Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Nelson Examiner’

Riding Roughshod

Posted by Admin on March 8, 2012

If you know someone who is riding roughshod over someone or something, you’re talking about someone who is acting how they want, ignoring rules and traditions, and imposing their will on others with complete disregard for how it will affect them.

Just yesterday on March 7th, the Washington Examiner newspaper reported on Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recent appearance on the television news program “Face the Nation” in an article entitled, “One-Party Martin O’Malley Hates Two-Party Accountability.”  The article read in part:

They mean how dare Republicans form some kind of opposition party. (Maryland Democrats especially seem dismally unaware that we have a two-party system for a reason.)  They mean how dare Republicans keep them from riding roughshod over the electorate, abusing the Constitution and raiding the taxpayers’ wallets at will.

The expression is one that brings to mind a clear picture of what’s being described as can be seen in the news story “Whom The Gods Would Destroy” published in the Pittsburgh Press on January 10, 1937 where the opening paragraph read:

If anybody ever asked for trouble, Hitler is the man.  For several years now, he has been riding roughshod over international treaties and stepping on sensitive toes.  And he has been getting away with it for three very good reasons.

Fifty years before that, on May 26, 1887 the New York Times published a story on the Vedder Whisky Tax bill in a story entitled, “Warm Words At Albany.”   It was a very spirited report that began with this announcement:

The 74 Republicans of the Assembly were throttled by the 54 Democrats to-day and preventing from riding roughshod over them and outraging every principle of decency and fair play.

In Chapter 19 of “Man and Wife” written by William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) and published in 1870, the author writes of the main character entertaining five guests – two who are middle-aged with the other three under thirty — in his library.   One of the characters says:

“Saw your name down in the newspaper for the Foot-Race; and said, when we asked him if he’d taken the odds, he’d lay any odds we liked against you in the other Race at the University — meaning, old boy, your Degree. Nasty, that about the Degree — in the opinion of Number One. Bad taste in Sir Patrick to rake up what we never mention among ourselves — in the opinion of Number Two. Un-English to sneer at a man in that way behind his back — in the opinion of Number Three. Bring him to book, Delamayn. Your name’s in the papers; he can’t ride roughshod over You.”

And the expression appeared in the Nelson Examiner in New Zealand on December 17, 1864 in a news story quite simply entitled, “New Bills.”  The Colonial Secretary was speaking on a bill to authorize the Governor to take land for roads and military purposes.  He was reported as having said in part:

But if I am not ready to accept amendments of members upon this question, let it not be said that I am riding roughshod over the House; but let them rather say – I speak of myself, and I speak also the sentiments of my own colleagues, “Here are a set of men sitting upon this bench willing to undergo all the risk of failure, the risk of losing political reputation; to risk all that is most dear to public men to say nothing of private inconvenience.”

When Thomas Moore wrote Twopenny Post-Bag in 1813, he dedicated it to Stephen Woolriche, esq.  In the part entitled “Intercepted Letters, Etc.” in Letter I, he wrote:

‘Tis a scheme of the Romanists, so help me God!
To ride over your most Royal Highness roughshod
Excuse, Sir, my tears — they’re from loyalty’s source —
Bad enough ’twas for Troy to be sackt by a Horse,
But for us to be ruined by Ponies still worse!

Robert Burns the “Election Ballad” which was given at the close of the contest for representing the Dumfries Burghs in 1790.  The poem was addressed to Robert Graham of Fintry which included this verse:

Now for my friends’ and brethren’s sakes,
And for my dear-lov’d Land o’ Cakes,
I pray with holy fire: —
Lord, send a rough-shod troop o’ Hell
O’er a’ wad Scotland buy or sell,
To grind them in the mire!

Seeing that the expression already spoke of the behavior that is associated with the expression today, it’s reasonable to believe that this expression and its meaning hails back at least another two generations to the early 1700s.

In fact, back in the 1680s it was said that a horse that was roughshod was one that had nails intentionally left projecting from its shoes to prevent slippage.  The idea was that the nail heads would give horses at a racetrack better traction so that they could ride roughshod over the competition.  And so somewhere between the 1680s and the early 1700s, the expression referred to people as well as to horses.

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

Devil’s Advocate

Posted by Admin on August 16, 2011

Originally, the devil’s advocateAdvocatus Diaboli — was a person employed by the Roman Catholic church to argue against someone being made a saint. This began with Pope Sixtus V in 1587 with the Office of Promotor Fidei — where the Advocatus Diaboli could be found — and abolished by Pope John Paul II in 1983.

Over the years, devil’s advocate has come to mean any person who pretends to be against an idea or plan that many support in order to spur people on to discuss the matter in greater detail and to think about it more carefully before locking the idea into place or putting the plan in motion.

On May 19, 2009 the Coventry Evening Telegraph ran a story entitled, “Shock Jock Barry’s Tough Talk.”  The story began with this:

Barry Champlain’s late-night radio show is listened to by insomniacs, “nut jobs and psychos,” the lonely and the desperate. Night after night, Barry pushes them to breaking point, as he plays analyst, confessor and devil’s advocate.  Alex Comer plays the late night talk jockey who specialises in subverting the airwaves in Talk Radio.

On June 6, 1962 the Toledo Blade published a story entitled, “No Solution Can Be Seen For China’s Food Problem.”  The article was written by Keyes Beech who was temporarily taking over for Doris Fleeson who, according to the newspaper, had been injured in an automobile accident and would by away for a few days.  The article began with:

Even if you play the devil’s advocate, it’s next to impossible to find anything good to say about Communist China.  Today’s news is all bad.  The overwhelming fact of China in 1962 is that people are hungry or afraid of hunger.  Fear of famine was the force that drove 70,000 Chinese to seek refuge in British Hong Kong, a capitalist utopia on the Red Communist doorstep.

The Providence, Rhode Island Evening News of July 3, 1914 carried an obituary for Joseph Chamberlain (1826 – 1914) on page 2.  It was entitled, “Joseph Chamberlain, Noted Briton, Dead.”  The reason for so much interest in Mr. Chamberlain was due to the fact that not only was his third wife, Mary Endicott, daughter of William C. Endicott, Secretary of War for during the presidency of Stephen Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908), but he had been the British representative to the American-British Joint High Commission.

During the campaign of 1892 Mr. Chamberlain worked with great effect, and subsequently in the Commons he was to the forefront in all the assaults on the Irish government bill and clashed frequently with Mr. Gladstone.  The home rules, considered him a renegade, and this rankling he aggravated by his rasping tactics.  During debate on the bill, one night in July, 1893 Mr. Gladstone tartly compared him with “the devil’s advocate.”  The next night in debate Mr. Chamberlain retorted so caustically that T.P. O’Connor yelled at his, “Judas! Judas!” followed presently by a free fight on the floor between several members — a rare outbreak in probably the most staid legislative body in the world — accompanied by vigorous hissing by the galleries.

From the above excerpt, we see that the expression devil’s advocate was used in 1914 and, based on the quote in the excerpt, in 1892.  Going back another 40 years, the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle published a news article entitled, “Carlyle on Jesuitism” on January 17, 1852 that read in part:

And as this Ignatius, I am aware he is admired, and even transcendently admired, or what we call worshipped, by multitudes of human creatures, who to this day expect, or endeavour to expect, some kind of salvation from him; — whom it is so painful to enrage against me, if I could avoid it! Undoubtedly Ignatius, centuries ago, gave satisfaction to the Devil’s Advocate, the Pope and other parties interested, was canonised, named Saint, and raised duly into Heaven officially so-called; whereupon, with many, he passes, ever since, for a kind of god, or person who has much influence with the gods.

H.W. Fowler published “The King’s English” in 1908 and attributes the expression devil’s advocate to 1760, however, he does not provide a reference source for the claim.

The first formal mention Idiomation could find of the devil’s advocate is in the canonization of St. Lawrence Justinian in 1690 under Pope Leo X (1513-21). Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of the expression devil’s advocate  and believes that 1690 is the earliest to be found.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Handicap

Posted by Admin on July 25, 2011

If you’ve ever caught even a bit of a golf game on television, you’ll have heard the term handicap bandied about by the commentators. Just because a golfer has a handicap, however, doesn’t mean that he’s disabled in any way.  It means that he’s playing at a disadvantage.

On September 29, 1999 the Daily Mail newspaper in England published a news story written by Ian Wooldridge entitled, “Golf’s Great Handicap.”  It dealt with what the journalist referred to as “unprecedently appalling crowd behaviour” especially towards golfers Colin Montgomerie and Mark James.  The matter of what would happen in two years’ time at the Belfry was of considerable concern to all involved.  An unnamed source, speaking about how the situation should be handled, was quoted in the story as saying:

“Very simple,” uttered a quiet voice. “You merely restrict entry to spectators who can produce a golf club handicap certificate to prove they know something about the etiquette of the game.”

On July 28, 1958 the Edmonton Journal reported on an interesting story about William Wacht, a 60-year-old member of the Pines Ridge Golf Club in Ossining, New York who asked to have his handicap raised to 34 from 29.  The first sentence of the story entitled, “Supreme Court To Compute Golf Handicap” read:

A golfer has asked the new York Supreme Court to compute his handicap.

On May 26, 1922 the New York Times newspaper published an article entitled, “Harding To Play Golf In Newspaper Tourney.”  Warren G. Harding was to represent the Marion Daily Star newspaper in the Washington Newspaper Golf Club Spring tournament.  The 12 newspaper men turning in the lowest gross scores would go on to represent Washington correspondents on June 12th on Long Island and would enjoy a weekend as the guest of New Jersey Senator Frelinghuysen.  The story included information on Mr. Harding’s abilities as a golfer.

The participants will compete for a cup offered by Edward B. McLean, owner of the Washington Post, for the lowest net score.  The President’s handicap, based on recent scores, is 22, which indicates that Mr. Harding’s average for eighteen holes if between 95 and 100.

And on January 23, 1882 the West Coast Times in New Zealand printed a brief announcement in the Advertisements column.  Quite simply it stated:

Dunedin February Races:  Dunedin Cup, Dunedin Jockey Club Handicap, and Dunedin Forbury Handicap. Three Events.

On February 7, 1855 the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle newspaper ran advertisements with regards to a number of items.  One of these had to do with the horse races to be held on Thursday, March 8, 1855 at the Nelson Turf Club.  It included this description of one of the races:

The Forced Handicap of 10 Sovs. h. ft., for the winner of any races except the Port and Selling Stakes, and Consolation Plate; open to any other horse; second horse to save his stake.  Horses to be named at the same time as for the Consolation Plate, and to be handicapped in the same manner.  Once round and a distance.

The term handicap actually comes from an old card game known as “Hand I The Cap.”  In this card  game, players would drop the money they bid on a hand into a cap as the cards were dealt.  When the dealer won the hand, he, of course, won all the money in the cap.  Unfortunately, when a dealer won the hand, the next dealer was at a disadvantage in the game of “Hand I The Cap.” In time, this was shortened to “Hand I Cap.”  Mention of the game “Hand I The Cap” can be found in Samuel Pepys’ Diary under his entry of September 18, 1680 however his is not the first mention of a game by that name. 

Before “Hand I The Cap” was a card game, it was known simply as “hand in cap” and was a trading game with prized possessions and money involved as evidenced by documents dating back to the 14th century.  It required two players and a referee.  For example, if Trader #1 had a cloak to trade and Trader #2 had boots to trade, the referee would examine the items to trade and assign a monetary value to them based on condition, age, usefulness, etc.  Whatever the difference was between the two items had to be tossed into a cap by the trader whose item was of lesser value so that both items would now be of equal value.  The difference was referred to as “the odds.” 

At the referee’s mark, both traders would reach into the cap at exactly the same time and draw their hands out at exactly the same time.  An open hand meant there was agreement to trade; a closed hand was a refusal to trade. 

If the traders both agreed to the trade, each would receive the other’s item.  If the traders both disagreed to the trade, each would retain their item.  Regardless of whether they both accepted or both refused, the referee would get the money in the cap.  In other words, if they accepted, the referee was rewarded for having assigned fair value to both items; if they refused, the referee was compensated for the traders’ stubbornness.

If one trader refused while the other trader accepted, then the trader who accepted the deal would get the money in the cap; the trader who accepted the deal was compensated for the other trader’s stubbornness.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »