Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘James J. Jeffries’

Duck Out

Posted by Admin on August 24, 2011

When someone ducks out it means they’re going to slip away, exit, go, leave, split, depart, skedaddle, take off, clear out, hightail, buzz off, beat it, make tracks, take a powder, fly the coop, vamoose, get out of Dodge and it’s oftentimes so the person ducking out can avoid doing something for which they are responsible or that puts the speaker in an uncomfortable position.

On August 7, 2011 the Calgary Herald published a story by reporter Kristen Odland entitled, “Taylor Shines For Stamps.”  It began by lamenting the fact that Larry Taylor had ducked out, leaving fans and media alike surprised by his quick exit.

Traditionally, the first one to duck out of the Calgary Stampeders’ dressing room post-game and post-practice following any media requests is soft-spoken wide receiver Romby Bryant.  But Saturday night as the remaining satisfied fans filed out of McMahon Stadium following a 32-20 Stampeders victory and the media swarmed into the home team’s jubilant locker room, it was speedy wide receiver and kick-returner Larry Taylor who was no where to be found.  Yeah, he’s that fast.

The Milwaukee Journal published a news story on September 6, 1969 about Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai.  Both the title and the first paragraph used the expression duck out.  The title of the article was “Russ Due So Chinese Duck Out” and began with:

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai ducked out of Hanoi Friday before the Saturday arrival of Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, and the maneuver increased international speculation that North Vietnam was caught in the middle in the bitter Russian-Chinese feud.

Ten years before that, the Milwaukee Journal published a story on September 2, 1959 entitled, “Congress Should Not Duck Out Because of Khrushchev.”  Public and media perception was that some in Congress simply didn’t want to be in Washington when Nikita Khrushchev arrived later in the month and some in Congress were pushing for a six-week recess or to have Congress adjourned.

From time to time, a brief news item appears in the newspaper that can’t help but make the most of a pun waiting to be made.  This was the case in the Reading Eagle edition of October 24, 1933 with the story, “Tries to Duck Out With Ducks: Court Stops Him.”  The article reported the following story from Chicago:

Joseph Duck believes in taking no chances.  He was about to walk out of a court room yesterday after winning a continuance of an alimony case when the judge noticed a bulky package under his arm.

“What is it?” inquired the court.

“Ducks,” said Duck.

He explained he had expected to go to jail and wished to eat duck dinners while there.  The court made him surrender the ducks to Mrs. Duck and her seven children.

On May 9, 1905, the Meriden Daily Journal reported on James J. Jeffries, champion heavyweight pugilist of the world who was retiring due to muscular rheumatism in his hands.  The article read in part:

“I have never known a day’s sickness and this makes life miserable,” he said.  “I am tired of the theatrical game and have informed the management that I want to duck out of the limelight at the end of the week.”

The earliest published version of duck out that Idiomation could find was in the Reading Eagle edition of August 9, 1903 in the story entitled, “Like A Dancing Dervish Is Corbett.”  The story discusses how pugilist Jim Corbett “jumps around Yank Kenny who impersonates Jim Jeffries in practice” and how this surprised boxing experts.

It looks as if Corbett’s only way to avoid those reachy sweeps at his ribs is to duck out of the enclosures, but Jim remains within the ropes and flits around in such a manner as to disarrange Yank’s plan of attack.

That the word is used with ease in this news article from 1903 and without quotation marks around the expression duck out which indicates it was an accepted part of the vocabulary of the time.  It is reasonable, therefore, to guess that the expression most likely dates back to the 1880s or 1890s.

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

In The Pink

Posted by Admin on June 21, 2011

The expression in the pink paints a pleasant, positive picture, doesn’t it?  It suggests healthy babies and cute little girls in frilly dresses and flowers that bloom in early May.  If someone is in the pink it’s understood that the person is in good health.  If something is in the pink it’s understood that it’s operating optimally.

Sandra Guy wrote an article for the Chicago Sun-Times that was published on November 8, 2002 entitled, “Field’s Makeover Begins With A Little Rouge.”  This is what she had to say about the redesign of the Marshall Field’s store on State Street in Chicago:

In September 1999, French luxury goods group LVMH bought a two-thirds stake in London-based Thomas Pink, a name taken from a late 18th century Mayfair tailor who made gentlemen’s riding jackets. (Anyone who could afford one was said to be “in the Pink.”)

On March 8, 1951 the Palm Beach Post published an advertisement hailing the benefits of a product known as Hadacol.  It claimed to relieve lack of energy brought on by a lack of vitamins B1, B2, Niacin and Iron.  Officer Jimmy Kilroy of 1153 Belden Avenue in Chicago, Illinois was quoted in the advertisement and an impressive photograph of this former prizefighter and Chicago police officer.  The headline read:

Policeman Back In The Pink Again — Says He’s The “Kilroy of Old”

At the turn of the century, the Toledo Bee newspaper published an article on November 14, 1901 about the upcoming prize fight between the champion, James J. Jeffries managed by William Brady and trained by Billy Delaney, and Gus Ruhlin, known as the “Akron giant” managed by Billy Madden and trained by Henry “Pop” Blanken.  The day before the fight, the odds were 10 to 4 in favour of the champion and fight fans from New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle and Portland were making themselves heard as they journeyed into San Francisco where the event was scheduled to take place.  The headline read:

Just Before The Battle:  Both Jeffries And Ruhlin Are Reported In The Pink

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) referred to a specific Italian town he’d visited in 1845 thusly:

Of all the picturesque abominations in the World, commend me to Fondi. It is the very pink of hideousness and squalid misery.

The word “pink” became part of the English language in 1573 as the name of a plant, not a color.  Less than 25 years later, it was used to describe a level of courtesy as seen in William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and JulietAct II, Scene IV, published in 1597:

ROMEO
Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great; and in
such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.

MERCUTIO
That’s as much as to say, such a case as yours
constrains a man to bow in the hams.

ROMEO
Meaning, to court’sy.

MERCUTIO
Thou hast most kindly hit it.

ROMEO
A most courteous exposition.

MERCUTIO
Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

What Mercutio meant was that he was not just courteous, he was the epitome of courtesy.

And so it is easy to see that shortly after the word “pink” became part of the English language, it was associated with someone or something being in good shape or being the pinnacle (both good and bad) of what the word “pink” was describing.  The idea of being “in the pink” or ‘in the very pink’ doesn’t appear to have changed much over the past 400 or so years.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »