Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Independent Newspaper’

Mad As A Box Of Frogs

Posted by Admin on October 9, 2013

When Jerry Flowers made mention last month of a certain situation that was as crazy as a box of frogs, Idiomation leapt into action to hunt down the meaning and history of this idiom, also known as mad as a box of frogs. The next time someone says that a person or situation is as mad as a box of frogs, you can be certain what’s being described is a crazy state of mind. It’s an odd expression to say the least since having a box of frogs isn’t something most people would keep, but it certainly goes to the heart of how crazy being mad as a box of frogs surely is. The description given on the website rateyourmusic.com some time in 2012 by member mon_amie_la_rose1 gave this retrospective description of a performance by Polly Jean (PJ) Harvey at the Newcastle Riverside on April 7, 1992.

She was pretty much a cult artist at this time, mad as a box of frogs, great show!

Model Paula Hamilton make it into the Mirror newspaper in the UK on May 29, 2011 with a brief story entitled, “Paula Hamilton’s As Mad As A Box Of Frogs” which related the story of about how showbiz foes were turning on Paula.  Claiming to be a dyslexic dyspeptic autistic, the story reported this about Paula Hamilton:

When her exasperated showbiz foes rounded on her because she’s mad as a box of frogs, potty Paula Hamilton stormed: “I’m just one big funny joke!”

Not to be outdone, when Ex-Security Minister Admiral Lord West spoke out against the £3.4 million sale of Harrier jump-jets to the US and referred to is as complete madness, the Sun newspaper carried the story in their June 16, 2011 edition. The story was entitled, “Mad As Box Of Frogs.” When the Herald de Paris newspaper carried a story by BBC music reporter Ian Youngs on January 9, 2009 the subject of the story was singer Victoria Hesketh aka Little Boots whose music was a described as being influenced by Kylie Minogue, David Bowie and Gary Numan. In the article, the recording artist was quoted as saying:

“There are tons of credible pop artists. Look at David Bowie – he’s a massive selling artist, and he’s bloody weird, absolutely mad. Kate Bush – mad as a box of frogs.”

Back on April 16, 2004 the Independent newspaper out of Ireland carried a news story on sports personality, David Beckham and Sarah Marbeck, a self-described model and alleged Beckham mistress. But as the story began to unravel, those who followed the story were informed that the woman didn’t have the kind of relationship she initially claimed to have with David Beckham. The story was entitled, “Beckham’s ‘Mistress No. 2’ Is Revealed As A Bit Of A Slapper: Now There’s A Slapper” and had this to say about the woman.

Following the revelations that a) she is as mad as a box of frogs and b) she worked as a not particularly successful hooker in Australia and Singapore, media gossip site popbitch.com yesterday carried some even stranger claims about the woman.

Prior to this date, the expression doesn’t seem to appear in writing or on the Internet. However, on a number of Irish forums and in discussion groups, the expression is claimed as an Irish expression with no other culture laying claim to it.  If this is true, then the expression has seen an impressive resurgence in the UK and Ireland over the past decade. That being said, Idiomation was unable to pinpoint when this expression first came into use. Perhaps some of our readers has the answer. If so, Idiomation would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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Shot In The Dark

Posted by Admin on June 28, 2011

Very different from being in the dark, a shot in the dark means you’re taking a calculated but wild guess about something about which you know nothing or next-to-nothing about in the first place.

On November 17, 2010 the Independent Newspaper in the UK ran a story by Stephen Foley on the U.S. Federal Reserve whose mandate ensuring full employment in the U.S. be removed in order to focus solely on price stability.  Former Federal Reserve vice-chairman, Alan Blinder was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying:

The anti-Keynesian revival has been disheartening enough. But now the economic equivalent of the Flat Earth Society is turning its fury on Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. It is not a shot in the dark, not a radical departure from conventional monetary policy, and certainly not a form of currency manipulation.

Back on July 16, 1960 readers of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix read a news story written by journalist Ned Powers entitled, “Four Canadian Records Fall.”  He wrote about a young athlete named Smith, a late starter from Weyburn, who made good with his final broad jump to upset the international campaigner, Jack Smyth of Winnipeg.

It could be hardly classed as a shot in the dark for young Smith, who best exemplified the steady rise of youth in Canada’s track and field program.  He bettered 22 feet on three occasions and had the least fouls among the entries.

On May 30, 1922 the New York Times reported on Senator Lodge, representing Massachusetts as well as Senate Leader at the time, and the troublesome word “if” that was eventually deleted from a Senate Tariff Bill.  Concerned about a possible Democratic filibuster against the bill, it took five hours before the troublesome word “if” was stricken from one of the clauses in the Senate Tariff Bill.  The story, was entitled quite simply, “A Tariff If.”  The news article read in part:

[Massachusetts Senator Lodge] admits that the fundamental conditions of tariff legislation today are entirely different from what they ever were before.  The “utterly distorted and dislocated” foreign exchanges make, he confesses, any given rate a duty little more today than a shot in the dark.  Still he would have no delay in passing a bill which, in the course of a few months, may be found to have included rates wholly unnecessary for protection and outrageously oppressive in their effect on prices.

On April 1, 1884 the Warsaw Daily Times carried a story that most definitely was not an April Fool’s joke.  The news article reported on an incident stemming from a game of cards at Cole’s Creek, Columbia county in Pennsylvania, the previous Sunday.  It would appear that Charles Davis, Charles Mills, James Royer and Henry Williams had entered a tavern and started up a poker game with amounts being wagered finally reaching $500 a side — a very tidy some back in 1884.   

As oftentimes is the case in these very emotional high stakes poker games, there was disagreement as to whether a particular player had cheated; in this case, Williams reached for the stakes when Royer claimed he had seen Davis cheat.  The money was knocked to the floor and a row ensued where revolvers were drawn and the barroom emptied. What was referred to back in the day as a “promiscuous firing” occurred and when all was said and done, all four were found lying on the floor, dead.  The headline to the detailed account of the incident was:

Shot In The Dark: Deadly Pistol Practice With The Lights Out

The double entendre was not lost on the readers of the Warsaw Daily Times in Letters to the Editor in subsequent newspaper editions.  While it has been claimed that George Bernard Shaw appears to have been the first person to use the phrase metaphorically, as evidenced by The Saturday Review of February 1895, to others it appears that the metaphorical use of the phrase “shot in the dark” was already a humourous jibe a decade before George Bernard Shaw‘s clever use of the phrase.

No doubt, the literal sense of the phrase hinting at the figurative sense of the phrase can be found in the New York World newspaper of February 15, 1870 that reported:

To level his weapon and fire was the work of a moment; but as both figures fled the shot seemed to have been wasted.  Upon examining the spot in the morning, however, the gentleman found a considerable quantity of blood upon the trampled grass, and traces of it for some distance from the house.  Soon after the sod of a graveyard near the house was found to have been disturbed as though in preparation for the removal of a body, and the neighbors resolved the attempted burglary into the wanderings of a couple of would-be “body-snatchers” whom the alarmed householder had frightened and grazed by his random shot.

The news story was aptly entitled:

A Shot In The Dark: Strange Solution Of A Family Mystery

Idiomation was able to find several published literal versions of the phrase in newspapers and books prior to 1870, however, none of them appeared to have the figurative sense implied or carefully crafted into the headline so as to create a double meaning to the phrase “shot in the dark.”

One such story is from the New Zealand Colonist edition of October 18, 1842 that related an anecdote about the Emperor, Napoleon and the Battle of Jena at Weimar.  The anecdote ends with:

The Emperor laughed, and to reconcile the poor fellow to himself, said, as he withdrew, “My brave lad, it was not your fault; for a random shot in the dark, yours was not amiss; it will soon be daylight; take a better aim, and I’ll provide for you.”

Idiomation is relieved to hear that the literal sense for the expression is much less in use nowadays than its figurative use of the expression.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »