Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Morning Leader’

Blue Murder

Posted by Admin on June 17, 2013

Blue murder (which is not to be mistaken for any other kind of murder) is a loud or impassioned outcry, or a horrible din.  Young children are said to have perfected this cry as parents from generation to generation have oftentimes exclaimed that some child is crying blue murder when the child is carrying on.

On September 23, 1971 a news story from Canberra was reported in The Age newspaper of Melbourne, Australia was published.  The story was aptly entitled, “Blue Murder, But It Has To Be Funny” and began with this lead-in

Comedians could get away with blue murder in what they said on broadcasts, as long as they were funny, Dudley Moor said yesterday. But the proceedings at the National Press Club lunch at which Dudley and his partner Peter Cook appeared were not funny enough to pass the ABC censor unscathed.

When James O’Donnell Bennett wrote a Special Report for the Morning Leader newspaper edition of September 23, 1927 readers were glued to every single detail about the championship fight between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey in Chicago.  It was a messy situation from start to finish, with the title of the piece being, “Dempsey’s Men caught Trying To Smear Vaseline.”  At one point, the following was reported:

His people, however, squawked blue murder and rightly so.  Their screaming of “rabbit punches, Dave” — addressed to Referee David Barry — began in the fourth round when Dempsey landed three rabbit punches on the base of Tunney’s skull.

In Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book “Anne’s House Of Dreams” which was published in 1917, the expression blue murder is used in Chapter 35 entitled, “Politics At Four Winds.”  The chapter opens up at the point where Canada is in the midst of a political campaign and the political views of the Grits and the Tories are presented.  In this chapter the following passage is found:

“He’d have done it, too, and Gus knew it, for Marshall is as strong as an ox and Gus is only a midget of a man. So he gave in and towed Marshall in to the shop and went to work. `Now,’ says he, `I’ll barber you up, but if you say one word to me about the Grits getting in while I’m doing it I’ll cut your throat with this razor,’ says he. You wouldn’t have thought mild little Gus could be so bloodthirsty, would you? Shows what party politics will do for a man. Marshall kept quiet and got his hair and beard disposed of and went home. When his old housekeeper heard him come upstairs she peeked out of her bedroom door to see whether ’twas him or the hired boy. And when she saw a strange man striding down the hall with a candle in his hand she screamed blue murder and fainted dead away. They had to send for the doctor before they could bring her to, and it was several days before she could look at Marshall without shaking all over.”

John S. Farmer alleges in his book of 1890 entitled, “Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present” that:

Few words enter more largely into the composition of slang, and colloquialisms bordering on slang, than does the word BLUE.  Expressive alike of the utmost contempt, as of all that men hold dearest and love best, its manifold combinations, in ever varying shares of meaning, greet the philologist at every turn.

Needless to say, the expression and its definition can be found in the 1968 edition of J.C. Hotten’s “The Slang Dictionary Or The Vulgar Words, Street Phrases And Fast Expressions Of High And Low Society.”

In London, England a delightful folio of songs entitled, “The Melodist and Mirthful Olio: An Elegant Collection Of The Most Popular Songs” was published in 1829.  In this collection, there’s a song known as “The Cats: An Original Comic Song” written by Michael Hall, and in this song, the following couplet is found:

Till in the trap caught, by their tails both so taught,
Molrow and blue murder, they cried, sirs.

For those who aren’t in the know, molrowing is the “practice of socializing with a disreputable woman” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  Oh my! What were those kittens getting themselves into?!

According to the “Classical Dictionary Of The Vulgar Tongue” compiled by Francis Grose and published in 1785, blue was defined thusly:

To look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.  Blue as a razor; perhaps, blue as azure.

And somewhere between 1785 and 1829, the words blue and murder became blue murder … an expression in its own right.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Go To Bed With The Chickens And Get Up With The Cows

Posted by Admin on March 21, 2012

Back in the day when farming was dependent on being able to see what was going on and clocks weren’t necessarily around yet, farmers would do as the chickens did and go to bed around dusk. There wasn’t much to do after dusk anyway, so it made sense for all to get a good night’s sleep so they could get up with the cows, shortly after daybreak. This way, the greatest amount of daylight was used to get all the chores done on the farm.

On January 5, 2011 CBC News published a story about sleep patterns and interrupted sleep entitled, “The Genes Behind Sleep Patterns.”  The article talked about circadian and homeostatic rhythms and stated in part:

The idea that someone can change his or her morning or night person status is pretty widespread. People who couldn’t get up in the morning are often seen as lazy, while those who go to bed with the chickens are seen as boring —- the types who can never last during a night on the town.

In the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, the following passage is found in Chapter 24:

And so they went, down the row of laughing women, around the diningroom, refilling coffee cups, dishing out goodies as though their only regret was the temporary domestic disaster of losing Calpurnia.  The gentle hum began again.  “Yes sir, Mrs. Perkins, that J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he needed to get married so they ran to the beauty parlor every Sunday afternoon soon as the sun goes down.  He goes to bed with the chickens, a crate full of sock chickens, Fred says that’s what started it all.  Fred says …”

On July 10, 1920 the Morning Leader newspaper published an article entitled, “Two Ohio Newspapermen May Fight It Out For The American Presidency.”  It read in part:

Governor Cox has just turned the half-century mark.  He was born March 31, 1870 on a farm near Jacksonburg, Butler County, Ohio.  His early training was that of a farm boy of the period, up with the cows and to bed with the chickens.  He attended the country schools, and finally the Middletown High school.

The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Connecticut published an article on December 27, 1907 entitled “Rolling Thunder Beat Bill Meader.”  It was an interesting article that revealed the younger generation’s view of the older generation by stating the following:

Some of the young bloods about town are of the opinion that residents of Manchester in the early days were a lot of old fossils who went to bed with the chickens and did not get out at all nights just because there were no electric lights to steer them home.

While the expression hasn’t been used very often in literature or news stories, the expression is what is called a Southernism and hails from the southern states in the U.S.  Since it was used so freely in this news article dating back to 1907, Idiomation believes it can easily be placed in the vernacular of the generation before 1907 putting it to some time around 1875.

That being said, maybe a good night’s sleep will reveal more in the morning when we get up with the cows.

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