Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Carter’

Blue Light Special

Posted by Admin on June 5, 2013

Do you remember the days when you could hear a disembodied voice say over the loudspeaker system: Attention Kmart® shoppers. There’s a blue light special in aisle …?

If you do, then you know that a blue light special is a surprise price-cut offered for a limited time (usually about 15 minutes in length) on specific merchandise. But as with all good things, it fell into the abyss of great ideas and disappeared for a while before coming back to life. How does Idiomation know this?

Greg Hudson posted an article on August 25, 2009 to the Better Business Bureau blog site entitled, “Kmart Is Bringing Back The Blue Light Special.” For those who couldn’t believe the headline, the first paragraph read:

No, it’s not 1965, but the discount retailer Kmart is bringing back its legendary blue light special.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was reported that some Kmart stores still had their “original, decades-old blue lights” while other Kmart stores made do with blue balloons!

Some may think that this was the first time Kmart revived the blue light special concept, but they’d be mistaken. in fact, in December 1999, Kmart opened up their online website, and named it BlueLight.com. If you type that into your browsers these days, you’ll be redirected to Kmart.com.

For trivia lovers, few people know that Johnston-Crowder Manufacturing Co published the “Blue Light Special” board game in 1986. Yes, people, this was a traditional board game for 2 to 4 players.

Blue Light Special Board Game

Now, it’s unfortunate but the expression became the brunt of countless jokes, so when the Youngstown Vindicator of December 9, 1978 published Joan Ryan’s column, “On Sports” and she wrote about Pete Rose and his family, you had to wonder if she was going to take pot shots at the expression.   It read in part:

What happens to a family of four (Petey is 9; Fawne is 14) when their income suddenly escalates to within millions? “Well, I still stop at K-Mart,” says the flamboyant Karolyn, who wears diamonds with her blue jeans.

“I love those discount stores. The only thing it that the cashiers all know me and they say, ‘Honey, we turned off the blue-light special when you pulled in in your Rolls.'”

Earlier that year, on March 2, 1978 the Nashua Telegraph newspaper published a news article entitled, “Carter Directive Calls For Secret Commando Force.” The story dealt with the formation of a secret Army commando unit President Jimmy Carter had ordered. Its primary focus was to combat terrorist acts outside the US. Headed up by Col. Charlie Alvin Beckwith, it wasn’t long before it was nicknamed “Charlie’s Angels” by its first members. The article stated:

The force has been given the code name “Project Blue Light” for its formative stages. Sources said a nucleus of Green Berets from the Army’s Special Forces have already quietly set up headquarters in a post stockade that has until now been used to house prisoners at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

The fact of the matter is that a Fort Wayne, Indiana Kmart store manager used a police car light to draw attention to Christmas wrapping paper that he was clearing out of his store back in 1965. It was such a success that it was adapted to draw attention to any clearance item, and it found its way into the chain before moving on to become an American icon idiom.

So the next time you hear someone joke about the blue light special, smile. It’s not every day that you hear a purely American comment still current in today’s pop culture.

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

Dollars-and-Cents

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2013

When someone talks to you about things from a dollars-and-cents point of view, they’re strictly talking money.  But what’s the background on that expression? Who started being so specific that they had to insert dollars-and-cents into a conversation about money? Once you know the history behind this saying, you’ll understand why it sometimes needed — and still needs — to be said just this way!

On August 26, 1994 the Milwaukee Journal published an article that discussed the difficulties the United Nations was having in making ends meet. The problems arose as the UN faced new responsibilities including foreign peacekeeping operations. The article was aptly entitled:

Dollars-and-Cents Plea For Peace

On October 3, 1980 the Evening Independent newspaper of St. Petersburg (FL) excerpted an article by Robert Runde that was originally published in  MONEY Magazine. As with any article dealing with an upcoming election, it focused on inflation, taxes and employment opportunities. In other words, money issues. Ronald Reagan wanted an across-the-board tax cut that would most help upper-income taxpayers. Jimmy Carter focused on an economic renewal plan. And independent presidential candidate (who received 6% of the vote in that election) John Anderson wanted investors and savers to get bigger tax breaks. The story ran with this headline:

The Dollars-and-Cents Plans Of The Presidential Candidates

The Miami News ran a news story on March 31, 1943 entitled, “New Beef, Lamb, Veal And Pork Prices To Be Set For April.” It reported on the controversial issue of ceilings on livestock “on the shelf” and the revamping of the then-current meat price controls. It was a move that intended to curb the soaring prices on live animals at the farm level and relieve the pressure on packers, wholesalers and retailers who had to abide by the fixed prices. The article read in part:

For some months the agency has been engaged in replacing the old controls, which fixes maximums at the high price charged in March, 1942, by each individual seller, with specific dollars-and-cents ceilings at the packer, wholesale and retail level.

The New York Times published a story on March 4, 1906 that reported on the skepticism of real estate men and builders alike with regards to a proposed 40-story tower at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street in New York City. It wasn’t that anyone was concerned that such a building couldn’t be built, but rather that building an ‘extremely high building‘ on a small lot wasn’t held in high regard. What’s more, the cost of putting up such a building would never justify the cost of advertising its value and generating a reasonable annual income in revenues.

With 3,000 square feet of space for rent on each floor at a cost of $3 per square foot, it was almost unimaginable in the day that a floor would command a rent of $9,000 per month! And the prediction that the building would generate $250,000 net per year was audacious, especially at a time in history when the concept of tenants renting entire floors for their businesses was only just growing in popularity. There was also the question of the elevator equipment needed for such a building. The problems that could be foreseen were many and all of them serious. The article ran under the headline:

Dollars-and-Cents Side Of Forty-Story Tower: Gigantic Structure To Be Built Primarily As A Money-Maker

Twenty-five years earlier, on August 18, 1876, the Weekly Press republished a New York Times story on Governor Tilden’s war record and Mr. Hewitt’s defence of Governor Tilden’s war record. Reporting on the proceedings of the House, readers learned that Mr. Kasson of Iowa “began a violent and vindictive political campaign speech, in which he indulged in personal attacks upon Gov. Tilden. He denounced him in most flagrant terms as having been a secessionist and disunionist.”

There was a fair bit of excitement after that speech and finally the floor went to Mr. Hewitt of New York, who took on Mr. Kasson’s attack of Governor Tilden. It was said that Mr. Hewitt “approached the subject as he would take hold of a slimy snake, with a desire to get rid of it.” Over the course of his defense of the governor,  Mr. Hewitt said many things, but none so cleverly said as this one statement:

I am not going to state dollars and cents. Patriotism is above dollars-and-cents in some quarters.

Dropping back to the law reports published in the New York Times on December 6, 1859, a number of court cases were mentioned in detail. In the case of The People vs Sarah Stuart et. al, alleged shoplifter, the newspaper stated that “a certiorari and a habeas corpus to obtain the papers upon which the defendant was committed, for review” and to have the body of the prisoner brought into Court” had been made. The matter of 15 yards of stolen silk and the accusation that Ms. Stuart was an accomplice to another woman’s theft of the purloined fabric resulted in the following:

The matter was brought before Justice Clerke, at Chambers, who refused to hear it, stating that the business of the Court should not be interrupted by such motions. Counsel for the prisoner said his client’s interests were of as much importance as the dollars-and-cents of civil litigants, who claimed the exclusive use of the Court at Chambers — that liberty was of more account than silver and gold.

The matter was subsequently postponed until Wednesday.

It would appear that accusations of political bribery have been around for as long as can imagine. The Charleston Mercury republished an article on January 18, 1842 that had originally been posted in the New York Herald, on the issue of repealing the Bankrupt Law. The Charleston Mercury reported that the New York Herald had reported that the Courier and Enquirer had reported (yes, this sounds a lot like the childhood game of ‘hot potato’) that foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America, had accumulated a secret fund of several million dollars which bought and paid for the repeal of the Bankrupt Law at a rate of $100,000 USD per vote. Bribery and corruption! And who was alleged to have accepted bribes from these “foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America?” The first nine named were:

Charles G. Ferris of New York
Thos. J. Campbell of Tennessee
R.L. Caruthers of Tennessee
B.S. Cowans of Ohio
J.H. Cravens of Indiana
Garret Davis of Kentucky
A.R. Soliers of Maryland
C.H. Williams of Tennessee
A. Young of Vermont

A subsequent nine were named, under the heading “Kentucky Delegation” and these included:

Mr. Boyd
Wm. O Butler
Mr. Green
T.F. Marshall
Mr. Owsley
Mr. Pope
Mr. Triplett
Mr. Underwood
J.B. Thompson

The news was awash in political intrigue, criminal activity, and aggregate blackmail in the eyes of newspaper subscribers! The response by Mr. Webb and published in the newspaper read thusly:

We do believe that such political bribery and political corruption have been and are at the bottom of this disgraceful proceeding; and we do not hesitate to say, that in our opinion, the member of Congress who could be thus seduced from his duty to his country, to his own, conscience, and to his unfortunate fellow citizens, is as dishonest and dishonorable as if he had openly received a bribe in dollars-and-cents.

The reason for using the expression dollars-and-cents with hyphens is due to the fact that during this period of American history, many Americans distrusted any paper money that used the decimal system of dollars and cents. In fact, public officials and private businesses often preferred using the British system of pence, shillings, and pounds even though American money was dollars and cents. In this respect, even if pence, shillings and pounds were in use, the overall cost was still considered the dollars-and-cents cost of doing business.

What’s more, in America in the 1830s, there was insufficient currency in circulation for all the business people, making America cash-poor. At that point in American history, gold, silver and copper coins held the value of the metal in the coin, and paper money was only as good as the private bank that printed it. If the bank failed, the paper money printed by that bank was useless to those holding on to that paper money.

Businesses and professionals continued to attach “dollars and cents” amounts to products and services, however, they began to extend credit since real dollars and real cents were unreliable barter. Thus began the layers of interlocking debt at the foundation of the American economy … the dollars-and-cents amounts owed to, and by, individuals.

The next time you hear someone talk about the dollars-and-cents costs of an expenditure, they’re talking about the hard costs … the costs of services and products associated with that expenditure … in dollars and cents.

Because of this, Idiomation pegs dollars-and-cents to the early 1830s.

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Peanut Gallery

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2013

As with the lunatic fringe, the peanut gallery found its way into the popular jargon of the 20th century quickly and easily. It’s an offensive term made before an audience of one or more observers that quickly dismisses any opinion made by an individual (or group of individuals) that calls into question the veracity of an opinion being put forth by another individual (or group of individuals).

For example, if someone from Political Party A gives a speech in which he states that Program A will have a specific benefit to all people, someone from Political Party B may call out from the crowd that Program A has deficits or will benefit only a specific segment of the people. The opportunity then presents itself for the original speaker or someone else to refer to the person from Political Party B as being from the “peanut gallery” thereby dismissing the comment.

Andrew Button wrote an article for the CBC News entitled, “The Peanut Gallery Rules The House” that was published on December 13, 2010. After spending 4 days observing the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly in action, he included this observation in his story:

“Although the house of assembly is still shy on women, it has diversity where it really counts: in the maturity levels of its members. From stiff professionals like Steve Kent and Lorraine Michael to jokers like Roland Butler and Tom Hedderson, the house represents everyone from the go-getters to the peanut gallery.

But, if the days I spent observing the house are any indication, the peanut gallery has more representation than anyone else in our province’s legislature. With the non-stop heckling that goes on there, the house of assembly evokes the detention hall more than the hallowed offices of the Queen’s own chamber.”

The Deseret News published an article written by Jack Anderson on the June 1, 1976 that addressed the issue of whether Jimmy Carter was the “trust-me candidate” and “a phony” in his bid to become the President of the United States of America. A quick snapshot of the then-governor of Georgia revealed interesting facts and was entitled thusly:

The Peanut Gallery‘s View Of Carter

On August 20, 1959 the Portsmouth Times newspaper of Portsmouth (OH) ran an article about James C. Hagerty, presidential press secretary. It was said that he had been working “around the clock for many days setting up President Eisenhower’s schedule for his trip to Europe.” While the details were to quick and to the point, it appeared that the point of the article was actually to promote the concept that the job of a U.S. President was “24 hours a day, 365 days a year” and that all the overtime was free of charge to everyone living in the U.S.  The title of the article — with a hint of a dare to Eisenhower’s detractors —  was none other than:

Comments From The Peanut Gallery?

The St. Petersburg Times ran a story by Whitney Martin entitled “Low Scoring Orgy In Golf Due To Putting, Says Jones” on February 3, 1940. It was a sports article about golfer Bobby Jones who told the reporter that the reason for consistent low scaring from then-present-day golfers wasn’t “just a case of the golfer making the putts, but of the putts making the golfer.” But the article wasn’t long enough to fill the entire column, and so additional information on what was going on in baseball was also included, beginning with this paragraph:

“If the hecklers in the peanut gallery will refrain from heaving over-ripe cracks to the effect that it needs it, it might be pointed out that the National league is getting quite a transfusion of new blood this year.”

Just three years earlier (nearly to the day), the News-Sentinel published a story in the February 6, 1937 edition of the paper. The story was out of Seattle (WA) and addressed an ongoing argument between one Mrs. Schultz, owner of the theater, and nine members of the local censor board. She stated that there were no city ordinances requiring her to furnish the members of the censor board with expensive accommodations from which to review the Ballet Russe, and the members of the censor board cast aspersions on Mrs. Schultz’s theater for refusing to provide seats that were more to their liking. The article began with this:

“Seattle’s theater censors, gasping for breath at the mere thought of climbing up to the peanut gallery, peered around cautiously today for a line of attack against Mrs. Cecilia Schultz, who refused them free seats in “bald-headed” row. If the censors don’t find some solution to their troubles by Saturday, they’ll have to view the Ballet Russe from the last row in the highest gallery or pay to get in.”

It can be surmised that negative comments from the members of the censor board would not be welcome, and they would be referred to as comments from the peanut gallery, hence providing some of the earliest current-day references for the phrase.

The Evening Independent of January 8, 1919 also shows some of the earliest current-day references for the phrase peanut gallery in an article entitled, “Hot Shot For Suffpests And Declaration Of War.” The article was short and to the point and taken from the Tampa Tribune.

“An exchange says not a politician in Florida dares come out openly against woman suffrage. Perhaps not. We are no politician, but if this darned foolishness in Washington, this snide way of trying to attract a little peanut gallery applause, this indication of being possessed by seven devils, and this brazen attempt at bull-dozing the country does not stop, you can bet we are going to come out in the open and fight it till hell freezes over.”

The connection between peanuts and politics and political acceptance among the electorate, however, had already taken root earlier in the era, as evidenced by a story published in the New York Times 15 years before that.

But interestingly enough, peanuts and politics were strange bedfellow long before 1903. In a New York Times article dated September 9, 1892 there’s mention of “peanut politics” as evidenced in the article entitled, “It Was New-York’s Day: Good Reports At Democratic National Headquarters.” The former Secretary of State  Frederick Cook of Rochester was quoted as saying this when interviewed at the Democratic National Headquarters the day before:

“THE TIMES said several years ago that I did not believe in ‘peanut politics,’ and I can say now with greater force than ever that no Democrat this Fall can report to ‘peanut politics,’ for if he does he will not only lose the confidence of the electors of his district, but every chance for political preferment. No, Sir: the time is past in this State for ‘peanut politics.'”

The reference to peanut politics (without the italics around the expression) was included in the New York Times 5 1/2 years earlier on February 4, 1887 in an article entitled, “Gov. Hill’s Little Game: Plans To Seize The Constitutional Convention.” The story was from out of Albany, New York and ended with this bit of information:

If the State goes Democratic, the year after a majority of the Senate may possibly be secured during the reign of D.B. Hill, providing he is renominated and re-elected Governor. Then he will have a body in sympathy with him. If he didn’t become the boss of the party during the next three years it would be because there is no power in patronage. Then will peanut politics be played after Judge Muller’s own heart. The first step to be taken in all of this, however, is to capture the Constitutional Convention. If that cannot be accomplished then let there be no convention. It is easy enough for a hostile Governor to frame reasons for refusing to sign a bill.

The phrase peanut politics was used in such a way as to make clear that its meaning was understood by New York Times readers.

In theater talk, the peanut gallery was made up of the cheapest seats in the house. In Britain, those who sat in the cheapest seats were called the gallery gods. However, it should be noted that in America, the favorite theater snack at the time was peanuts still in their shells.  As such, when theater patrons in the cheapest seats were dissatisfied with a performance, they adopted the habit of throwing the peanut shells at those performers they held responsible for the poor performance. Of all the theater patrons, those in the cheapest seats had the clearest shot at performers on stage. It was for this reason that many performers played to the cheap seats to spare themselves from potential peanut shell attacks.

Therefore, peanut politics was seen as politics that played to the “cheap seat” electorate … those most likely to vote for someone because they liked him, not because his views were necessarily based in good government.

It is therefore the opinion of Idiomation that the expression peanut gallery dates back to 1919 with many nods to peanut references and the expression peanut politics, taking it back to 1887.

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Chicken Feed

Posted by Admin on March 20, 2012

Chicken feed refers to a small amount of anything especially money.  It comes from the fact that chickens can be fed grains in amounts too small for other uses but that are enough for the chickens.

Earlier this month, on March 8th, This Is Cornwall ran a news story about the youngest pupils at Falmouth Primary School and how they raised 13 newly hatched chicks.  The students fed and cared for the chicks with the help of the school staff.  The story was aptly entitled, “Cost of Keeping Hens Isn’t Chicken Feed” as the school community continues to fundraise for a coop and a plastic chicken house for their charges.

The Lodi News-Sentinel newspaper of Lodi, California ran a story on March 2, 1977 about the water resources projects that were to be suspended by the Jimmy Carter administration.  The suspensions would hopefully save the American public $5.1 billion.  The story appeared in Andrew Tully’s Capital Fare column and was entitled, “Dam Money Is Chicken Feed.”

On March 28, 1945 the front page news in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper was an article entitled, “Enclosing The Ruhr: Vital Areas In Danger.”  It read in part:

It is not too much to say that between General Patton’s Darmstadt-Aschaffenburg-Frankfurt bridgehead and the Swiss frontier there are no forces that the Third Army leader would consider as more than chicken feed while east and north-east of Frankfurt there is something very much like an open gate.

Chicken Feed was the title of a twenty-minute black-and-white short silent comedy film directed by Robert A. McGowan (22 May 1901 – 20 June 1955) and Charles Oelze (24 November 1885 –  2 August 1949), and released on November 6, 1927.  It was the 64th short from the “Our Gang” series and starred Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon and Jean Darling in the lead roles.

The Detroit Free Press carried a serialized story entitled, “Mr. Dooley On Making A Will” which was written by Finley Dunne.  Part Five was published on August 24, 1913 and the first paragraph read:

“I NEVER made a will,” said Mr. Dooley. “I didn’t want to give a headache thinkin’ iv something to put into it. A will iv mine wud be a puny little thing annyhow, an’ wan thried to file it be lible to locked up contimpt iv th’ Probate coort. Besides, I like to cause any onseemly wrangles an’ lawsuits among me heirs.”

As the story progressed, the following passage can be found:

And wit out an’ decoyed another dollar an’ aven if it come back ladin’ nawthin’ more thin a little chickenfeed, Dochney wasn’t cross about it.

While the expression isn’t used as often as the more popular “peanuts” when referring to money, the phrase first appeared in print in the memoirs of American frontiersman and statesman, Davy Crockett and published in 1836.  Davy Crockett described professional riverboat gamblers who played card games for small change, stating that gamblers made good money on their “chickenfeed” games. It would seem that the term originates with Davy Crockett and if readers can trace the expression back to before 1836, we welcome the additional information.

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Cut From The Same Cloth

Posted by Admin on September 12, 2011

If you and a friend are cut from the same cloth it means you and your friend share many similarities.  It could be that you and your friend seem to have been reared in a similar fashion or that circumstances molded both of you into having a similar mindset.  Tailors use fabric from the same piece of cloth when making a garment to make sure the pieces match perfectly.  Because there are slight differences between dye lots, it’s important to make garments from the same fabric so that the dye is even.

On August 10, 2008 the Sunday Mercury newspaper in Birmingham, England reviewed the CD “The Long Walk Home” by Neil Ivison and the Misers.  Reviewed by Paul Cole, the opening line of the review was this:

Midland songwriter Neil Ivison is a singer cut from the same cloth as Paul Rodgers but his debut album isn’t a nostalgia trip, instead offering contemporary class and an energy that suggests barnstorming live gigs.

Almost 30 years earlier, the News and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, published an article about Pastor Dr. R.L. Maddox and the Easter Sunday announcement he made to his congregation of 850 church followers.  Perhaps it was coincidental that then-President Jimmy Carter‘s son, Jack, and daughter in law, Judy Carter, were part of the congregation at the time of his announcement as reported in the story, “Ga. Paster To Join Carter Staff.”  The article began with this paragraph:

Dr. R.L. Maddox, who says he is “cut from the same cloth” as President Carter, said Sunday he will leave the First Baptist Church of Calhoun to become a White House speech writer.

The December 25, 1904 edition of the New York Times reviewed Donizetti’s Comedy at the Opera House which was hailed as a sparkling performance. Entitled, “L’Elisir d’Amore and Fidelio Given” the unnamed reviewer gave a succinct and extremely positive review of the performances.  The reviewer stated in part:

It is of the same sort, cut from the same cloth and possessed of the same brilliant gayety.  Its music is still fresh and buoyant — melody of the most facile Donizettian type, graceful and fluent and consorted most dextrously with the rippling comic action.  It is all music that singers of the coloratura style delight to employ their powers in.

On February 10, 1888 the Atlanta Constitution ran a story entitled, “The Bogus Lard Ring” which dealt with members of the Georgia delegation in congress who were opposed to the Dawes and Butterworth bills.  It would appear that the purpose of these bills was designed so additional taxes could be levied on the production of cotton seed oil thereby handicapping the growing southern industry. The article, harsh in its opinion of the proposed bills, stated in part:

It is of a piece with the entire republican system of taxation; it is cut from the same cloth.

Idiomation could continue jumping back in time, however, the earliest version of this saying goes back to Ancient Rome and Latin where the saying was “eiusdem farinae” sometimes written as “ejusdem farinae” which translates into “of the same flour.”   Back in ancient times, it was as important to use flour that was milled at the same time so that one knew what to expect from baked goods.  It’s no different than using the same bolt of fabric so one knows what to expect from a garment that is cut from the same cloth.

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