Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Miami News’

Holy Toledo!

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 6, 2015

Driving through Toledo, Ohio recently, the idiom Holy Toledo came to mind.  Today, Toledo is thought of as a quiet and conservative town, but it wasn’t also so.  In fact, from the late 1800s through to the 1930s, Toledo’s reputation was anything but quiet and conservative.  It was known as a den of inequity overrun by gangsters and mobsters and crooked politicians — an immoral and corrupt city where it was open season for gang violence, illegal bootlegging, gambling, and corruption.

For example, in the 1890s, the Governor of Ohio, William McKinley (yes, the same William McKinley who was elected President of the United States of America in 1896) was debt ridden.  People such as Andrew Carnegie, Charles Taft, and other wealthy associates came to his rescue, and once elected President, McKinley repaid their help with special favors and special privileges.

In the 1930s, Purple Gang member Yonnie Licavoli was running Toledo’s bootlegging and gambling interests and was perceived as untouchable by the police.  Licavoli’s biggest claim to fame was that he was one of the few people ever to tell Al Capone where he could and couldn’t go with his business, locking him out of Detroit, and living to tell the tale.

What this means is that Toledo was oftentimes called “Holy Toledo” as a euphemism because it was the farthest thing from holy.  But everyone understood that, just like everyone understood that the expression Holy Toledo was meant to be one of surprise or astonishment (as are many idioms that being with Holy such as holy cow, holy smoke, and holy moley).

The expression remained in use well after the Depression era as well.

Taking a peek at how it’s been used over the last few decades, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette of January 13, 2009 described Toledo as Ohio’s Glass City as well as Frog Town, and revealed that the population of Toledo was officially larger than the population of Pittsburgh by more than five thousand residents!  The article by journalist Rich Lord was titled, “Holy Toledo, Look What City Just Passed Us By In Population.”

The Miami News edition of May 12, 1980 published an article about Danny Thomas who supposedly startled his audience at a $100-a-plate fundraiser in Lansing, Michigan by admitting that he hated no-caffeine coffee.  It was a shock because just a few years earlier, he was the spokesman for a commercial that peddled a no-caffeine coffee.  The story headline read:  “Holy Toledo! Danny Thomas Has Been Lying All Along.”

Back on October 11, 1971 there was an article published by Sports Illustrated about the Toledo Rockets who, at the time, were enjoying the nation’s longest winning streak. Writer Joe Jares discussed how Ohio University came close to putting a period at the end of all that for the Toledo Rockets were it not for what the writer referred to as “this hobgoblin quarterback named Chuck Ealey.”  The quarterback had a remarkable history, having played in 57 games of varsity football in high school and college, with each game being a winner. The article was aptly entitled, “Holy Toledo! Chuck Ealey Nearly Lost One.”

In the book “Red War” by  mystery and detective author, Judson Pentecost Philips (August 10, 1903 – March 7, 1989) and journalist Thomas Marvin Johnson, published by Doubleday Doran in 1936, the expression was used.

“You seem to know everything, Mr. McWade.”
Holy Toledo, I wish I did!” groaned the Westerner.  “But there ain’t one of us can figger out what’s up — except somebody’s in for a well double-crossin’.”

Unfortunately, there’s considerable confusion about how the expression initially came about and it doesn’t appear in publications prior to the mid-1930s.

What is known about Toledo, Ohio is that it was named after Toledo in Spain, and that city in Spain is known as the “Holy City of Toledo.”  Likewise, it would seem that Toledo, Ohio was known back in the day for having as many churches as it had bars and taverns, with the greatest concentration of churches located on Collingwood Boulevard. But there’s no proof to substantiate this as being the reason for the saying.

It’s also a fact that comedian Danny Thomas (6 January 1912 – 6 February 1991) — who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, attended Woodward High School as well as the University of Toledo, and began his professional career in 1932 — popularized the expression Holy Toledo in his comedy routines.  Between the comedian’s use of the expression and it’s appearance in “Red War” published in 1936, it’s safe to say the saying was used and understood by most everyone during the 1930s.

As a note of interest, back in the 1590s, Toledo steel (from Spain, not Ohio) was used in the manufacture of medieval swords.  Toledo, Spain had been a steel working center since the 5th century BC.  Toledo steel swords were chosen by Hannibal for his army, and legions from the Roman Empire relied on Toledo steel swords. In other words, Toledo steel swords set the standard in excellent weaponry.

The Toledo steel swords were the swords that defeated Muslim armies during the Holy Wars in medieval times.  And it was Toledo steel rapiers that became the choice of French Musketeers.  The reputation of Toledo steel swords was so widespread that even Japanese Samurai had their katana and wakizashi forged in Toledo with Toledo steel.

In another side note, it was in 1085 that Toledo, Spain became one of the recognized centers of Christian culture after it was liberated from the Moors by Alfonso VI of Castile, Leon and Galicia (June 1040 – July 1109). When the Crusades began (1095 – 1291) it was Toledo steel swords that went into holy battle.

While it would exciting to peg Holy Toledo to the Crusades or to Medieval times, the fact of the matter is that Idiomation was unable to find the idiom published before the 1930s and as such, the best that can be guessed at is that it first came into use sometime in the 1920s, gaining ground in the 1930s.

Advertisements

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

Nailed It

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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 »

Well-Heeled

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 12, 2013

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know if you were well-heeled? Being well-heeled means you live in fortunate circumstances and are prosperous. The opposite of being well-heeled then would be to live in abject poverty, also known as being down at the heels.

Vrinda Gopnath wrote an article entitled, “Well-heeled American Travelers Discover India” for the Indian Express newspaper on September 10, 2005 that discussed the life experience stylists from a number of tour houses that comprised the Travel-Leisure Travel Agent Advisory Board.  With the exchange rate being favorable for American tourists to visit India coupled with the fact it was a politically safe destination, India became a hot spot for Americans looking for to escape to somewhere exotic. The article began by saying:

India has finally caught the attention of the well-heeled American tourist. A multi-million dollar industry in the US, high-end tourism is looking beyond Europe at Indian shores. An eight-member delegation of the Travel+Leisure Travel Agent Advisory Board, the ritziest travel magazine in the US, are in the capital to promote India as a high-end destination to American deep pockets.

In the Column In Brief published in the St. Petersburg Times of July 19, 1974, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak announced that well-heeled suburbanites were terrified of blue-collar workers during the inflationary times in which they lived. Upper middle class voters were said to have a mood of panic about the economy that was usually reserved for working class voters. What’s more, the residents polled in Westchester County were in favor of impeaching their President and wondered why Congress hadn’t done so yet. The article, of course, was entitled, “Well-heeled Suburbanites Turn Against Nixon.”

Back in 1956, readers of the Miami News wondered where Russians went on vacation and the July 18 edition of the newspaper provided answers to that question in an article entitled, “Well-Heeled Commies At Resorts.” Russians, it was reported, traveled south to the Caucasus Mountains, and settle in down in Yalta and Sochi on the Black Sea. What was interesting was the exchange that reporter Earl Wilson had with one Russian woman.

This is indeed a high-rent district they come to and there are many well-heeled Commies hereabouts. A woman bank manager about to retire on half pay told me she has a car, private home, and money in the bank.

“Why, you’re a capitalist,” I said.

“Yes, I suppose I am,” she laughed.

On November 27, 1922 the Rochester Evening Journal journalist Fay King had a go at financially secure widows whose behavior seemed to give Europeans the wrong idea of Americans. The article was entitled, “Fay King Lays Dollar Dumbells Who Disgrace U.S. Abroad” and the journalist spared no OpEd expense expressing an opinion on the subject of those who “packed themselves off bag and baggage to spend war profiteerings and bootlegacies in poor war-ripped France.” The article included this paragraph:

I cringe in my chair with humiliation every time I lamp a photograph showing some silly old dame dolled up in a comic valentine creation parading the bullebards of Paris and labelled “an American.” Or some other well heeled half-wit who lugs her deceased American husband’s fortune over and lays it at the shrine of some decayed family crest!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary claims that the first known use of the word well-heeled is from 1897 but Idiomation begs to differ on that point.

Back on May 17, 1892 the Warsaw Daily Times reported on labor troubles at stone quarries in New England as 20,000 men were locked out by quarry owners with another 50,000 ordered by the labor leaders of New York to quit, and the prospect of another 30,000 sitting idle a real possibility before the strike was settled. The owners felt certain they could out wait the workers, but the workers felt differently about it.

At the Bay View works yesterday morning little knots of strikers were gathered near the polishing mill and the company’s office. They claimed that they were given a fifteen-minute notice of lockout, instead of three months, as agreed upon. “We are well heeled,” said one, “and will hang out as long as we can.”

One of the best examples of the use of the expression well-heeled was found in The Weekly Press of September 15, 1876 that went to great lengths to describe the assets of Saris Birchard of Fremont, Ohio. Poor Sardis had passed on and the newspaper printed his will dated January 29, 1874 in its entirety. But the crux of the story was that the will was the cause of considerable discord, with Governor Hayes, acting as executor of the will, weighing in on the matter by saying clearly the intent of the deceased was for money to exchange hands, not property. The judge, however, was concerned about the governor’s handling of the estate, citing that, contrary to the law, an account of the Governor Hayes’ stewardship as it pertained to the estate had never been filed as required by law. It was a difficult situation rendered all the more difficult by the vastness of the deceased man’s assets which were described in part at the onset of the article.

The fortune of Sardis Birchard was never definitely known by the people among whom he lived. There was a tradition that it crowded hard upon the heels of half a million  and there was never any disclaimer put out against such reports. It was known that he owned the controlling share of the First National Bank of this city, something like $30,000 or $40,000; that he held a cartload or less of mortgages, from which he derived a good income; that he had broad acres and limitless lots elsewhere beyond the borders of this county; that he made a pretty good thing on his third of the profits of the board of which he was president, and that, in short, Sardis Birchard was what would be generally designated as a man mighty well heeled.

At this point, Idiomation was unable to find further published examples of newspaper accounts or books using the expression. However, that it should be used within the context of the article published in 1876 indicates that he newspaper’s readers certainly understood its meaning. For this reason, Idiomation dates the expression to sometime in the 1850s.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fox In The Henhouse

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 6, 2013

If there’s a fox in the henhouse, you’ve got problems brewing. You see, in that one idiom, people are aware that someone has been put in a position where he or she can then exploit the situation to his or her own benefit. And what’s more, it’s not that the opportunity is there, waiting to be acted upon, it’s more likely than not that the person in charge absolutely will exploit the situation.

In other words, having a fox in the henhouse is no different from having a lunatic in charge of the asylum  or asking a thief to guard the bank vault, or expecting the wolf to guard the sheep, or asking a monkey to watch your bananas. They all mean the same thing, and in every instance, the watcher can’t be trusted to do the right job.

Back on December 24, 2002 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted a Letter To The Editor from Don Van Kirk of Franklin Park. He was concerned about the potential for abuse of power from George W. Bush’s new appointee to the SEC. He was so concerned that the author was compelled to comment:

His appointment of William Donaldson as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Donaldson is part of the Wall Street Club; under his leadership nothing of any magnitude will be corrected or changed.

Jumping back one generation to January 11, 1973, a news story published in the Miami News was also concerned about potential problems in government in an article entitled, “Fox In The Henhouse.” The problem this time had to do with the Watergate scandal and ensuing prosecution. It was reported in part:

In the first place, the Justice Department is prosecuting the seven defendants who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters last July. That’s like having the fox watch the henhouse because the Justice Department is controlled by the national administration, which is generally believed to have been behind the spying on the Democrats.

Some say that the expression comes from “The Contre-League and Answere to Certaine Letters Sent to the Maisters of Renes, by One of the League who Termeth Himselfe Lord of the Valley of Mayne, and Gentleman of the Late Duke of Guizes Traine” published in 1589, and that this book gives the saying as the fox guarding the henhouse.

Some will say that the expression is implied in the nursery rhyme (but Idiomation disagrees) entitled, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” where the first verse reads:

Sleep, baby, sleep.
Thy father guards the sheep.
Thy mother shakes the dreamland tree.
Down falls a little dream for thee:
Sleep, baby, sleep.

The fact of the matter is that the expression is first alluded to in the Christian Bible in Luke 13:31-35 where the following is found:

31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.

32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

33 Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

And before the Bible, it was a Latin saying: “Ovem lupo commitere.”  The Latin translates into “mettere un lupo a sorvegliare le pecore” which, in turn, translates into “to set a wolf to guard sheep.”   Whether the expression has to do with foxes and hens, or wolves and sheep, the meaning is the same and to this end, this confirms that the saying originated in Ancient Rome.

So what have we learned from today’s idiom? Don’t assign a job to someone who will then be in a position to exploit it for his or her own ends.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dollars-and-Cents

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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.

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

Ruckus

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 7, 2012

Ruckus is one of those interesting manufactured words that has made its way into legitimate dictionaries.

On August 23, 2008 the Burbank Leader newspaper ran a story about 60 teachers gathered in the Joaquin Miller Elementary School library for a workshop on music education.  The workshop was a rousing success as teachers broke library rules, banging on drums and playing kazoos.  In fact, it was such a spirit affair that the headline read:

Teachers Make A Ruckus For Education:  Arts Seminar On Teaching Kids Music Immerses District Educators In Rhythm And Resonance

On December 14, 1961 the Florence Times in Alabama ran Peter Edson’s column on the Industrial Unions Department Conference held in Washington, DC.  The article was entitled, “Reuther And Building Trades Stir Jurisdictional Brew” and reported on the internal warfare in building trades craft unions against the AFL-CIO. The first paragraph read:

There’s another side of the story to the latest ruckus stirred up by United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther.

The Miami News reported about what was colloquially referred to as Jacksonville’s favourite winter sport on February 15, 1922.  Supposedly this winter sport was none other than chasing the fire apparatus due to the fact that the fire department was sorely overworked according to Chief Thomas W. Haney.  In fact, the news article made it clear just how crazy things were at fire stations in town.

It seems that Jacksonville, as befitting a big town, has a system whereby the major station are always named.  For instance, when No. 1 goes on a run, station No. 2 hastens to fill its place.  No. 3 moving up to No. 2, etc.  As a result, an awful ruckus turns loose when the fire bell rings.  The screeching sirens penetrate the air as the various apparatus scurries in all directions.  No. 1 station responds to an alarm and passes No. 2 racing noisily to man the station made vacant.  The fire-chasing fan chases hither and thither, not knowing which apparatus to follow.

The Random House Dictionary indicates that the word is an Americanism that was first documented in 1885.   However, the following is found in the Tahlequah, OK newspaper, the Cherokee Advocate published of 24 February 1882:

It is but right that they should know how the matter stands, and have fair warning to avoid a “pending” rucus of some sort.

For those who are wondering what two words are responsible for this hybrid, it comes from the German word for back, rücken, and ruction which was a corruption of the word “insurrection” that had been cropped to just ruction. The word ruckus quickly became a popular synonym for any loud and potentially destructive quarrel or disturbance.

Based on this information, Idiomation believes that ruckus in its various forms was part of the vernacular as early as the first half of the 1800s.

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

Bogey Golf

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 28, 2011

Bogey golf is a strange term that is oftentimes misunderstood and refers to the level of proficiency of the player.  If a par 4 hole is completed in 5 swings, the player has scored a bogey. And if a player accomplishes this on every hole, he is playing bogey golf.

Colonel Bogey is a name given in golf to an imaginary player whose score for each hole is settled by the committee of the particular club and is supposed to be the lowest that an average player could do it in.  If you get a bogey, it means you have played the hole in fewer strokes than what is set for that hole.

Officially, Colonel Bogey was recognized by the United States Golf Association in December 1956, and the bogey was given its first official definition, according to a number of news reports.  The Colonel was officially identified as “a quiet, modest and retiring gentleman, uniformly steady but never over-brilliant” … or so reported the Miami News on December 16, 1956 in their news article, “Colonel Bogey Gets Recognized.”

The Eugene Register newspaper carried a news story on June 19, 1991 that was written by journalist Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times entitled, “Hardly Worth An Extra Day.”  The story was about the 91st U.S. Open golf tournament and the trials and tribulations of Scott Simpson compared to golden boy, Payne Stewart‘s ease with the course.  His final paragraph summed it up with:

I yield to no man in my admiration for bogey golf.  But why keep poor Scott Simpson twisting in th wind when you knew he was going to go over the cliff at 16.  Just remember, 16 is not sweet in the Simpson household.  You might not want to sing about cool, clear water, either.

On July 12, 1963 the Deseret News published an article written by journalist Henry W. Thornberry entitled, “New Zealand Southpaw Grabs Title In British Open Playoff.” His focus was on the British Open Playoff being held at Lytham-St. Anne’s in England and two golfers in particular — Bob Charles and Phil Rodgers.

The 25-year-old Rodgers, who trailed by five strokes after the first two of the afternoon round, narrowed that deficit to one by the 25th hole.  But after Charles had matched Rodgers’ long birdie putt on the 26th, the Yank lapsed into bogey golf and rapidly dropped out of contention.

The April 25, 1922 edition of the Evening News from San Jose, California reported on the Indian Pow Wow that was due to take place from May 8 to 14 in Del Monte, California.  The article entitled “Calif. Indians Plan Big Pow Wow” included this interesting bit of information:

Features of the meeting will be a trapshooting tournament, a golf tournament, with side competitors on the links, and a series of field sports.  The program follows:

Monday, May 8 – 100 target preliminary race; blind bogey golf tournament.
Tuesday, May 9 – Start of 300 target trapshooting tournament; qualifying round for four-day golf tournament ….

And the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper edition of October 29, 1895 reported on Varsity sports, covering football, track and field, bowling and golf.  The headline read, “Harvard At Secret Practice” and based on results it would appear that secret practice was definitely a winning factor … at least when it came to golf!

Three players tied for first place in the “bogeygolf tournament of the Country Club, which was played on Saturday.  Not only that, but no less than seven tied for second place.  There were almost forty-five players, and the figuring out of their scores and their relative positions was such a task that the results were not posted until yesterday.

Now in the 19th century, British golfers were said to be “chasing the Bogey Man” when it was obvious they were trying to achieve the perfect score.  It was such a popular term that it became the subject of a very popular 19th century music hall song entitled, “Here Comes The Bogey Man.”  By 1914, a second popular song was spawned entitled, “Colonel Bogey March.”

While golfers love to score a bogey, it’s even more exciting when it’s a double bogey (two strokes over par) or a triple bogey (three strokes over par).  It’s also very important not to confuse the term birdie with bogey as a birdie is the opposite of a bogey.   A birdie indicates on stroke under par rather than over.  And just as with bogeys, a player can lay claim to an eagle (two shots under par), an albatross (three shots under par) or a condor (four strokes under par) which would be a hole-in-one on a par 5 hole.

While Idiomation thoroughly enjoyed tracking down the origins of “bogey golf” no published references to either bogey golf or Colonel Bogey could be found in newspapers before 1895. 

That being said, Idiomation would like to remind readers that the “bogey” referring to golf should not be confused with the “bogey” referring to a frame upon which a railway carriage was placed.

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

In The Black

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 22, 2011

In the black is a great little turn of phrase for companies and individuals alike, especially during difficult economic times.  It means that the company is operating within its means and in keeping with revenues generated.  It’s long been standard accounting practice is to record positive numbers in black ink and negative numbers in red ink.

On January 28, 2001 the Toledo Blade published an article entitled, “A Debt To Repay” that addressed the subject of tax cuts and the U.S. national debt.  It read in part:

Despite a federal budget now operating in the black, the national debt now stands at $5.7 trillion (with a T).  The interest expense on the debt last year was $362 billion (with a B).  That means taxpayers put out more money in interest charges than they did for, say, national defense, which cost about $291 billion.

The Miami News ran a news story on April 15, 1960 about FM radio stations, most of which suffered considerably because of the television boom after World War II.  The article entitled, “FM Bouncing Back To Rival Sister AM” reported in part:

The number of independent FM stations has jumped past 100 “and most of the commercial stations are operating in the black,” Fogel said.  The FCC is being rushed with applications for new FM stations.

The Berkeley Daily Gazette ran a United Press story entitled, “Utilities Lead In New York Decline” on May 18, 1932 as the Great Depression hit its third year.  It stated quite simply:

Consolidated Oil was firm on a statement by Harry P. Sinclair, chairman of the board, that the company was now operating in the black.

Back on February 22, 1923 the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Matthew C. Brush, president of American International Corporation and his denial of reports that were being circulated at the time claiming that American International was trying to see one of its largest proprietary companies, G. Amsinck & Co. It stated in part:

But there is no reason why we should want to sell Amsinck The company is in better shape than in years.  It is operating in the black and negotiations are practically concluded with important interests in two South American countries which give every indication of being profitable in the future.

While some may claim that “in the black” and “in the red” were considered slang back in the day, the term “in the black” appears to have had sufficient legitimacy in proper English to be used by at least one company president being quoted in the Wall Street Journal in 1923.  Idiomation was unable, however, to find an earlier published version of the expression.

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

Tune In

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 20, 2011

The phrase “tune in, turn on and drop out” was THE buzz phrase kicked off by Dr. Timothy Leary on September 19 1966.  The man most associated with encouraging an entire generation to drop acid — LSD — made the most of the expression “tune in” which means “to pay attention or be receptive to other’s beliefs or thoughts.”  By the time Timothy Leary spoke to over 30,000 hippies at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, the buzz phrase had been turned around a bit and was now “turn on, tune in, drop out.”  The meaning of “tune in” however remained unchanged.

When the October 9, 1960 edition of the Miami News hit the streets, it carried an article written by Clarke Ash, Sunday Editor of the newspaper, about Round 2 of the “Great Debate” between then-Senator John F. Kennedy and then-Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.  The headline read:  “The Decision? Tune In Next Month.”

A generation before that, and with the phrase growing in popularity, the Portsmouth Times ran a story on January 25, 1936 entitled, “Tune In On Al Smith.”  The Al Smith in question was former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith with his message of constructive government and sound Americanism.

On May 24, 1929 the Spokesman Review newspaper of Spokane, Washington published an article entitled “Classics Furnish New Words.”  It indicates that the expression “tune in” was part of the vernacular in 1929 and understood by newspaper subscribers.  The article read in part:

With the correct logical training that comes almost imperceptibly as one reads an inflected language, there goes along with it in Latin and Greek the matter of important, interesting and exhilarating content.  To tune in mentally with Homer, Euripides, Lucretius or Vergil is a real experience.  It has been often done.  The saddest thing about it is, of course, that those who don’t do it, can’t see it.

Radio hit a fevered pitch as the new “in thing” for households in 1922.  The New York Times along with other notable major newspapers began running radio columns to keep their readers in the know about the new medium.  In fact, radio editor Lloyd C. Greene of the Boston Daily Globe wrote a column on September 10, 1922 about the success of single tube radios and their users in the story “Citizen Radio Broadcasts.”

I have been interested in reading the different articles on remarkable reception appearing in the Globe as I myself have been experimenting with a single tube outfit with more or less success.

He added that “all could be tuned in at will by varying the value of the secondary condenser.”  And so began the induction of the phrase into every day language.

The expression was picked up by flappers and such and injected into the jargon of that generation and so successfully that the Boston Daily Globe edition of May 8, 1921 ran an article entitled, “Movie Facts and Fancies” which that identified “tune in” as part of the “new slang evolved through the popularity of the motion picture.”

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

Out Of The Blue

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 10, 2011

The expression out of the blue — also known as out of the clear blue sky and a bolt out of the blue — is used by Brits, Australians and Americans. out of a clear blue sky means something happens suddenly and unexpectedly, without warning or preparation.

On December 8, 2009 Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills wrote a piece entitled, “Holy mackerel! One Year Since Blagojevich Arrest” which was published in the Seattle Times.  Christopher Wills wrote in part:

When the news arrived, Rep. Bill Black thought at first it was somebody’s lame idea of a joke. But it was true: The FBI had arrested the governor of Illinois, hauling him away wearing a track suit and handcuffs … [snip] … Blagojevich’s arrest on Dec. 9, 2008, didn’t come out of the blue.  Federal prosecutors had long been investigating whether the governor, then in the middle of his second term, had used his official powers illegally – to pressure groups into making campaign contributions, for instance, or to award government jobs and contracts to political allies.

On July 13, 1971, the Miami News ran a story on Reggie Jackson‘s hit, estimated at close to 600 feet since it hit against the facade over the upper deck at Tiger Stadium’s right-centre field, in a story entitled, “Bolt From The Blue.”  The story’s first paragraph read:

After eight years of All-Star Frustration the American League finally won … and it came like a bolt out of the blue.  Reggie Jackson’s bolt, not Vida Blue’s.  While the fans came to see Blue pitch, they all went home talking about Jackson’s home run that helped the Americans stop an eight-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Nationals in last night’s 42nd All-Star Game.

The Youngstown Vindicator ran an interesting news story on June 16, 1905 entitled, “Czar’s Uncle Quits; Grand Duke Alexis Resigns Post As Head Of The Russian Navy.”  The news bite related:

Although from time to time since the war began there have been rumors that the grand duke would retire on account of the savage criticism, not to use harsher terms, directed against the administration of the navy, especially in the construction of ships, the announcement of his resignation came like a bolt out of the blue.  Consequently it was assured that some sudden event precipitated it and ugly stories immediately came to the surface.

On May 15, 1880, John Brown Gordon (1832 – 1904) former Confederate soldier with an Alabama regiment and an American businessman and politician who dominated Georgia after the Reconstruction period, tendered his resignation to Governor Alfred H. Colquitt.   He claimed that he was carrying out a long cherished desire to retire from public life after 20 years in public service, either at war or in politics.  This story was reported by the media four days later on the 19th and the Atlanta Constitution reported that the resignation had come as “a bolt out of the blue.”  The fact of the matter is that the change had been in the works for several months leading up to his resignation.

The earliest citation is found in Thomas Carlyle‘s book The French Revolution published in 1837:

Royalism s extinct; ‘sunk,’ as they say, ‘in the mud of the Loire;’ Republicanism dominates without and within: what, therefore, on the 15th day of May 1794, is this?  Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims: Hebert, Pere Duchesne, Bibliopolist Momoro, Clerk Vincent, General Rosin; high Cordelier Patriots, red-capped Magistrates of Paris, Worshippers of Reason, Commanders of Revolution.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version for the phrase out of the blue.

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