Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Evening Mail’

Barge In

Posted by Admin on July 11, 2011

To barge in certainly has no positive connotations.  It can mean to intrude as in to enter uninvited or to interrupt as in to break into a conversation already in progress to which the person barging has not been invited to join. 

But a barge is also a large boat, generally flat-bottomed, that’s used to transport goods and which are occasionally self-propelled.  Barges have been around since they were used on the Nile in Ancient Egypt.  Some were even very decorative when they carried royalty down the river and these sorts of state barges were used in Europe up until modern times.

Back on June 1, 2010 NBC News New York posted a news story on their website entitled, “Boy, 14, Pulls Gun in Rockland School.”  It had been the second gun scare at that school in less than a year. 

The school went into lockdown at around 9 a.m. during the gun scare. The same school had a lockdown on June 9, 2009, when an irate parent barged in and held the district superintendent at gunpoint.

Almost 50 years before that, the Greensburg Daily Tribune ran a story entitled “Marines And Truman In Peace Move” published in the September 7, 1950 edition.  The article read in part:

Mr. Truman yesterday apologized to the Marines for his “unfortunate choice of language” in describing them as the “navy’s police force.”  Today he made an unscheduled visit to the convention of the Marine Corps League here.  Delegates who only yesterday were shouting criticism of the President for his statements turned into applauding supports today.  The chief executive barged in unexpectedly by Gen. Clifton B. Cates, commandant of the Marine corps.

Long before there were television series and soap operas, stories were published in newspapers.  On November 1, 1935 the Pittsburg Press ran a story by Aleen Wetstein entitled, “One Girl Chorus” that began with this paragraph:

I hope you won’t think I’m terribly impertinent barging in on you like this, Miss Pendergast, but I’ve beenreading you so long in the magazines, I just feel I know you.

When “The Door Of Desire” was published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on September 6, 1923, it told the story of Martin Thayne who had been engaged to Jacqueline Craye and whose cousin was none other than Julian, the second Viscount Montore who had killed a man named Thurlow who had blackmailed him.  The story included this passage on September 6, 1923:

“It’s not very, but it passed with him, and no one else has barged in except yourself.”  Martin came slowly forward, and stood on the opposite side of the writing table.  He leaned his hands upon it and peered down at Julian. Twice he tried to speak and failed.

On November 1907, the Nelson Evening Mail newspaper in New Zealand ran a short news bit entitled, “Barging In The Army: A Guards Officer’s Complaint.”  It quickly gave the highlights of a Court of Inquiry cast where the allegations of Lieutenant Woods of the Second Battalion Grenadier Guards that his superiors were impeding his career in the hopes he would resign.  The reason for this effort was due to the fact, according to Lieutenant Woods, that he was more studious than other officers.

It would seem that somewhere between 1905 and 1920, the expression “barging in” came to mean something similar and yet very different, the former implying something one more likely associated with what happened to barges in the waterways with the latter implying intruding into someone’s home.

However, in many documents referring to school boys of the 1880s, what’s interesting to note is that they had made a game of bumping into each other as if they were large, cumbersome barges they had seen on the waterways.  The joke was always that one boy had “barged in” on another boy and although it took a generation for the phrase to make it into the English language with the current definitions for the phrase, it did indeed get its start in the U.S. in the 1880s … thanks to the boys.

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

Two Shakes Of A Lamb’s Tail

Posted by Admin on January 28, 2011

In case you are wondering, yes, “shake” is a recognized unit of time.  At the time of the first atomic bomb, scientists needed a term for an interval of time equal to 10 nanoseconds. Since two shakes of a lamb’s tail is very quick, scientists coined the word “shake” to describe this unit of time.  But where does this phrase come from originally?

In the Toledo Blade newspaper of March 30, 1961 in the “Tell Me Why” column, A. Leokum started the column by writing:

Suppose you ask someone to do something for you quickly.  He might say:  “I’ll do it in a minute.”  But he might also say: “I’ll do it before you can say Jack Robinson” or “I’ll do it in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”  The point is that when we set up a unit of time such as an hour or a minute, we are doing it by agreement or convention.  We have decided that so much and so much time shall be called a “minute” or “hour.”  But in setting up divisions of time there are certain natural events that can guide us.

That being said, two shakes of a lamb’s tail was a recognized time unit in the 1920s as evidenced in Pittsburgh (PA) in an advertisement that ran in The Gazette Times newspaper on May 3, 1920.  The advertisement for The Men’s Store of Pittsburgh: The Only Place In Western Pennsylvania Where You Can Buy New York’s Finest Rogers Peet Clothes read:

In two shakes of a lamb’s tail!  Replenishing your wardrobe may take even less time than that — our stock of Spring Suits and Overcoats is so ample.  A size for every build.  They’re “made to fit” not “to measure.”  Highest type of tailoring. Prices reasonable.

Back on September 28, 1881 a Letter to the Editor appeared in the Nelson Evening Mail in New Zealand.  The letter began with:

A Brooklyn man spent seven hours writing an essay to prove that a woman is inferior to a man, and then spent two hours more and a heap of profanity in an ineffectual attempt to thread a needle, a job which a woman finally did for him in about two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

A generation before that on August 26, 1853 in an article entitled “Turning The Tables” and published in the New Zealand newspaper, the Daily Southern Cross, the following was published:

A correspondent of the ‘Dublin Warder’ shows how an old acquaintance once turned the tables upon the bailiffs.  Two smart-looking fellows dressed as sailors, and with a rolling seaman-like gait, called at his house, and chucking the servant under the chin, told her to tell her master that they had brought commands from his brother, who was at that time at sea.  The credulous debtor eagerly opened the door and was soon in the arms of the bailiffs.  After complimenting them upon t heir ingenuity, he invited them into a back parlour, and begged they’d wait till he’d send off a bit of a note to a friend that he expected would arrange it for him.  “The messenger was back in the shakin’ of a lamb’s tail; and, my dear life, ’twasn’t long till the tables wor rightly turned, and the brace o’ shoulder tappers frightened out o’ their seven sinses by the arrival of a press gang; and, says Misther Blake, throwin’ the freemason’s sign to the officer, who happened, as Providence would order it, to be a Leithrim man. Here’s a pair o’ light active chaps that have deserted their ship and are disgracin, the blue jacket by actin’ as bailiffs.”  Sure that was a sore day for the disguised bailiffs, for notwithstanding their entreaties, they were obliged to go with the gang!

In the end, the phrase first appeared in Richard Barham’s book “Ingoldsby Legends” published in 1840 however that it was used with such ease in a news article in 1853 gives reason to believe that the phrase existed in modern language long before 1840.

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

Boxing Day

Posted by Admin on January 7, 2011

Boxing Day — the day after Christmas Day — is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries.

On December 23, 1895 in the Southland News Notes of the Otaga Witness newspaper, it was reported that:

With regard to the formation of a rifle association for Southland, and the holding of a championship meeting in connection therewith, after discussion is was resolved — “That a rifle association be formed to be called the Southland Rifle Association.”  Correspondence with several country clubs having been read it was proposed — “That as of the 1st January  had been found an inconvenient date for country clubs, the first meeting of the association be held at Invercargill on Boxing Day, December 26.”

Back on December 22, 1868 the Nelson Evening Mail ran advertisements on page 3 and in Column 1, Alfred Greenfield, Provincial Secretary of the Superintendent’s Office in Nelson (New Zealand) announced that:

The public offices will be closed on —
Friday, 25th instant, Christmas Day.
Saturday, 26th instant, Boxing Day.
Friday, 1st January, New-year’s Day.

On December 30, 1845 in the Sydney Morning Herald, there was a brief article entitled  “Christmas And Boxing Day.”   It stated:

A by no means bad test of the manner in which Christmas Day was passed throughout the town and district was afforded by Friday’s Police Court presenting not a single case of drunkenness on the free list, or indeed any other charges.

It continued by stating later in the same article:

Saturday’s police list exhibited the same gratifying report of Boxing Day as that day’s list did of Christmas Day.  Not a single free case of drunkenness, and only three charges for such offence on the bond list, all ticket holders, and who were discharged, one of them stating by the way that he had taken “a spell” from drink for five years until the previous day; the bend advised him to go and take another spell for another five years.

That the day after Christmas should be referred to as Boxing Day attests to the fact that the term was understood to mean the day after Christmas and was not in question.

It is said that Boxing Day originated in England under Queen Victoria’s reign and since the phrase cannot be found in publications in reference to the day after Christmas prior to her reign, it is likely to be an accurate representation of when the day after Christmas became known as Boxing Day.

Historians, however, are still at odds as to why the day after Christmas is referred to as Boxing Day.

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