Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘News And Courier’

Fight Like Cats And Dogs

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 2, 2013

Have you ever known people to fight like cats and dogs? While it’s true that dogs like to annoy cats, it’s just as true that cats like to annoy dogs. But do they ever get into fights with each other? What we do know is that when people are said to be fighting like cats and dogs, they’re arguing loudly, relentlessly and without any resolution in sight.

On July 9, 2013 the News Tribune published a news article written by Melissa Santos entitled, “Senate Leader Suggests Fines To Speed Work.” The story focused on the concept of charging lawmakers for forcing the legislative session for going past the allotted length because senators were unable to agree on a budget during the 105 days of the 2013 session, resulting in the session lasting an additional 48 paid days to the senators. The state representative for Medina and Chair of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, Ross Hunter, was quote in the article as saying:

“This was a very difficult budget to negotiate,” Hunter said. “We are going to fight like cats and dogs for the next four or five years to get this problem resolved.”

Going back in time to November 17, 1958, the News and Courier of Charleston (SC) published a news article entitled, “Russia and Red China Are Firmly United.” The article was about Adlai Stevenson’s realization that the unity of Soviet Russia and Red China was solid and unshakable. At that time in history, many Americans were inclined to believe that the Soviet Union would fall apart, taking with it, Communist China. But Adlai Stevenson saw things differently. He was quoted in the story as saying:

” … it would be a very great mistake to underestimate the present solidarity of the Soviet Union and China, or indeed, as Mr. Khrushchev implied, of the whole Communist empire. They may fight like cats and dogs with each other, but as to the outside world their unity is formidable. They will stick together. Theirs is one universe; ours is another.”

On May 22, 1926 the Beaver Falls Tribune of Beaver Falls (PA) published Chapter v in a serialized story about John Milburn, partner in the advertising firm of Graham & Milburn. In this chapter, readers are treated to some delicious details about the curvaceous Nell Orme and her difficult marriage. Pat Forbes is very willing to share the story as readers can see from this excerpt:

Forbes lighted a cigaret and blew several lazy wreaths of smoke before he answered. “No, they don’t seem to get along. Doggoned if I can understand it, either. They’ve got a lot of money — he’s a fairly successful contractor — and they’ve both god looks’ but privately they fight like cats and dogs. You’d never suspect it to meet them in a crowd.”

When American author and literary critic, William Dean (W.D.) Howells (March 1, 1837 – May 11, 1920) wrote “Questionable Shapes” which was published in 1903, he wrote it with the precision he expected of others. With just over 43,000 words, the author captured reality with such passages as this one:

“Did they ever?” I asked.

“Oh, yes–oh, yes,” said the psychologist, kindly. “They were very fond of each other, and often very peaceful.”

“I never happened to be by,” I said.

“Used to fight like cats and dogs,” said Minver. “And they didn’t seem to mind people. It was very swell, in a way, their indifference, and it did help to take away a fellow’s embarrassment.”

“That seemed to come mostly to an end that summer,” said Wanhope, “if you could believe Mrs. Ormond.”

According to the Webster Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, the expression fight like cats and dogs came about around 1550. Idiomation was unable to trace the exact phrase back to 1550, however, a variation was traced back to at least 1610.

The Tragedie of Cymbeline: King of Britaine” by William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was written sometime in 1610 or earlier.  It was performed at the Globe Theater in 1611.    The play is based on the Celtic legend of King Cunobelinus. Some critics refer to it as a tragedy while others refer to it as a romance. And while the word “fight” doesn’t appear in this passage, the reference to killing creatures certainly means that cats and dogs fight.

CYMBALINE:
What’s this, Cornelius?

CORNELIUS:
The Queene Sir very oft importun’d me
To temper poysons for her, still pretending
The satisfaction of her knowledge, onely
In killing Creatures vilde, as Cats and Dogges
Of no esteeme. I dreading, that her purpose
Was of more danger, did compound for her
A certaine stuffe, which being tane, would cease
The present powre of life, but in short time,
All Offices of Nature, should againe
Do their due Functions. Haue you tane of it?

IMOGEN:
Most like I did, for I was dead

The word cat has its roots in the the 12th century with the French word chat, the Spanish word gato, the Italian word gatto, the Breton word kaz, the Welsh word kath, and the Gaelic word cat. The word dog has its roots in the French word dogue and the Danish dogge from the 16th century.

English physician, Johannes Caius (6 October 1510 – 29 July 1573) — also known as John Kays — wrote about the “Mastiue or Bandogge” in 1570 and referred to such dogs thus:

For it is a kinde of dogge capeable of courage, violent and valiaunt, striking could feare into the harts of men, but standing in feare of no man, in so much that no weapons will make him shrincke, nor abridge his boldnes.

Since some dogs were bred to be violent, it stands to reason that a cat that was cornered by such a dog would fight back just as violently and just as valiantly, with neither side giving in.

So although Idiomation was unable to trace the expression back to 1550, the early forms of the expression are found in late 16th and early 17th Century literature.  It is therefore very probable that the idiom does, indeed, date back to at least 1550.

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Cut From The Same Cloth

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 12, 2011

If you and a friend are cut from the same cloth it means you and your friend share many similarities.  It could be that you and your friend seem to have been reared in a similar fashion or that circumstances molded both of you into having a similar mindset.  Tailors use fabric from the same piece of cloth when making a garment to make sure the pieces match perfectly.  Because there are slight differences between dye lots, it’s important to make garments from the same fabric so that the dye is even.

On August 10, 2008 the Sunday Mercury newspaper in Birmingham, England reviewed the CD “The Long Walk Home” by Neil Ivison and the Misers.  Reviewed by Paul Cole, the opening line of the review was this:

Midland songwriter Neil Ivison is a singer cut from the same cloth as Paul Rodgers but his debut album isn’t a nostalgia trip, instead offering contemporary class and an energy that suggests barnstorming live gigs.

Almost 30 years earlier, the News and Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, published an article about Pastor Dr. R.L. Maddox and the Easter Sunday announcement he made to his congregation of 850 church followers.  Perhaps it was coincidental that then-President Jimmy Carter‘s son, Jack, and daughter in law, Judy Carter, were part of the congregation at the time of his announcement as reported in the story, “Ga. Paster To Join Carter Staff.”  The article began with this paragraph:

Dr. R.L. Maddox, who says he is “cut from the same cloth” as President Carter, said Sunday he will leave the First Baptist Church of Calhoun to become a White House speech writer.

The December 25, 1904 edition of the New York Times reviewed Donizetti’s Comedy at the Opera House which was hailed as a sparkling performance. Entitled, “L’Elisir d’Amore and Fidelio Given” the unnamed reviewer gave a succinct and extremely positive review of the performances.  The reviewer stated in part:

It is of the same sort, cut from the same cloth and possessed of the same brilliant gayety.  Its music is still fresh and buoyant — melody of the most facile Donizettian type, graceful and fluent and consorted most dextrously with the rippling comic action.  It is all music that singers of the coloratura style delight to employ their powers in.

On February 10, 1888 the Atlanta Constitution ran a story entitled, “The Bogus Lard Ring” which dealt with members of the Georgia delegation in congress who were opposed to the Dawes and Butterworth bills.  It would appear that the purpose of these bills was designed so additional taxes could be levied on the production of cotton seed oil thereby handicapping the growing southern industry. The article, harsh in its opinion of the proposed bills, stated in part:

It is of a piece with the entire republican system of taxation; it is cut from the same cloth.

Idiomation could continue jumping back in time, however, the earliest version of this saying goes back to Ancient Rome and Latin where the saying was “eiusdem farinae” sometimes written as “ejusdem farinae” which translates into “of the same flour.”   Back in ancient times, it was as important to use flour that was milled at the same time so that one knew what to expect from baked goods.  It’s no different than using the same bolt of fabric so one knows what to expect from a garment that is cut from the same cloth.

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Off The Cuff

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 4, 2011

When you spontaneously say or do something without preparation or rehearsal, this is what’s meant by saying or doing something off the cuff.

The AFP Global Edition published a news story on September 8, 2009 entitled “Barack Obama Is Warning About Stupid Facebook Posts.”  The story dealt with President Obama’s advice to a group of high school students about the consequences of social networking sites and the prospective employers who view comments posted by job applicants.  He shared the following with these teenagers:

Obama’s advice about the perils of modern technology were born of bitter experience, as he has fallen victim to the YouTube age of modern campaign politics several times himself when off-the-cuff remarks or events have shown up on web videos or blogs.  At one stage, his 2008 election campaign was rocked by inflammatory past speeches by his former pastor Reverence Jeremiah Wright which were posted on YouTube.

Just a little over a year before that, Larry Richter wrote a news story for the New York Times entitled, “The Candidates Speak Off The Cuff, And Trouble Quickly Follows.”  The opening paragraph stated:

At this rate, both John McCain and Barack Obama may want to rethink their fondness for town-hall-style meetings. Both have embroiled themselves in controversies this week as a result of departing from scripted campaign speeches and speaking off the cuff.

On December 2, 1950 the News And Courier newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina ran a news story on Page 4 entitled, “Confusion Over The Bomb.” The story began with this revelation:

Mr. Truman’s irresponsible remarks about use of the atomic bomb, first announced off the cuff at a press conference and later partially retracted or “clarified” in a White House statement, may have placed the country in grave peril.  It should be obvious that if Russia thinks the United States intends to use the bomb, the Kremlin might very well try to beat Mr. Truman to the punch. 

Now back in 1882, the tune for “America, The Beautiful” is said to have come to Samuel Ward while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island going back to his home in New York City.  After a relaxing summer’s day, he found himself inspired.  Worried he might forget the tune in his head, he asked fellow passenger and close friend, Harry Martin, to give him his shirt cuff so he could jot down the tune.  There are many who claim that this is the first use of the expression “off the cuff” both figuratively and literally.

Now as lovely as that story sounds, it is not the origin of the expression “off the cuff.”  In fact, Gustave Flaubert (1821 -1857)  wrote a letter to his mother in 1850 apologizing for writing to her off the cuff.  In return, his mother wrote to him while he was in Constantinople, praising him on the tone and style of the letters he had written and sent to her that year, reassuring him that she was unaware they had been written “off the cuff.”

But it’s still unclear how the expression “off the cuff” came about in the first place.  Some say that bartenders used to keep track of patron’s tabs and of the bar prices with special markings they made on the starched cuffs of their shirts.  Supposedly, at a glance, bartenders could quote a price or tally a tab seemingly ‘off the cuff.’  While that certainly sounds plausible, it brings to mind a couple of problems: what happened when the bartender was ill for the day or another bartender took over for the balance of the day?  So, one can discount that explanation entirely as well.

It’s a fact that back in the day, men’s formal white shirts collars and cuffs were made of celluloid and were occasionally used as improvised notepads in dire circumstances.   Mrs. Hannah Lord Montague of Troy, New York invented the detachable collar in 1827 as a way to solve the ongoing difficulties she was experiencing with her husband’s “ring around the collar” problem.  It didn’t take long for her invention to catch on but it did take until the mid-1800s for cuffs to be made similarly to the collars. 

This seems to jive with Gustave Flaubert‘s use of the expression “off the cuff” which implied his words were easily cast off just as the new-fangled collars and cuffs could be cast off — and new ones put on — by the wearer.

Idiomation was unable to find a published version or mention of cuffs that could easily be written on prior to the invention of the cuffs thanks to Mrs. Hannah Lord Montague.

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