Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Montreal Gazette’

Straddle The Fence

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 25, 2016

When a person straddles the fence, it means the person appears to favor both sides of an argument or situation.  In other words, the person has placed himself or herself in a noncommittal position while appearing to side with both sides.  Some call it sitting on the fence, so whether it’s sitting on the fence or straddling the fence, the person doing it is undecided and willing to remain undecided until push comes to shove on the matter at hand.

The Victoria Advocate newspaper of March 13, 1980 included an article from the Associated Press that dealt with the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, and the fact that the U.S. was picking its teams in the hope that world tensions would ease to the Summer Games wouldn’t be in danger of not happening. What hung in the balance was the May 24th deadline when the United States would have to either accept or decline the International Olympic Committee’s invitation to take part in the Moscow Games. The article was titled, “USOC To Straddle Fence.”

The Afro American newspaper published an ad in the March 26, 1949 edition titled, “Why Straddle The Fence?”  It was a small blurb on the bottom of page courtesy of the subscription department and the first line repeated the idiom.

There’s no need to straddle the fence in the matter of selecting the biggest readership bargain of 1949.  Pee Wee staunchly insists there’s not the least bit of doubt about it.  His favorite paper unquestionably gives the most for the money.

During World War II, the Montreal Gazette published an article on September 5, 1938 about President Roosevelt.  The write-up revealed that the Democratic congressional campaign committee wasn’t prepared to back the President’s position that a “good liberal running on the Republican ticket would serve the country better than a conservative Democrat.”  The headline that accompanied the story was, “Forbid Roosevelt To Straddle Fence: Democratic Campaign Leaders Resent Reference To Liberal Republicans.”

The term found its way into the Electrical Merchandising Magazine in April 1919 leaving no doubt as to what it meant.

IMAGE 1_1919
And a delightful poem titled, “On The Fence” was published in the 1888 edition of “A Basket of Chips: A Varied Assortment of Poems and Sketches” authored by J.B. (Joseph Bert) Smiley (1864–1903) who also published under the pseudonym of Samwell Wilkins.

J.B. Smiley was from Kalamazoo and he attended the University of Michigan in 1885.  However, it doesn’t seem that the institution of higher learning could keep its hold on J.B., and he found himself writing for the Kalamazoo Herald newspaper.  From time to time, he found himself front and center on stage in front of an audience eager to listen to the humourous lecturer.   From an third-party perspective, “On The Fence” gives some insight into why he was such a popular speaker.

Upon every point that arises
which may my opinion refute,
Upon every political issue
And on every local dispute,
In fact, upon every question
Where the interest is strong and intense,
My position is always the right one,
I invariably straddle the fence.

The position is not very easy,
And it doesn’t look pretty at all,
If I lean to one side or the other,
I believe I am certain to fall;
And I think that I merit distinction,
And a credit mark, long and immense,
If on every question that cometh,
I can gracefully straddle the fence.

In August 1847, a Letter to the Editor was published in Volume 8 of the “Genessee Farmer: A Monthly Journal Devoted to Agriculture and Horticulture, Domestic and Rural Economy.”  The journal even had illustrated engravings of farm buildings, domestic animals, improved implements, fruits, and more, and was edited by Daniel Lee, MD with the assistance of P. Barry, Conductor of Horticultural Department in Rochester, N.Y.

The letter was signed Old Farmer Tim, and he had a lot to stay about the Universal Yankee Nation, lack of sympathy, and family pride.  He even reference the “almighty dollar” saying that the “shining disc flashes on our diseased imaginations, and rolling on just ahead, puts quicksilver in our heels, to follow it almost to the very verge of space.”  The letter ended in a flourish, and began just as dramatically.

Mr. Editor:  I think I hear some of your readers exclaim, “Well, here comes the old pedlar again, astride the fence,”  Not so far, my old covey — I am not straddle of the Fence any way you can fix it, either in Politics or Religion; on those two subjects I know where I sleep; but if I can get astride of some of the miserable excuses for good fences that I observe about the country, and can ride them down, I am content to be “straddle of the fence.”

While some sources say that the idiom came into being in 1828, Idiomation found it used in “The Columbian Union: Containing General and Particular Explanations of Government and the Columbian Constitution” written by Simon Willard, Jun. of Massachusetts, and published in 1814.

Idiomation suspects that this Simon Willard isn’t the same as the celebrated U.S. clockmaker, Simon Willard (April 3, 1753 – August 30, 1848) of Massachusetts — the man who invested the eight-day patent timepiece.  However, it could be as there’s a Lighthouse Clock with the clockmaker’s signature identical to the author’s signature.

Regardless, the author of this book wrote the following:

If this little notion of dog war can excite human beings, to rejoice and to take an active part, certainly a whole nation of humans, wherein themselves are engaged, instead of dogs, and their very lives and property at stake, must take an active part, some where to secure their popularity; to straddle the fence, it is as inconsistent, as to suppose a corpse to be a live man; a man looks like a fool, who stands inactive in a case, wherein his own property is at stake, for he is either deluded and knows nothing of his danger, or he is sure to be king, or sure to enjoy a king’s office, otherwise he is inconsistent to himself.

This is the first published version of straddle the fence that Idiomation could find.  Before this, the word straddle is defined in Thomas Sheridan’s “A Complete Dictionary Of The English Language Both With Regard To Sound And Meaning” dated 1797 as “to stand or walk with the feet removed far from each other to the right and left.”

So sometime between 1797 and 1814, straddle the fence came to mean what it means today.

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Devil’s Strip

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 18, 2015

When you hear people talk about the devil’s strip, do you know what they’re talking about?  The devil’s strip is the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb.  In Boca Raton it’s known as a swale and in Chicago it’s known as a parkway.  But in many other places in Canada and the United States, it’s known as the devil’s strip.

On February 28, 1948 the Montreal Gazette included a brief article about a Court of Appeals court that upheld an earlier verdict against the Montreal Tramways Company for injuries sustained by Bernard Wilson Hansen on December 27, 1945.  In all, the carpenter was awarded $2,570 CDN (or the equivalent of $25,790 CDN in 2015 dollars) despite claims by lawyer Marcus Sperber that the verdict was “ridiculous.”  The article was entitled, “Appeal Court Upholds Ridiculous Verdict” and ended with this paragraph.

Hansen, carrying a tool chest on his shoulder, attempted to cross Bleury Street with the green light in his favor.  The traffic light changed when he was in the middle of the street and as he stood on the “devil’s strip” a moving tram struck the tool chest.  He fell to the ground and was badly injured.

The Toronto World edition of April 22, 1920 wrote about the devil’s strip in an article entitled, “Toronto To Have Semaphore System Of Traffic Control: Deputy-Chief Dickson Explains American Method In Detail.”   Toronto was being modernized, and semaphore traffic signals were being installed!  The Chief of Police Grasett had informed the media as well as the Board of Control that his department was in the process of drawing up plans for these signals, which the Chief of Police guaranteed would handle traffic more efficiently than police officers by at least fifty percent, based on their success in larger American cities.  The article began with this impressive paragraph:

“Stop.”  No traffic cop has waved his hand, but a long line of traffic at a downtown intersection has been brought to an abrupt halt.  “Go.”   Again no movement on the part of the minion of the law, but the long line of vehicles continue on their way.  The constable also, is not standing in the devil’s strip, in the centre of the intersection, but off to one side.

On May 14, 1901, a lawsuit for negligence by a street railway was heard in the Ontario Court of Appeal.  Known as Robinson v Toronto Railway Co., the judge determined that the motorman of an electric car was not guilty of negligence because he didn’t stop the car at the first sign of a horse being frightened by a motor car or anything else that might spook a horse.  It was determined that the most that could be expected of the streetcar motorman was to proceed carefully, and as such, the court was satisfied that the motorman had done so.  The previous finding of negligence was set aside.  The idiom was used in the testimony of one of the witnesses.

Porteous, who was called as a witness for the plaintiff, says that he was driving south of the track; that the horse became frightened and unmanageable at the sight of the defendant’s car and backed over the south track across the “devil’s strip” on to the north track; that it then went to the boulevard, made a wheel, and jumped straight in front of the north track again, and got his foot in the fender just as the car stopped.  He also says the car struck the side of the buggy and threw the plaintiff out on to the road, occasioning the injuries complained of.

Both she and Porteous say they shouted to the men on the car to stop; that the men seemed to be laughing, and that the speed of the car was not slackened until it was within a few feet of the horse.

In 1887, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto published a book titled, “Transactions.”  In the chapter having to do with asphalt and asphalt paving, written by F.N. Speller, the idiom cropped while discussing the preparation of the foundation for asphalt paving.

The sub-grade is carefully prepared, levelled, and rolled, if found necessary, for solidification.  The kerbs are placed in position, either being set in concrete or gravel.  The subsoil is drained by four-inch tile drains running parallel with the kerb in three rows, one under each kerb, and one under the devil’s strip, or centre of the roadway, the former making connections with the catch-water basins.

If electric car tracks are to be laid, the sub-grade must be excavated to twelve inches extra in the track allowance, this being then filled in with six inches of ballast and compacted.

It should be noted that the majority of magazine, newspaper, and resource book references that mention the devil’s strip are primarily from Canada, and as such, it would appear that the idiom is a Canadian term that made its way to America over time. However, the “Proceedings of the Annual Meeting” of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers published in 1883, M.E. Rawson, Assistant City Civil Engineer for the city of Cleveland in Ohio refers to this same space on city streets in Cleveland as the space that is “known by the significant rather than elegant name of the devil’s strip.”

Prior to streetcars, there was no need for a boulevard on city streets and since the first streetcar was patented on January 17, 1871.  The first streetcar made its appearance on August 1, 1873 in San Francisco on a stretch of track that began at the intersection of Clay and Kearny Streets to the crest of a hill 307 feet above the starting point on 2,800 feet of track.  By the 1880s, streetcars were finding their way into most major American and Canadian cities, with the largest and busiest fleet of cable cars being in Chicago … as were the devil’s strip.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published mention of the devil’s strip prior to the one published in 1883, however, the term was known and used in Cleveland at that time which means the term was understood by professionals dealing with streetcar issues at the time.  The term is therefore pegged to about 1880.

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Holy See

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 2, 2015

Contrary to popular misconception, the Roman Catholic Pope is not the Holy See.  The Pope is the bishop of the diocese which means he is the bishop over the entire universal Church.  The Holy See is also called the See of Saint Peter, the Apostolic See, and the Diocese of Rome.  Supported by the Roman Curia (the Court of Rome), the Pope forms the main governing body of the Roman Catholic Church.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the Holy See is a sovereign entity, and yet it is not a nation.  The only reason there are visible national borders is for practical reasons, and those reasons are part of Mussolini’s doing.

But the bottom line is this:  The Holy See is the throne from which the head of the Roman Catholic controls the Roman Catholic Church, and the Holy See embodies all the rules that make the Roman Catholic Church the Roman Catholic Church.

As it was explained to Idiomation, the Holy See — in business terms — is actually the Roman Catholic Church Inc., and the Pope is the CEO of said corporation.  Roman Catholics are more like the business prospects and customers of the corporation, and while Roman Catholics have a stake in what happens with the corporation, they are not de facto shareholders.

The Victoria Advocate reported on July 12, 2000 that the United Nations vote that was taken earlier resulted in a 416 to 1 vote in favor of the Holy See retaining its status as permanent observer (a status it had held since 1964) at the United Nations.  A campaign promoted as “See Change” had been launched to have its status redesignated so it would be treated as a non-governmental organization (NGO).  The article was titled, “House Backs Status Of  Holy See At U.N.

On May 2, 1940 the Montreal Gazette carried a news story from Paris (France) reporting that the Italian government and the Vatican weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on important points as WWII raged on.  Francesco Giunta (21 March 1887 – 8 June 1971), a Fascist and national councillor, went as far as to state in his speech exactly one week earlier at the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, “The Vatican is the chronic appendicitis of Italy.”  The first paragraph of the story read thusly:

Reports reaching here from competent sources in Rome disclose that tension is mounting between the Italian Government and the Vatican over the Holy See‘s refusal to follow Italy’s lead in adopting a pro-German war attitude.

Less than twenty years earlier, however, news reports out of Berlin (Germany) reflected a different relationship between Germany and the Vatican when it came to addressing the Duisburg railway accident.  In fact, it was reported on July 7, 1923 by the Associated Press, and printed in many newspapers around the world, by way of a semi-official joint statement from German Chancellor Wilhelm Cuno (2 July 1876 – 3 January 1933) and Monsignor Giuseppe Pacelli (2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958) — the Monsignor later became Pope Pius XII — that there was agreement.  The news story reported the following:

Chancellor Cuno declared that it was a question of incidents arising from the excitement of an harassed people who in desperation endeavored to act in self-defense.  The German government was, however, at one with the Holy See in condemning all criminal use of force.

In the October 18, 1839 edition of the Daily Pittsburgh Gazette reprinted an excellent article previously published in the Baltimore American.  The article shared the history of the Ottoman Empire with readers, beginning with the fall of Bagdad in 1055 and ending with the battle where John Sobieski (17 August 1629 – 17 June 1696) repulsed the Turks under the walls of Vienna.  The Holy See was mentioned midway through the history lesson.

In 1571, Cyprus was taken from the Venetians; and now the Christian nations of Europe began to be filled with anxious apprehensions of this formidable power.  The Pope exerted himself to stop the further progress of the infidels who, carrying their religion on the points of their swords, made every place Mahometan which fell under their sway.  A league was formed by the Holy See with the Venitians, and Philip II, of Spain, then the most wealthy sovereign in Europe.

Yes, the article alternated between Venetian and Venitian, and it’s not a typographical error on the part of Idiomation.

The Holy See is from the Latin Sancta Sedes, which means Holy Chair.  Technically speaking, the term for a dioceses where the bishop lives is called a See.

So the Diocese of Chicago (which happens to be one of the largest Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States) is really the See of Chicago and the cathedral residence is Holy Name Cathedral (formally identified as the Cathedral of the Holy Name).  Holy Name Cathedral is also the parish church of the Archbishop of Chicago.

The Holy See was first understood to be indisputably in Rome when Pope Gelasius I (Pope from 1 March 492 through to 19 November 496) stated, “Est ergo prima Petri apostoli sedes” which translates to say, “Therefore, the first is the seat of the Apostle Peter.”

Later on, Pope Leo III (Pope from 26 December 795 – 12 June 816) further entrenched the understanding that Rome was the Holy See when he wrote, “Nos sedem apostolicam, quae est caput omnium Dei ecclesiarum judicare non audemus” which translates to say, “We dare not judge the Apostolic See, which is the head of all the Churches of God.”

As an interesting side note, Pope Leo III had enemies (many of whom were relatives of Pope Adrian I who was pope from 1 February 772 until his death on 25 December 795) in Rome and Charlemagne (2 April 742 – 28 January 814) — who became Charles I of France — protected Pope Leo III from those enemies.

Idiomation therefore pegs the term Holy See as we understand it to mean to the papacy of Pope Gelasius I, with a further boost to the term thanks to the papacy of Pope Leo III.

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Fit As A Fiddle

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 12, 2015

When you’re fit as a fiddle, you’re healthy and well.  Ask any musician with a violin or fiddle and he or she will confirm that a fit fiddle is one that’s in excellent shape.   And how does one keep a fiddle fit?  As with any musical instrument, a well maintained fiddle is one the owner keeps in top condition which means the sounds emanating from the instrument will always equal the talent and ability of the person playing it.

When Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, there were those who were concerned over his health … not because he appeared to be suffering from any health issues, but because he was far from being a young man at the time.  However, the Montreal Gazette of October 31, 1981 published a news story that was picked up from UPI that stated that all was well with the President.  The article was titled, “Reagan Fit As A Fiddle” and the first paragraph of the story read:

Two days of physical examinations at the National Naval Medical Center found U.S. President Ronald Reagan to be “fit as a fiddle,” a presidential aide said yesterday.

Over the years, Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia ran newspaper ads in major newspapers across the U.S., and these ads advocated taking Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia to cure indigestion woes.  In fact, in the Spokesman Review of October 22, 1942 the ad copy read in part:

Say goodbye to those “morning blues.”  Next time you overeat, or stay up late at a gay party, take Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia at bedtime and wake up feeling “fit as a fiddle.”

The saying was used in other newspaper advertisements.  Going back to May 12, 1909, the Pittsburgh Press ran one for Hires with the headline copy, “As Fit As A Fiddle On A Fine Spring Day.”

FIT AS A FIDDLE_IMAGE 1
On May 21, 1888, the Evening Post newspaper of Wellington in New Zealand published an article in the Sporting section titled, “Turf Notes” and written by the anonymous reported, Vigilant. The news was that the Wanganui Steeplechase had nine horses entered, and barring accidents, racing fans could expect to see all ready to run at post time.  One horse in particular seemed to be of enough interest to warrant mention by the reporter.

Faugh-a-Baalagh, 11st 12lb, is generally voted well in, and as he will have T. Lyford up on him and is reported as fit as a fiddle, whatever beats him will, I think, get the stakes.

Volume 15 of the “American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine” published in January 1844, discussed the strengths of a horse owned by Mr. G. Salvin.  In Monday’s race, the odds were 13 to 4 against The Cure, and 3 to 1 against The Cure in Thursday’s race, making him an equal favorite with another horse by the name of Ithuriel.

The Cure is an extraordinary good horse, and we have reason to believe the stable money is upon him.  If so, and his partly only mean it, then will our anticipations be realised in seeing him not far from No. 1.  The distance is the only obstacle in his path, but his friends assert that makes no difference.  He is, we hear, as “fit as a fiddle,” and none the worse of his being a little off at Newcastle.  It is understood that Sam Rogers will now have the steering of the “little gentleman” for the St. Leger.

English naturalist John Ray (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) — known as John Wray until 1670 — included the idiom in his book ,”A Compleat Collection Of English Proverbs” first published in 1670.  Before it was included in John Ray’s book, it was used by English Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer, Thomas Dekker (1572 – 25 August 1632) in “The Batchelor’s Banquet” published in 1603 with a bit of a twist.  Instead, the word fine was inserted for fit, however the sense of being in top-notch shape was clear in the dialogue.

Then comes downe mistresse Nurse as fine as a farthing fiddle, in her petticoate and kertle, having on a white waistcoat, with a flaunting cambricke ruff about her neck, who liks a Doctris in facultie comes thus upon him.  Good Lord Sir, what paines you take, here is no bodie can please our mistresse bot your selfe:  I will allure you on my credit that I doe what I can, yet for my life I cannot I, any way content her.

And in English playwright William Haughton’s Elizabethan era stage play, “Englishmen For My Money: A Pleasant Comedy Called A Woman Will Have Her Will” published in 1598, the idiom appears.  In the scene, we find the Italian Aluaro, the Frenchman Delion, and Frisco, who is described as Pisaro’s man and a clown.  Pisaro is a Portingale, and the story has to do with this three daughters — Laurentia, Marina, and Mathea — and their suitors.

FRISCO:
In Leaden-hall?  I trow I shall meete with you anone: In Leaden-hall?  What a simple Asse is this Frenchman.  Some more of this:  Where are you sir?

ALUARO:
Moy I be here in Vanshe-streete.

FRISCO:
This is excellent ynfayth, as fit as a Fiddle:  I in Tower-streete, you in Leaden-hall, and th third in Fanchurch-streete; and yet all three heare one another, and all three speake together:  either wee must be all three in Leaden-hall, or all three in Tower-streete, or all three in Fanchurch-streete; or all three Fooles.

The word fiddle is derived from the Old English word fithele, and in Old German it was fiedel.  The word came into vogue during the 14th century when Medieval fiddles became popular street musical instruments, due in large part to their portability.  Fiddles during the Middle Ages were described as having four strings, a hollow body, and an unfretted fingerboard, and was played with a bow.

It was an instrument equally favored by waits (official town musicians employed by the large English towns in which they lived), minstrels (who were first and foremost entertainers who were also musicians, and who traveled from town to town), and troubadours (who, even though they were musicians, interacted with royalty and nobility).

It can be guessed that those musicians who played fiddle — especially for aristocracy — would want their instrument to be in the best condition possible, and fit for performances.  Although Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published use of fit as a fiddle than the one found in William Haughton’s comedy, because it was used in the play, it was obviously an expression that was already known to the general population by the late 1500s.

Considering how language evolved during this era, it is very likely that the idiom most likely came into vogue during the early to mid-1500s.

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Token Indian

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 3, 2015

If you hear someone talking about the token Indian in the group, it’s an offensive comment.  It means that there was need for at least one person to be included regardless of qualifications, and so someone was chosen to be that token person.  The reason for having a token person in a group is to give the appearance of being inclusive and to deflect any allegations of discrimination.  The bottom line, however, is that it’s extremely discriminatory and not inclusive in the least.

Father Theo’s Blog on WordPress on August 5, 2012 talked about the passage for Aboriginal professionals.  Theo Collins is a blogger, writer, educator, parent, musician, and historiographer living in British Columbia (Canada) and his blog focuses primarily on planet and climate change, Aboriginal issues, the blues, history, people and himself.  The entry that day was entitled, “I Was A Token Indian.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewed “American Outlaw” in their newspaper edition of August 17, 2001.  Written by Post-Gazette Book Editor, Bob Hoover, the immediately took pity on the American Western which he felt had been assailed in the movie.

It’s not that he felt that the movie was terrible (because he didn’t feel that way about it at all) but rather that the movie showed no respect for the cowboy tradition of John Ford, John Wayne, and Sam Peckinpaugh movies.  The problem was, according to the reviewer, that the movie looked more like “The Sopranos” in spurs (yes, that’s what he wrote).

And, that’s really what this movie’s about — lookin’ good.  It’s got the Western outfits, the steam-engine trains, the dynamite blasts, the shirtless studs and the token Indian.  Some of the jokes are funny, too.

Sixteen years earlier (almost to the day), on July 6, 1985 the Gettysburg Times published a news story written by Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press about sculptor Michael Naranjo.  In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. army and the following year, a grenade cost him his sight, a little finger, and the dexterity of his right hand when he and his squad were ambushed in a Vietnamese rice field.   The article was titled, “Blind Indian Sculptor Seeks The Impossible” and explained how Michael Naranjo sought the impossible.  The article read in part:

I don’t want to be just your token Indian, or your token veteran, or your token handicapped artist.  I just want to be a plain old, good artist … Foremost and first, I am a sculptor,” he said at the opening of a month-long exhibition of his work in Pittsburgh.

The Montreal Gazette edition of April 30, 1980 also spoken of token Indians when it ran an article about what the president of the Indian Association of Alberta, Joe Dion, had to say about setting up a national legislative body to negotiate with the Canadian federal government.

“Indians want to make their own laws, administer justice, control resources, and look after social services within Confederation,” Dion said.

He also suggested that Indians also be allocated a block of seats in Parliament, with members elected by Indian constituencies.  And the Senate should have more than the one “token Indian senator.”

The term token Indian can be found littered across newspapers, magazines, and books over the decades and it’s understood what’s meant by the term.  However, it was in a 1946 coin collector’s almanac compiled by Hans M.F. Schulman and Hans Holzer where Idiomation found mention of a 1795 half-cent Washington token Indian head coin.

History shows that the third president of the United States and founding father Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 – 4 July 1826) strongly encouraged commercial enterprises to extend credit to Indigenous peoples in America to create a debt situation that could only be satisfied by forcing Aboriginals to cede land to the U.S. government.  When an Indian did not have a debt, but rather, had a credit coming to him, he received a token since there was a shortage of coins in circulation during this era.

Three images were most often used to differentiate three tokens of differing values, and each had a pictorial that was recognized not only by settlers and colonials but by Native American Indians as well (a buffalo on the plains, a side-wheel steamer, and a warrior on horseback).  These tokens were meant to prove good faith trading and when accusations of unfairness by commercial enterprises surfaced, it was the Indian with the token or tokens who was named as proof that the commercial enterprise in question was fair to all, including Indians.

In other words, the Indian with the token became the known as the token Indian.

The practice dates back to the late 1700s when the U.S. government decided to involve itself in the Indian trade, hence the minting of tokens as well as half-cent token Indian coins that were put into circulation as real coinage.  Idiomation therefore pegs the idiom token Indian to the late 1700s.

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Tar Heel

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 21, 2013

If you ever find yourself in a tar heel fight, you best be ready for a fight you won’t get out of anytime soon. There’s a certain stick-to-it attitude that’s part of a tar heel fight that you don’t get from other kinds of fights. To understand how a tar heel fight differs from other fights, you first have to understand what tar heel means.

On May 7, 2008 the Montreal Gazette published a news article that had to do with the Democratic primary in North Carolina. After weeks of controversy over his former pastor, Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the primary held in that state, which helped him tremendously by giving some momentum to his campaign. The story was entitled, “Obama Bests Clinton In Tar Heel State.

When you hear tar heel, it almost always has something to do with North Carolina. There’s no two ways about it. Wherever you hear talk of North Carolina, talk of tar heels is never far behind. In fact, the Spokane Daily Chronicle of March 12, 1957 carried an Associated Press story that talked about the North Carolina Tar Heels, a basketball team that seemed to specialize in winning close games. The title of the article was, “Winning Close Ones A Tar Heel Specialty.”

It was the Lewiston Daily Sun of October 12, 1928 published an article on Governor Smith’s train campaign along a route that took him through Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. The article entitled, “Smith In Virginia and North Carolina: First Democratic Nominee To Make Personal Appeal For Southern Vote In Years” also reported on other nominees making similar train campaigns, and included this passage in the report:

Sen. Carter Glass, of Virginia, joined the train early in the morning at Washington. At Norlina and Henderson, the Governor received his first ovations in North Carolina, going to the rear platform to exchange greetings with well-wishers. At Norlina his train was boarded by Democratic leaders from the tar heel State who accompanied him to Raleigh.

Steuben Farmers’ Advocate newspaper reported on Chairman Daniel’s speech on July 15, 1896 — a speech that paid tribute to Senator Hill and made an eloquent plea for majority rule. He claimed that the Democratic party was ‘co-evil with the birth of sovereignty of the people‘ and said it could never die until the Declaration of American Independence was forgotten and sovereignty was crushed out. As he gave his speech, there were loud rounds of applause throughout, and more than a few when he was quoted as having said:

It sends forth pioneers from Plymouth Rock and waves over the golden wheat fields of Dakota. It has its strongholds in Alabama and Mississippi and its outposts in Minnesota, Florida and Oregon. It sticks like a tar heel down in the old north State and it writes sixteen to one on the saddle bags of the Arkansaw traveler.

In the diary of William B. A. Lawrence, the last narrative entry of February 6, 1863 also referred to tar heels, but as it pertained to soldiers from North Carolina. In this entry, the author wrote:

I know now what is meant by the Piney Woods of North Carolina and the idea occurs to me that it is no wonder we are called Tar Heels.

The manner in which William Lawrence used tar heels reflected respect, praise, and commendation for the soldiers from North Carolina. But he wasn’t the only one who felt this way about North Carolina’s soldiers. In fact, at the Battle of Murfreesboro in Tennessee in January 1863, North Carolina’s soldiers made an impression on the commanding General John S. Preston who, in addressing the troops, said:

This is your first battle of any consequence, I believe. Indeed, you Tar Heels have done well.

So how is it that residents of North Carolina came to be known as tar heels? North Carolina was the leader producer of naval stores (a category of building and maintenance supplies for sailing ships that included cordage, mask, turpentine, rosin, pitch and tar) from 1720 through to 1870. It makes sense then that the tar, pitch and turpentine for which they were known in particular would identify them.

In the end, tar heels can be tagged as being used in writing in early 1863 and because it was expected that soldiers would understand what General Preston meant when he used the expression when addressing his troops, the expression can be traced back another generation to sometime in the late 1830s or early 1840s.

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Grin Like A Cheshire Cat

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 7, 2013

When someone smiles or grins like a Cheshire cat, they’re smiling broadly … very broadly. Now, do cats actually smile? They do, but not the way humans do. According to animal experts and studies done, cats do a slow blink that’s the equivalent to a human smile.

You’re probably wondering why the expression is tied to a broad smile if cats do a slow blink. Some of you might even think that the expression originated with English author, Lewis Carroll who wrote about the Cheshire cat and its smile in his book, ” Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” that was published 1865.

Author William Makepeace Thackeray (July 18, 1811 – December 24, 1863) used the idiom in his book “The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family” that was published in 1855. The story is about Colonel Thomas Newcome, and his son Clive, and reflects the culture of its time. Some critics have said that it’s an accurate representation of Victorian life with liberal mention of culture, politics and expressions in languages other than English. In Chapter XXIV, Mr. Newcome says to Mr. Pendennis:

For her own part, Rosey is pleased with everything in nature. Does she love music? Oh, yes. Bellini and Donizetti? Oh, yes. Dancing? They had no dancing at grandmamma’s, but she adores dancing, and Mr. Clive dances very well indeed. (A smile from Miss Ethel at this admission.) Does she like the country? Oh, she is so happy in the country! London? London is delightful, and so is the seaside. She does not really know which she likes best, London or the country, for mamma is not near her to decide, being engaged listening to Sir Brian, who is laying down the law to her, and smiling, smiling with all her might. In fact, Mr. Newcome says to Mr. Pendennis in his droll, humorous way, “That woman grins like a Cheshire cat.” Who was the naturalist who first discovered that peculiarity of the cats in Cheshire?

In Volume III of the 5 volume collection entitled, “The Works of Peter Pindar, Esq To Which Are Prefixed Memoirs of the Author’s Life” readers will find an entry entitled, “Epistles to Lord Macartney and His Ship.” Peter Pindar was actually a pseudonym for English satirist John Wolcot (9 May 1738 – 14 January 1819), and this undertaking was published 1794. And right there in this entry, the following verse is found:

Yet, if successful, thou wilt be adored:
Lo, like a Cheshire Cat our Court will grin;
How glad to find as many Gems on board
As will not leave the room to stick a Pin!

In the 1811, 1788 and 1785  editions of “A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” by Francis Grose, — considered in the 19th century as one of the most important collections of slang in the English language — there’s an entry under “Cheshire Cat‘ and it reads:

He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shews his teeth and gums in laughing.

Now interestingly enough, I came across a letter that was written as a Reply to the entry “Grinning Like A Cheshire Cat” in the Cheshire Notes and Queries of August 18, 1882 in which the author, Alfred Burton, references the Slang Dictionary by John Camden Hotten, wrote:

In the Slang Dictionary (edition 1873, pp 115-116) there is a variation in the above saying which has not been given in “Notes and Queries.” To grin like a Cheshire cat — to display the teeth and gums when laughing.” Formerly the phrase was “To grin like a Cheshire cat eating cheese.”

In researching this phrase, Idiomation came across a different reference book. This one was authored by Lieutenant-Colonel Egerton Leigh entitled, “A Glossary of Words Used In The Dialect of Cheshire” published in Long by Hamilton Adams and Co and in Chester by Minshull and Hughes in 1877.  In the dedication, Egerton Leigh stated that these were from “dialectal fragments of our old County” and he hoped they “now have a chance of not vanishing entirely, amid changes which are rapidly sweeping away the past.”  He attests to the fact that the saying, in its entirety is:  Grin like a Cheshire cat eating cheese.

Very telling, however, is the fact that in the You Asked Us column printed in the Montreal Gazette of June 4, 1977 stated, in replying to the question as to why the cat in Lewis Carroll’s book was from Cheshire, the explanation was this:

Carroll knew that his audience would recognize his playing with an expression common in England for at least a hundred years before Alice In Wonderland was published. To grin like a Cheshire cat eating cheese (chewing gravel or evacuating bones), meant to smile all over one’s face for no apparent reason.

According to the magazine Replies published on October 4, 1879, the idiom “He smiled like a Chasse cat was also used in the midland counties around the same time, and an article suggested that the idiom may actually have substituted either Chasse Cat or Cheshire Cat for the term House Cat.

An additional reference in other dictionaries that was uncovered was this one referring to English caricaturist and satirical poet, John Collier (18 December 1708–14 July 1786) who was known by the pseudonym of Tim Bobbin as well as Timothy Bobbin. His first significant illustrated piece appears in 1746.

To grin like a Cheshire cat is to display the teeth and gums whilst laughing (à la Tim Bobbin).

All that being said, the earliest that the Idiomation could come to determining how far back grin like a Cheshire cat goes, is at least to the early 1700s (and most likely much earlier) when all the evidence from various magazines and dictionaries are compiled.

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On A Short Leash

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 13, 2013

If you have someone on a short leash, you are restricting someone’s freedom, and keeping strict control of that person’s activities for the purpose of controlling behavior. The idiom is literal in that it is based on the very definition of what a leash is and what it does: it’s a length of rope or leather used to prevent an animal from getting away.  And it most definitely relates to control and maintaining control.

On April 1, 2011 the Belfast Telegraph ran a story on comedian Russell Brand who was providing voice-over talent in the family-friendly film, “Hop.” The story read in part:

“We had to keep him on a short leash for this movie!” James joked.

The actor explained: “He still gets to be Russell but he has to do it within the confines of [playing] the Easter Bunny.”

It’s the sort of expression that instantly provides a visual readers take seriously while chuckling at the implications. The Montreal Gazette published a news article on August 9, 1980 that stated that New York held the wallet for Canada’s biggest oil company, Imperial Oil Ltd. It stated that if any of Imperial Oil’s top managers in Toronto wanted to spend more than $5 million on a new project, they needed approval from someone in New York and that someone had to be from Exxon Corp of New York since it owned 69.9 percent of Imperial Oil. The headline read:

Canadian Company Kept On Short Leash

The Spokesman-Review of December 12, 1956 discussed the need for a strong military force in the Mediterranean Sea in a story they published entitled, “Strong Fleet Vital In Mediterranean.” The value of having a fleet in the Mediterranean was neatly summed up in the article that contained this comment in the article:

In this air age, the importance of maintaining a strong force of military planes is emphasized continuously, and rightly. But consider the advantages of having fleets such as the Sixth.

The fleet’s base is the United States. It has no base in the Mediterranean and wants non. As Admiral Brown said, “We like our independence … we do not run on a short leash.” The fleet can show up at a trouble spot without creating the alarm a flight of military planes over the same area might have. Further, it can disperse quickly if atomic attack is threatened. If caught in an atomic war, its vessels with their accompanying air power are better able to withstand shocks than can installations ashore, said Admiral Brown.

The expression seems to have changed over the decades, however the sense of the expression has remained unchanged as evidenced by the story in the St. Petersburg Times edition of February 17, 1927. The story was about the upcoming heavyweight fight slated for the following night between Jack Delaney and Jimmy Maloney. There had been, of course, the typical exhibition fights where each fighter took on sparring partners and reporters were eager to report on what they’d seen, stirring up excitement over the upcoming fight. The story ended with this paragraph:

Out of the exhibition there came to observes the conviction that Delaney is in the finest shape of his career, with every move indicating his knowledge of a bagfull of ring tricks, kept in leash to unloose any time he pleases. The Delaney who meets the charge of the Boston strong boy Friday night seemed more resourceful than ever — and bigger.

The earlier expression “kept in leash” appeared in a story in the Pittsburgh Press on February 2, 1908 entitled, “King And Crown Prince of Portugal Were Assassinated: Harry K. Thaw Now Behind The Bars Of Madhouse Cell.” The assassination of King Carlos and the Crown Prince, and the attempted assassination of the Queen and Prince Emmanuel on February 1, 1908 was reported in detail. Mobs were in control of the streets, and the growing severity of the measures of oppression and Premier Franco’s dictatorship were at the heart of the upheaval. The story read in part:

Deputy Almeida, former Deputy Costa, Viscount Rebeira — all level-headed men, were arrested several days ago for political activity and are in one of the several prisons here.

As a result of the long contest between people and police in which the former have been kept in leash by the arms of the latter, the city is a boiling cauldron from which anything may be expected if a determined leader rises and welds the hundred odd bands of Revolutionists into a compact army.

And before that, “kept in leash” and “held in leash” were used interchangeably while still maintaining the spirit of the expression. The New York Times of May 1, 1866 published an article about the Committee of Fifteen and the objections by Congress with regards to reconstructing the Union. The article entitled, “Reconstruction and Circumlocution” read in part:

While most of the propositions in this plan of reconstruction are just and sound, its leading purpose and design, viz.: the election of the President by a divided Union — is monstrously unjust, unwise, and impracticable, and if persisted in by majorities in Congress will lead to disastrous consequences. If, from unavoidable causes, the Union should be kept divided, the people would acquiesce. But when protracted disunion is deliberately contrived; when a measure, with this purpose, cropping out vividly, is put forth by a “Directory” which has thus far held Congress in its leash, it will NOT be endured.

In the essay by William Hazlitt (10 April 1778 – 18 September 1830) entitled, “On Wit And Humour” and published in his book “Lectures on the English Comic Writers” in 1818, wrote that man is “the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be.” In his essay, he wrote:

It is the gaiety of despair, the mirth and laughter of a respite during pleasure from death. The strongest instances of effectual and harrowing imagination are in the story of Amine and her three sisters, whom she led by her side as a leash of hounds, and of the ghoul who nibbled grains of rice for her dinner, and preyed on human carcasses. In this condemnation of the serious parts of the Arabian Nights, I have nearly all the world, and in particular the author of the Ancient Mariner, against me, who must be allowed to be a judge of such matters, and who said, with a subtlety of philosophical conjecture which he alone possesses, that “if I did not like them, it was because I did not dream.”

And so, even in this essay, we see people being held on short leashes in a very literal sense. The Arabian Nights story to which Hazlitt refers is entitled, “The Three Calendars and Five Ladies.”

Ebenezer Cobham Brewer confirms in his book, “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” that Amine was the wife of the character by the name of Sidi Nouman.  He, too, attributes the leash comment to the Arabian Nights.

The “Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms” edited by Ivan G. Sparkes claims that a leash of armies was used as early as 1705 and that a leash of days dates back to the early 1600s.  Indeed, the expression is found in a poem by Daniel Dafoe (1662 – 24 April 1731) entitled, “The Double Welcome: A Poem To The Duke Of Marlbro‘” in which readers find this passage:

From thence thro’ ravag’d Towns and conquer’d Plains
The Monument of Victory remains,
Augsburg and Munick trembl’d at your Name,
Tho’ not inform’d of your approaching Fame:
To Blenheim, happy Name! the Scenes advance,
There gathers all the Thunderbolts of France.
A Leash of Armies on thy Plains appear
Each fancied able to support a War,
And free a Nation from the Vanity of Fear.
We that at Distance saw th’ approaching Day,
Knew the Design, and saw the Bloody Way.

English dramatist, poet and actor Benjamin “Ben” Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637) used the word leash to describe several days in a row. The play in which it appeared is entitled, “Epicoene” written in 1609, and was among those that English Member of Parliament, Samuel Pepys (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) appreciated. The phrase can be found in this dialogue:

MISTRESS OTTER:
Yes, sir, anything I do but dream o’ the city. It stained me a damask tablecloth cot me eighteen pound, at one time; and burnt me a black satin gown, as I stood by the first at my Lady Centaur’s chamber in the college, another time. A third time, at the lord’s masque, it dropped all my wire and ruff with wax candle, that I could not go up to the banquet. A fourth time, as I was taking coach to go to Ware to meet a friend, it dashed me a new suit all over (a crimson satin doublet, and black velvet skirts) with a brewer’s horse, that I was fain to go in and shift me, and kept my chamber a leash of days for the anguish of it.

There are a number of other references that include the word leash, all of them dealing with control of some form or another.  In fact, the expression leash of hounds can be traced back to the early 1300s.  However, in the sense of control of humans, this round goes to Daniel Dafoe in 1705.

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Watershed Moment

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 8, 2013

A watershed moment is a critical point that marks a crucial change and results in profound effects due to that change. For example, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria allowed the U.S. to emerge as a superpower.

Had the assassination not happened, there never would have been widespread shock across Europe. Had there not been widespread shock across Europe, there never would have been reason to write the July Ultimatum. Had the July Ultimatum never been written, there would have never been reason to issue a declaration of war. Had there never been a reason to issue a declaration of war, the Secret Treaty of 1892 obliging Russia and France to go to war against Austria, Hungary and Germany (and eventually Italy) making the war a World War. Had there not been a World War, the United States of America would not have had the opportunity to emerge as a superpower.

That’s a watershed moment!

On November 28, 2010, the Seattle Times published a column by guest columnist. Frederick Lorenz, senior lecturer at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and senior peace fellow with the Public International Law and Policy Group. The topic was the future of international justice and offered Mr. Lorenz’s opinion on the role that major powers should take in this matter. The OpEd piece was entitled:

Watershed Moment For International Justice At The Hague

Politics seems to be where most watershed moments are reported. The Spokane Daily Chronicle published an article by Smith Hempstone on June 7, 1976 that reported on Spain’s watershed moment. The headline read, “Spain Seeks Strong Ties With Americans.” Among many changes in Spain was the fact that the first free elections in more than 40 years was scheduled to happen the following year. This change in Spanish politics was a major turning point in history, and the newspaper reported the following:

At this watershed moment in Spain’s history, the U.S. Senate has before it a five-year treaty of friendship and cooperation and providing for continued American use of U.S. naval facilities at Rota and of air bases at Torrejon, Saragossa and Moron. In return, Spain would receive $1.05 billion in loans for the purchase of military equipment plus Export-Import Bank credits, and $170 million in grants for other projects. This represents a quadrupling of the funds previously made available to Spain and an upgrading from executive agreement to treaty of the relationship between the two countries.

In the August 6, 1959 edition of the Spokesman Review, the newspaper reported that the Republican right-wing was sensitive about comments being made about Vice-President Richard Nixon’s relationship with the Russians. Previous to the phrase being “watershed moment” it seems that what watershed was being discussed was made clear through added details as was done in this article.

Entirely apart from political considerations, there will also be Americans who find the change of direction emotionally difficult. Yet, it seems clear that another watershed of history is here and demanding exactly the kind of direction that the President proposes to give it.

The Regina Leader-Post published an article entitled, “Mankind On The Great Divide” on January 23, 1948 that reported on then-Saskatchewan Premier Douglas, and Walter Tucker’s address to the Rotary club on the subject of Russian policy of indirect aggression towards the Western world. The second paragraph of the story dealt with the position America had on this indirect aggression.

Undoubtedly the Marshall project, which came out of the much-maligned United States, is one of the greatest factors for peace in the world today, and it may well prove that Secretary Marshall’s Harvard speech was the true watershed of the post-war period.

On August 3, 1938 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story entitled, “The Balkan States: Growing Fear Of Germany.” The story had to do with Austria’s loss of independence, the Balkan States were in danger of also being overtaken by Germany by way of complicated trade schemes and disregard for their independence. A basic overview of recent history was provided in the article and French commentator and essayist “Pertinax” aka André Géraud (18 October 1882 – December 1974) was quoted.

“March 7, 1936.” declares “Pertinax,” “appears as a decisive date in the diplomatic history of Central Europe — a watershed between two political continents. So long as the Rhine was free from German fortifications, the French Army at any time could bring irresistible pressure to bear on Hitler’s Reich. It could warn it to respect the independence of the Danubian States. It cold say ‘Thus far, and no farther.'”

Jumping back another decade, on October 18, 1925 the New York Times published an article entitled, “Locarno and The League.” The first paragraph read:

Mr. Austen Chamberlain called the Locarno Treaty “a watershed between war and peace.” It is a striking phrase — doubly significant as coming from the nation and from the man who have been roundly accused of “knifing” the Geneva Protocol. It recalls a prior saying, much ridiculed in the Senate of the United States.

And a decade before that, on July 14, 1916 the Montreal Gazette quoted British Minister of War, David Lloyd George in the article entitled, “Victory’s Tide Flower Towards Allies’ Arms.” The article printed that the Minister had said to reporters the day before:

“The overwhelming victories won by the valiant solders of Russia have struck terror into the hearts of our foes, and these, coupled with the immortal defence of Verdun by our indomitable French comrades  and the brave resistance of the Italians against overwhelming odds in the Southern Alps, have change the whole complexion of the landscape. Now, the combined offensive in the east and west has wrenched the initiative out of the hands of the enemy — never, I trust, to return to his grasp. We have crossed the watershed and now victory is beginning to flow in our direction. Why have our prospects improved? The answer is, the equipment of our armies has improved enormously and is continuing to improve.”

In fact, the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary provided this as one of three definitions for watershed:

3.  a point in time marking an important transition between two situations, or phases of an activity; a turning point.

And so while the origins of the phrase are rooted somewhere at the beginning of the 20th century,the actual phrase does not appear in print until some time in the early 1950s.

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Good Money After Bad

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 25, 2013

When you throw good money after bad, you’re spending more and more money on something (or someone) that will never yield positive results for all you’ve invested.

On September 12, 2011, Kenneth W. Davis posted a short info bite to his site. Davis, who is a past president of the Association of Professional Communication Consultants, addressed the issue of investing time and effort into writing a piece and bad decisions made therein. The info bite was aptly entitled:

This Week: Don’t Throw Good Money After Bad

The phrase certainly grabs readers’ attention and perhaps this is why it makes such a reliable headline. When the Montreal Gazette wrote an article that stated Quebec Transport Minister Michel Clair “might just as well paint fleur de lys on dollar bills and throw them into the air” the title of the story was:

Good Money After Bad

Used in headlines, the phrase oftentimes finds itself repeated in the body of such an article as was the case in a news story carried in the Pittsburg Press on February 16, 1938. The article addressed the matter of unstable employer-employee relationships and began with this paragraph:

Is it heartening that efforts have not been dropped in Congress to set up a mediation system for shipping. For we agree with Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy of the Maritime Commission that, unless labor-management relations are stabilized, discipline established and traffic and travel attracted to American ships, we would only pour good money after bad to spend more of the taxpayers’ millions in subsidies

Decades earlier, on March 16, 1893 the phrase was used in a New York Times article about Jersey City property owners who were upset over awards made by the Commissioners for property taken for the construction of the new boulevard in Hudson County. Owners felt that the project suffered from what they called “monstrous waste and jobbery.” At the time of writing, the Board Of Freeholders had spent one million dollars on the project that, upon completion, would be a mud road and nothing more. The headline for this story was:

Good Money After Bad: Another Million For Hudson County’s New Boulevard

The “American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms” claims that the expression was coined in the late 1800s but Idiomation begs to differ, especially in light of the fact that the saying is found in an article published on July 23, 1880 in the Timaru Herald in New Zealand. On page 2, the following is found in an article discussing the Otago Harbor Board Bill and local indebtedness. It read, in part, as follows:

This argument raising further opposition to the Bill and a feeling being expressed that it would be better for the Harbor Board to stop its works and even to stop payment, than to go on throwing good money after bad. Mr. Driver, who was, we may say, a strenuous advocate of the Bill, propounded the startling theory that, in the case of the Harbor Board becoming insolvent, the colony would have to take over its liabilities.

Twenty years prior to that, in an article published on July 28, 1860 and entitled, “Alarming Transmogrification” in the Moreton Bay Courier included this in their report:

For example: — “Ran away, my man, Sam. He was black last month, but when he left he had become of a smooth, soft, and delicate whiteness, that would rival that of the tenderest, purest, Circassian.” Pray, would it not be flinging good money after bad, to print such an advertisement as that? And worse than all, perhaps the faithful bloodhound, having a fraternal admiratior, of Caleb Cushing and his theory, might decline to hunt “a Circassian.” The capitalists of the South might find that riches have legs, if not wings; and such a perfect conglomeration of everything might ensue as we dread to dwell upon.

And twenty years prior to that, in the Colonist newspaper of December 8, 1840, the Australian publication made use of the expression in its story entitled, “Court Of Requests Act.” Of special interest is the fact that the newspaper story refers to the expression as a common expression. The passage in which the phrase appears is as follows:

If it were asserted that there was any country in which a man, in order to recover a debt of 6l. or 7l., must begin by expending 60l. or 70., — where, at the outset, to use a common expression, he had to run the risk of throwing so much good money after bad, — it would at once be said, that whatever other benefits or advantages that country enjoyed, at least it was not fortunate in its system of law.

In fact, the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Somerset, England published an article on March 25, 1773 entitled, “An Account Of Dr. Goldsmith’s Illness” that read in part:

… throwing away good money after bad. Whereas others are for pulling down and erecting one handsome, spacious, and commodious room in lieu thereof, with a large front door …

The “Thesaurus of Traditional English Metaphors” by Peter Richard Wilkinson claims that the idiom dates back to 1706 but does not provide the source for the claim.   However, this is incorrect as it appears nearly 20 years prior in the letters of William Fitzhugh.

Colonel William Fitzhugh was a lawyer, planter and merchant who relocated from England to Westmoreland County in Virginia in 1670. A self-made man, he was concerned with the fluctuation of tobacco prices since it was the source of his wealth. He furnished his home lavishly which included 122 pieces of English silver — a sound financial investment in that is could be melted down if need be, and made a social statement about his position in society. It’s been claimed that Fitzhugh’s letters to English merchants, ship captains and friends are filled with all manner of scheming. In a letter from 1690, William Fitzhugh wrote:

More money would be spent on prosecuting than he would be able to answer, and consequently good money thrown after bad.

Giovanni Torriano wrote and published a number of books on proverbs, including “New and Easie Directions for Attaining the Thuscan Italian Tongue” in 1639, “The Most Significant Select Italian Proverbs” in 1642, “A dictionary Italian and English, formerly compiled by John Florio, now diligently revised” in 1659, and “Piazza universale di proverbi italiani: Or A Common Place Of Italian Proverbes and Proverbial Phrases” in 1666, among other tomes.  However, it was in his book “Italian Proverbial Phrases” published in 1662 that he wrote:

The English say, To send good Mony after bad, to lose the Substance, for the Shaddow.

Since this was already a known idiom at the time of publication in 1662, it is not unreasonable to believe that it was in use in the preceding two generations. For this reason, Idiomation pegs the date of this expression to the early 1600s.

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