Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Journal World’

Tricked Out

Posted by Admin on March 8, 2016

When something or someone is tricked out, the thing or the person has been decorated in an extravagant way with conspicuous accessories meant to bring undue attention to whatever or whoever has been tricked out.

The July 2, 2008 edition of the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper ran a story about an Oskaloosa automotive high school teacher whose tractor-trailer was chosen to be on “Trick My Truck.”  The producers and sponsors added a 42-inch plasma screen TV, a video gaming system,  a computer system, and a 1,000-watt stereo among other items, and finished off the project with artwork showing an orange and gray hammer hitting a nail … and flames.  The article was titled, “Oskaloosa Teacher Gets Truck Tricked Out.”

Back in 1975, George A. Meyer published his book, “The Two-Word Verb: A Dictionary of Verb-Preposition Phrases in American English.”  In the Introduction, the writer stated that the two-word verb had been in use for over a century, and according to him, in 1975, it was “the most active and creative pattern of word formation in the American language.”  Among his two-word verbs was tricked out meaning “to dress, array, or deck, especially in a showy or decorative manner.

The 1911 edition of “The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia” included an entry for trick out that wasn’t much different from the definition by George A. Meyer in 1975.  It provided this meaning for the term:  To arrange, dress, or decorate, especially in a fanciful way.

The term trick out was even found in an Otto Holtzes Nachfolger edition of the “New Pocket-Dictionary of the English and Russian Languages” printed in Leipzig (Saxony, Germany) in 1895, with the meaning unchanged from what we know it to be today!

English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) used tricked out in his poem “The Prelude: Book Seventh: Residence In London” published in “The Poetical Works of Williams Wordsworth: A New Edition” in 1869.  Work on the poem began in 1799 and ended the summer of 1805; It was first published in his book “Excursion” in 1814.

When at a country-playhouse, some rude barn
Tricked out for that proud use, if I perchance
Caught, on a summer evening through a chink
In the old wall, an unexpected glimpse
Of daylight, the bare thought of where I was
Gladdened me more than if I had been led
Into a dazzling cavern of romance …

It was used in John Gay’s opera, “The Beggar’s Opera” published in 1728.  It was a ballad opera in three acts with libretto by John Gay (30 June 1685 – 4 December 1732), and music arranged by German composer, Johann Christoph Pepusch (1667 – 20 July 1752).  It had its first performance on January 29, 1728.  In the scene where tricked out is spoken, Peachum and Lockit are seated at a table that has wine, brandy, pipes, and tobacco on it.

LOCKIT
A lady’s tail of rich brocade — That I see is disposed of.

PEACHUM
To Mrs. Diana Trapes, the tallywoman, and she will make a good hand on’t in shoes and slippers to trick out young ladies upon their going into keeping.

LOCKIT
But I don’t see any article of the jewels.

INTERESTING NOTE 1:  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this opera, the main with whom Polly Peachum falls in love and marries is Macheath.  Macheath has a great many female friends whom he visits at the local tavern, including Jenny Diver and Suky Tawdry.  If this sounds oddly familiar, it’s because you’ve heard speak of all these characters in the Bobby Darin hit in 1959,Mack The Knife.”

INTERESTING NOTE 2:  Some readers and visitors will recollect that the song, “Mack the Knife” was from “The Threepenny Opera” written and produced in 1928.  The songs for this particular opera were written by German poet, dramatist, playwright, and theater director, Bertolt Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) and german composer, Kurt Weill (2 March 1900 – 3 April 1950).

While Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of tricked out than the one in John Gay’s opera, the idiom was understood by the audience of the early 1700s.   There is reason to believe, however, that the idiom dates back at least another hundred years, and possibly more.

In the 1500s, trick meant to dress or adorn, while in the 1540s, out meant into public notice.  Someone or something that was tricked out was dressed or adorned into public notice.

Somewhere between 1540 and 1728 (when the opera was first performed), tricked out became an accepted two-word term in conversations.  Without proof, unfortunately, Idiomation is unable to tell when exactly tricked out was first used.  Idiomation therefore pegs this idiom to about 1634 as the halfway mark between 1540 and 1727.

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

Whistle-Stop Campaign

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2015

Every once in a while, you’ll hear or read about a whistle-stop campaign, and it’s usually in the weeks leading up to an election (although not always).    A whistle-stop campaign refers to a series of brief appearances in a string of stops along a set route.

Of course, whistle-stop campaigns left the railway and took to the highways in 1992 when Bill Clinton decided to he and Al Gore would run with a whirlwind intercity bus tour to meet the people.  But the more traditional whistle-stop campaign had a good run — and continues to have good runs from time to time — with the railroads that criss-cross America.

On May 15, 1976 the Gadsden Times reported on the showdown battle between Ronald Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004) and President Gerald Ford (14 July 1913 – 26 December 2006).  It was part of the “red, white and blue Presidential Express” train and the headline read, “Ford On Whistlestop Campaign.”

On September 14, 1964 the Lawrence Journal World newspaper announced that wife of Lyndon B. Johnson (27 August 1908 – 22 January 1973) would be making the first ever whistle-stop campaign by a First Lady.  The train was aptly named the “Lady Bird” and was scheduled to travel 1,682 miles from start to finish.  The editor okayed the headling, “Mrs. Johnson Plans Whistle-Stop Campaign.”

On March 1, 1956 the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph announced that President Dwight Eisenhower (14 October 1890 – 28 March 1969) stated that leading up to the election, he wouldn’t engage in “whistle-stop” talking while Democrats trumpeted the fact that their candidate would be making multiple personal appearances in a vigorous campaign.  The article was entitled, “Whistle-Stop Campaign Ruled Out By President.”

Back in 1948 when Harry S. Truman (8 May 1884 – 26 December 1972) was running for President, he decided to visit Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California by train.  A special platform was set up at the rear of the train and it was from that Pullman railway carriage platform that Harry Truman gave speeches, sometimes as often as eight speeches each day.

Time magazine compared the campaign to a vaudeville act, and in Seattle, someone in a balcony shouted out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!

SIDE NOTE 1:  This phrase entered politics as a slogan meaning blunt, straight-forward campaigning.

Senator Robert A. Taft (8 September 1889 – 31 July 1953) stated to the media that Truman was “blackguarding Congress at every whistle station in the West” during his campaign tour.  Taking the Senator’s comments in stride, Truman stated that Los Angeles was the biggest whistle-stop he had visited on the tour.

While it’s true that campaigning via the railroad wasn’t new when Truman ran in 1948 (it had originated in 1896 with Democrat William Jennings Bryan (19 March 1860 – 26 July 1925) who traveled 18,000 miles by rail and gave 600 speeches in an attempt to unseat President William McKinley (29 January 1843 – 14 September 1901) who chose to campaign from his front porch in Canton, Ohio), after his comments about Los Angeles, such campaigns were noted in the media as being whistle-stop campaigns.

Four years later, on October 11, 1952 the Associated Press sent out a story to the newspapers titled, “Whistle Stopper Truman Pours It On In New York.”  The article began by stating this:

Whistle stopper Harry S. Truman lends a hand to Adlai Stevenson here today in the biggest “whistle stop” of them all.

He turns his “give ’em hell” technique from the rear platform of his 16-car campaign train to a park in Harlem to try to help build up a big enough Democratic margin in New York City to overcome normal Republican majorities upstate.

Two years before the first whistle-stop campaign, George Taft and Ava Gardner starred in a 1946 movie entitled, “Whistle Stop” that was based on the novel of the same name written by author Maritta M. Wolff (25 December 1918 – 1 July 2002).  When her novel was published in 1941 at the tender age of 22, it was declared a literary sensation, and critics referred to it was the most important first novel of the year.  She went on to write five more novels.

When George Bush ran for office in 1992, he did so by taking a page out of Harry Truman’s whistle-stop campaign handbook as he campaigned by train in Ohio and Michigan in a whirlwind trip before returning to Washington, D.C.

Originally, the term whistle-stop meant any small towns along the railroad lines that were of little to no importance to anyone except those who lived there, and those who visited there.  Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to refer to any town or city on a political whistle-stop campaign as being of little to no importance to anyone, most especially the candidate!

And now for a little history lesson:  For those who aren’t aware of the history of how railroads came to be, it was in 1851 that the Illinois Central was chartered to build a railroad to open up the entire state of Illinois to development and commerce, with an eye on transcontinental travel.  It required that federal legislation be enacted to allow for the first land grant railroad, and it set a precedent for all other railroad routes stretching back and forth across the United States.

SIDE NOTE 2:  The first presentation to Congress on the subject of a transcontinental railroad for the U.S. was made by Asa Whitney  (1791 – August 1874) in 1845, after returning from a trip to China from 1842 to 1844.

Back when the railroad was stretching across the country, not every town with a station could count on the train stopping.  In fact, most often, if a passenger wanted to disembark, he had to ask the conductor to inform the engineer to stop and let him (or her) off at the specific train station.  The conductor would pass along the message to the engineer by pulling on the signal cord, and in return, the engineer would sound the whistle twice to let the conductor know he’d gotten the message.  This is how some town became known as whistle-stop towns.

So while there were whistle-stop towns for decades before Harry S. Truman ran his campaign in 1948, it was indeed in 1948 that the idiom whistle-stop campaigning was coined by Harry S. Truman, with a considerable amount of help from Senator Robert A. Taft.

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

Nailed It

Posted by Admin on October 21, 2013

If you aren’t building anything that requires a hammer but someone tells you that you’ve nailed it, what they mean is that you’ve succeeded in doing something well. You hear it said most often when discussing political matters, but it really can be said about any situation that’s done well.

When “Post On Politics” — a blog from the Palm Beach Post — discussed the Florida primaries on August 25, 2010, they talked about the results of the major GOP Governor primary polls as well as the Senate primary polls. The article was entitled, “Pollsterpalooza: Who Nailed It, Who Didn’t, In Pre-Primary Surveys.”

The Deseret News of July 20, 1987 published a story entitled, “Slow And Steady Falso Wins British Open” written by journalist Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. The writer spoke of a golf tournament in Muirfield, Scotland that finished with dashing, flashing and hard-charging at the 116th British Open. And he wrote of the old hare-and-tortoise theme being one of no hares, three tortoises and a slow Walrus. In all, however, someone was going to emerge victorious and in this case it was Nick Faldo of Great Britain.

Faldo, in the twosome ahead of Azinger, needed to sink a five-foot putt so save par on 18, and calmly nailed it.

On August 29, 1965 the Miami News carried a story out of Philadelphia about the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the Philadelphia Phillies in a National League game the night before. It was quite the series that year, and new stories bear that fact out. In this article, this was reported:

Before the Dodgers nailed it, however, Manager Walt Alston called on 21-game winner Sandy Koufax in the ninth inning to get the final three outs. It was Koufax’s first relief appearance of the season.

It wasn’t just men who could nail it. The Lawrence Journal World newspaper of May 13, 1959 shared a news bite by Robert C. Ruark in an article entitled, “Wayne Made Error On Clare” that made use of the idiom when speaking about ex-Ambassador Luce’s wife, Clare.

Our gal Clare is the undisputed mistress of our times of the delicate art of cutting folks into shreds. Mr. Morse’s hid is not the first she has tacked to the barn, and possibly will not be the last. This time she nailed it by severe lady-like refusal of the post to Brazil, playing the part of dutiful wife beautifully.

The Vancouver Sun of September 25, 1931 published a news story entitled, “Labor Stands On Own Feet.” The story was about the morning’s session of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada and the reaffirmation of its stand in favor of independent political action. The story included this information:

After bouncing over the fence once of twice it was thrown back to home plate, where “Paddy” Draper veteran of 31 years as secretary-treasurer of the Congress, nailed it in a fighting speech. There was a misunderstanding among the delegates without any ground for it, he asserted. Moving non-concurrence in these resolutions might result in giving the impression that the Congress was opposed to independent political action whereas this was the farthest thing away from this Congress.

Going back to Philadelphia, this time to the December 2, 1894 edition of the Philadelphia Record in the news article, “Yale Defeats Princeton.” The final score was 24-0 in front of 20,000 spectators. According to the newspaper, it was the worst thrashing ever administered to the Jerseymen except for the thrashing they got in 1890 when they were beaten by the Blues at Eastern Park by a score of 32-0. Furthermore, the newspaper announced that Princeton was outclassed at every point while Yale showed unexpected strength. The story shared game highlights including the following one:

Barnard received instructions to kick the ball out of danger, but his attempt was so poor that the oval only advanced five yards, and was saved for Princeton by Trenchard, who nailed it in great style. Another punt by Barnard was more successful, for Butterworth was forced outside Princeton’s 40-yard line by Holly. Yale then began a series of short rushes, and the Tigers were forced to retreat toward their goal line.

Despite efforts to find an earlier published date for the expression than the one from the Philadelphia Record, none were found. That being said, that the expression nailed it was used so easily in this newspaper story indicates that it was an accepted expression during that era and as such, it most likely dates back to the generation before, putting it at about 1875.

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

Take French Leave

Posted by Admin on October 12, 2011

To take French leave means that someone has left a gathering without asking or announce he or she is leaving. The English and Portuguese attribute this bad behaviour to the French while the Russian, Hungarian, Czech, Italian, and French have an expression that blames it on English while the Dutch and Finnish lay blame on thieves.  What is particularly interesting with this expression is the finger-pointing that is associated with it.

That being said, until at least World War II, the British Army used the euphemism to take French leave when referring to a soldier deserting his company.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to take French leave comes from an 18th century custom in France where guests left a reception without thanking the host or hostess for having invited them.  The dictionary states that the first known use of this phrase to take French leave dates back to 1771.

On July 23, 1942 the Lawrence Journal World newspaper published Harry Grayson‘s column “The Scoreboard.”  The article read in part:

Ed Barrow and Joy McCarthy don’t care for ball players who take French leave, especially when an injury has left the outfit with no one else for the position.  Rosar’s offense was particularly flagrant inasmuch as he was receiving and swinging for the everwilling Bill Dickey, out with a torn ligament in his shoulder.

In 1920, Edith Wharton published a book entitled “The Age Of Innocence” which had this passage in Book I, Chapter XVII:

“Look at him — in such hot haste to get married that he took French leave and rushed down to implore the silly girl on his knees!  That’s something like a lover — that’s the way handsome Bob Spicer carried off my poor mother; and then got tired of her before I was weaned –though they only had to wait eight months for me! But there — you’re not a Spicer, young man; luckily for you and for May. It’s only my poor Ellen that has kept any of their wicked blood; the rest of them are all model Mingotts,” cried the old lady scornfully.

In the Robert Louis Stevenson book “Treasure Island” published on May 23, 1883 after having been published in a children’s magazine in 1881 and 1882 as a serial story,  the expression to take French leave is found in Part V, Chapter 22 entitled, “My Sea Adventure.”

As for the scheme I had in my head, it was not a bad one in itself. I was to go down the sandy spit that divides the anchorage on the east from the open sea, find the white rock I had observed last evening, and ascertain whether it was there or not that Ben Gunn had hidden his boat, a thing quite worth doing, as I still believe. But as I was certain I should not be allowed to leave the enclosure, my only plan was to take French leave and slip out when nobody was watching, and that was so bad a way of doing it as made the thing itself wrong. But I was only a boy, and I had made my mind up.

The Colonist newspaper in New Zealand published the column “Spirit Of The Press” on December 21, 1858 with the following interesting bit of information about taking French leave.

We read that “the Bombay Geographical Society announce in their proceedings, that they have received a specimen of the Walking leaf from Java.”  A person who walks off is said to take French leave.  You may be sure that this tree is originally in France, and not liking a soil that was subject to so many political up-heavings, it took French leave, and walked off.  Hence, probably the origin of that term; or perhaps, the phrase of “cutting one’s stick” may be owing to the habits of this Walking-leaf.  It “cuts its stick” and walks away.  We think we have very cleverly explained two very vulgar idioms, the exact meaning of which has never till now been properly accounted for.  By-the-by, the Birnam Wood that walked into Macbeth, must have been a perambulating forest of these Walking-leaves.

Eliza Southgate Bowne was known for the many letters she wrote in her lifetime.  They were compiled by Clarence Cook and published in a book in 1887 entitled, “A Girl’s Life Eighty Years Ago.”  In a letter dated Sunday, May 25, 1806 to Miss Miranda Southgate, Eliza Southgate Bowne had written in part:

Now for news, which I suppose you are very anxious to hear.  Iin the first place — Miss Laurelia Dashaway is married to Mr. Hawkes.  On Saturday morning, 8 o’clock, Trinity Church was opened on purpose for the occasion; something singular, as it would not be like Miss Laurelia.  But what do you think — Mr. Grellet has taken French leave of New York — sailed for France about a fortnight ago, without anybody’s knowing their intention till they were gone.  There are many conjectures upon the occasion not very favorable to the state of their finances.  “Tis said his friends were very averse to her going with him.  If she had not, I suspect she might have sympathized with Madame Jerome Buonoparte and many other poor Madames that have founded their hopes on the fidelity of a Frenchman.

In the book “Letters from America” which is a compilation of the letters written by William Eddis.  In a letter to his wife written at Annapolis on September 26, 1775, William Eddis wrote in part:

Mr. L, who had actually embarked for England, with full permission from the ruling powers, has been obliged to relinquish his intention, and return on shore, some clamours having been excited by the populace to his prejudice; and it being though necessary he should remain to vindicate his conduct.  Many of our friends have found it expedient to take French leave.  I trust you will speedily meet them in perfect safety.

However even earlier than this, there are written discussion in the late 1760s on the meaning of the phrase and its origins.  Since a guest is not bound by etiquette to seek leave from the party’s host or hostess, it is proper protocol to seek out the host or hostess when one is about to leave.  It was determined that the phrase implies that the person who uses it or of whom it is used has done something that, strictly speaking, should not have done or for which the person should be ashamed.

Since the Merriam-Webster dictionary attributes the first use of the expression to take French leave to 1771, it appears the expression was alive and well in the years leading up to 1771.  Idiomation guesses that the earliest use may have been sometime in the 1760s.

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Cotton Pickin’ Minute

Posted by Admin on March 14, 2011

On March 11, 2011 Conservative Senator Don Meredith accused Liberal Party Leader Michael Ignatieff of using a racist slur when he uttered the phrase “cotton pickin’ minute.”

Idiomation is providing the history of the phrase here — along with newspaper articles to illustrate the phrase — for those who are wondering how the phrase came about and whether it is a racist slur.

Back on November 17, 2009 on the NBA website, the following was part of the article published to The Optimist page:

I know this is a basketball column, and I’ll get to the Cavaliers fifth straight win in just a cotton-pickin’ minute. But these anemic performances by the Browns cannot stand! Not if we’re going to win the Lombardi Trophy before stuff starts blowing up. I’m so old, I remember when the Browns used to score touchdowns. Several of them – IN A SINGLE GAME!

Glen McAdoo wrote a piece for the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard on July 25, 2005 that was entitled, “Just A Cotton Pickin’ Minute.”  In his piece, he included this bit:

It seems like they are intent on coming up with a new tax, or an increase in an old one, just about every week. Where I was raised folks would be saying, “Now wait just a cotton pickin’ minute. Tell me again why ya’all are doin’ this.”

Back on August 21, 2001 in a Letter to the Editor from Jonathan F Phillips to The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville (TN), Mr. Phillips wrote in part:

Now wait a cotton pickin minute. Tennessee had plenty of tobacco settlement money to fight any and all tobacco ads aimed at children. But where is that tobacco settlement money going?

It would appear that the phrase has been used quite a bit in the past decade alone and in newspapers throughout the southern states no less.  But how far back does that phrase go?

The Lawrence Journal World newspaper ran an advertisement on May 15, 1963 written by Lee of Ramsey’s Decorating Service in Lawrence, KS.  Entitled, “Take A Color Pickin Minute” it began with:

I do not mean a cotton pickin’ minute, I mean a color pickin’ minute.  That’s all it takes to obtain the exact color that is proper for you, your home, and its attractiveness.

And on December 7, 1958 Herbert Jay Vida wrote an article entitled “Notes On My Cuff” for the Los Angeles Times that began:

HOLD IT NOW — Now just hold on for a cotton pickin’ minute.

Back in 1914, The Courier published a story about a 17-year-old teenager named Claude Rice.  The newspaper was mighty proud of the young lad for the following reason:

The world’s record cotton picking has been excelled by a boy named Claude RICE, 17 years old, living at Biggers, Randolph county. The boy was picking on a wager of 1,000 pounds of cotton. He picked 1,193 pounds of cotton in 12 hours and 35 minutes. The first three hours he averaged 120 pounds an hour. In 30 minutes from 4:00 to 4:30 o’clock, he picked 56 pounds. RICE is a member of the boy’s corn club of Randolph County, known as the largest corn club in the United States. John R. KIZER, farm adviser, supervised the contest. The boy sold his cotton at ten cents a pound.

As readers can see, there’s no mention as to Claude Rice’s cultural background.  What we do know is that the teen surely could pick cotton!

Now, back in the day, picking cotton required considerable labour to clean and separate the fibers from the seeds.  The problem with hand picking cotton was that dried bristles off the plant cut and scarred fingers, wrists and arms of those who picked cotton by hand. 

The first attempts at building a functional mechanical cotton picker was patented in the U.S. as early as 1850.  Samuel S. Rembert and Jedidiah Prescott patented a cotton-harvesting machine in Memphis, Tennessee that included this information in the original patent notes:

Our cotton picking machine can be duplicated and extended to such a width as to embrace several rows of cotton at once.

Over the next 100 years, over 1,800 patents were issued in the U.S. for cotton harvesting machines.  With more and more cotton picking machines being bought by landowners, field hands who used to pick cotton found themselves replaced by these new-fangled cotton-picking machines. 

While a skilled field hand could pick 20 pounds of cotton in an hour, a mechanical picker could pick 1,000 pounds in that same hour.  It didn’t take long for owners to realize that a bale of cotton (a bale of cotton weighed 500 pounds) cost them 8 times more to have them picked by hand than if they had them picked by machine.  In other words, a cotton picking minute — on the whole — was definitely more beneficial to owners when done by machine.

By the late 1960s, 96% of cotton crops in the U.S. were done by mechanical cotton picking machines.

But is “cotton picking” an insult? 

The phrase “cotton picking” arose in the southern U.S. states sometime during the 1700s and was used to describe something that was unpleasant or troublesome.  Back then, cotton was a garden crop tended by white as well as black Southerners and the cotton was turned into cloth for home use in much the same that flax was turned into cloth for home use in the North.

Cotton-picking” became part of the vernacular in the U.S. and in time, it was the phrase swapped in for unacceptable comments such as “God-damn” or “damn” when in polite society or if women were present.

The verdict:  Cotton pickin’ minute is not a racial slur but calling someone a cotton picker could be considered an insult.

Related Entry:  “Screw Loose” from March 3, 2011.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »