Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘footloose’

Footloose

Posted by Admin on July 22, 2011

The simple expression footloose does not address an individual’s marital status.  Yes, married or single, divorced or partnered, an individual can be footloose, meaning that he or she has minimal responsibilities in life and is free to do as he or she pleases.

On September 6, 1999 the Daily News from Middlesboro, Kentucky published a brief article on actor, Kevin Bacon, that touched upon his decision to focus on supporting roles rather than leading man roles.  The end result was a string of memorable parts in movies such as “Apollo 13” and “JFK” and “A Few Good Men” among others.  The article was aptly entitled:

Bacon Being Footloose With Career Plan

About 20 years before that article, the Montreal Gazette published an article on January 16, 1979 that addressed the stereotype of bachelors versus married couples as it impacted on population trends.  It quoted a 5-year study conducted by Statistics Canada that yielded surprising results.  The newspaper hinted at it in the news story headline:

Couples Move More Often: Footloose Bachelor Is A Myth

And about 30 years before the Montreal Gazette article, the Spokane Daily Chronicle published a story on September 23, 1949 entitled, “Britain’s Economic Stress Seems Hopeless Situation.”  The story read in part:

Despite the measured optimism of Sir Stafford Cripps, the broad measures of the labor government for the workers’ welfare and the solace of official American concern, the intelligent British worker will soon face a number of inescapable facts.  Those facts are so serious that, if he is a fairly young man and reasonably footloose, he should, if he can find a way, migrate to a country where he can find some hope for the future.  For it is hard to see how he can find hope for his future and that of his children in the United Kingdom.

On September 26, 1918 the Montreal Gazette ran a news story about Henry Ford and the American election.  He stated at the Democratic State Convention that he would not be bound by any political party.  He supported then-President Woodrow Wilson’s war measures and made it clear that he hadn’t spent a penny, nor did he intent to spend a penny, to be elected.  The article was entitled:

Ford Is Footloose: Will Not Be Bound To Any Political Party

On June 22, 1883 the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported on the Democratic City Convention which was composed of 180 delegates who had been elected at the late primary.  General George S. Brown won the vote and an Executive Committee was appointed.  The article was entitled, “The City Convention” and read in part:

Two of the prominent leaders are said to have declined to follow that policy. They said that the time had come when some people in politics must consider themselves footloose from such alliances. 

In 1839, American lawyer, minister, educator and humourist, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet (1790 – 1870) wrote about leaving his hometown of Augusta, Georgia where he had returned to live a decade earlier upon returning from Greensboro.  In a private letter, he wrote:

The first year of my ministry, the yellow fever made its appearance in Augusta, and my home was soon filled with fugitives from the city, who boarded me out of everything I had to eat, so that I had nothing to sell at the end of the year but my dwelling and land. These I disposed of at their full value. I was now foot-loose for the Methodist itinerancy. While administering to the sick, the dying and the dead for five dreary months, expecting every day to become a victim to the disease. O, how my soul rejoiced as it found me serving God instead of serving clients!

What many people don’t realize is that there is a naval influence to the term footloose that dates back quite a few generations!

The term refers to the mooring lines, called foot lines, on the bottom of the sails of 17th and 18th century ships. When the foot lines were loosened, it allowed the sails to flap freely and came to be known as being footloose

And in documents dating back to the 1680s and 1690s, the term referred to an individual who was free to move his feet and who was “unshackled.”  The expression unshackled meant one who was not tied to politics or banks and who was free to act as a man of honour and principle.

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

Footloose And Fancy Free

Posted by Admin on July 21, 2011

When you hear of someone who is footloose and fancy free, it brings to mind someone who can do what he or she wants either because he or she has very few responsibilities requiring his or her attention.  Now in the past, footloose and fancy free have been used separately.  So when did the two become inseparable word buddies?

The Sunday Mercury of Birmingham, England published a news article on April 22, 2001 entitled, “A Dream Delivery For Our Del Boy.”  In the article, it stated:

Asked about why he waited so long for a child, the actor said: “I didn’t actually wait, it was thrust upon me I think.  My life has been in reverse. It wasn’t fame and it wasn’t money, but I always wanted to succeed. Because of that, I needed to be footloose and fancy-free. I needed to go where the work was. As soon as things started to get heavy with a relationship, I would be off, gone. I knew I couldn’t be responsible for a family and the silly work I was doing.”

On March 7, 1959 the Lewiston Daily Sun newspaper ran a story about actress Debbie Reynolds — Carrie Fisher’s mom — and her upcoming endeavours after her divorce from actor Eddie Fisher.  The first paragraph of the story out of New York read:

Debbie Reynolds, footloose and fancy free since her divorce from Eddie Fisher flew off to Spain Friday to make a movie.  She had arrived from Los Angeles earlier.  Asked if there was any  new romance in her life, she replied: “I should say not.”

On May 16, 1936 the Montreal Gazette ran an advertisement in their newspaper, paid for by the American Express Travel Service entitled, “How To Be Footloose And Fancy Free When Traveling.”  It spoke of escorted trips to South America and Alaska.  Around The World 104-day tours with shore excursions could be booked for just a little more than $1,000 inclusive and urged readers to send away for their booklet “It’s Easy To Plan Your Own Tour Of Europe.”

The Providence News ran an interesting news piece on January 26, 1922 entitled, “Buckled Goloshes Mean Girl’s Engaged.”  The story came out of Chicago and stated:

Engagement rings being taboo at Northwestern University, those co-eds who have plighted their troth will now make their status known through the manner in which they wear their goloshes.  Goloshes open or buckled will now tell the story hitherto conveyed by the diamond ring. 

It all came about by one young fiance pleading with his girl to please cover her ankles from public view.  Open goloshes now signify the wearer is footloose and fancy free, but woe betide the young man who attempts to warm up to a girl who wears hers buckled, for it is the unwritten law of the campus at Northwestern that men students never “pirate” another fellow’s sweetheart.

The earliest published version of the expression footloose and fancy free that Idiomation was able to find comes from the Los Angeles Times newspaper edition of August 20, 1907 in an article entitled, “Olden Hunter Of Moonshine.”  The following was written about the former owner of the Planters Hotel in Anaheim, California:

Accompanied by his family, he intends to remain in this vicinity several weeks. He says he is footloose and fancy free and as he sold the Planters Hotel a week or so ago, he feels no need to return immediately to St. Louis.

Because the expression footloose and fancy free was used with ease in the news article of 1907, it can be believed it was a common expression understood by the majority of newspaper subscribers.  To this end, the expression can easily be attributed to the early 1900s.

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