour” outside of movie making situations.

As recently August 2009, the phrase “in vivid, living colour” was used in the daily internet publication,  American Thinker.  Devoted to the “thoughtful exploration of issues of importance to Americans” the entry entitled “ObamaCare and Bush League Democrats” the author, J. Robert Smith wrote:

At a recent town hall, a pretty little girl, whose mother was an early Obama supporter, read a question from a slip of paper.  The President, knowing that the ball would be teed-up, swung hard and level.  Bang!  To the delight of his fans, a homer.  But tee-ball doesn’t matter, not if you can’t manage the game.   The President watches TV and reads the daily rags.  Not even MSNBC or The New York Times can ignore widespread popular unrest.  In vivid living color, the President sees very un-Alinsky seniors and middle class Americans give the what-for to shrinking, mealy-mouthed Democrats — daily. 

Back in the early 1980s, as inflation was running rampant in America, stories abounded, telling the woeful tale of poor housing markets and mortgages in default among other things.  In an article in the Deseret News run in May 28, 1981, the editor ran a story entitled, “Pity Poor Folks Who Live High Above the Tide Of Inflation.”  It read in part:

He bought his second home when they weren’t so popular.  He put down as little as he could and he borrowed the rest at interest rates less than half those of today.  If pressed, he refinanced.  Now he may rent his place at big prices to those with money beyond their immediate means.  These are among the people who own those places the day-trippers envy.  Unlike so many hourly and salaried workers, they  have the ability to float rather than be swamped by the inflation tide.  Various studies have long shown the sharp dichotomy in the two styles of life, but there is nothing like a day trip to the prime resorts near every population center to bring home the point in vivid, living color.

For Christmas 1966, the Gettysburg Times newspaper ran an advertisement for Ziegler Studios that read:

Have Your Family Portrait Taken For Christmas!  There’s still time … and it’s a swell idea either for a gift, or a gift to yourselves and your home.  But HURRY … the deadline for accepting appointments is near … and so is Christmas!  Don’t think about it anymore … call us today and make your appointment for a setting in your home and our studio.  Nothing will give more than your family in vivid, living color mounted in an attractive frame.

It wasn’t just e-magazines, bad economies and professional photographers that made use of the term either.  The Ludington Daily News ran an article in the June 24, 1963 edition entitled “Food Ads Criticized By Agency” in which it was reported:

“Our American system of food distribution is really one of the greatest show on earth,” Whitney said.  “It’s a giant, multi-million-dollar spectacular, staged in vivid living color, and exploding with human interest, scientific marvels, humor, fascinating, behind-the-scenes adventure stories, the snob-appeal of food as a status symbol, the romance of foods of far-away places, the emotional warmth of a mother’s instinctive desire to feed her young.”

Talk about making a leap from five years earlier when, in October 1958, the Chicago Daily Tribune ran an advertisement on page 6 in section C that promoted a movie that was reportedly a cinematic wonder on film of the “French love novel that shocked the world!” 

The movie was “A Certain Smile” and was released on September 22, 1958.  It starred Rossano Brazzi, Joan Fontaine and Johnny Mathis, who also sang the theme song, and was the first feature film for actor, Bradford Dillman (who went on to such movies as “The Plainsman” and “The Iceman Cometh”).  The movie hype was based in large part on the fact that the movie was “in vivid, living color!” 

So while the phrase may have been used in conversation, the first published use of the phrase “in vivid, living colour” appears to go back to this movie and no further.

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