Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘O.O. McIntyre’

Whippersnapper

Posted by Admin on July 16, 2015

A whippersnapper is an inexperienced person who is irritatingly overconfident with his or her abilities, sometimes to the point of being offensive.  Yes, whippersnappers usually act as if they’re very important and believe themselves to know better than their elders. What’s more, they’re usually impolite and brazen, lazy, and lack motivation.

Even though the death knell was sounded for the term whippersnapper back in newspaper columns of the 1960s, the word cropped up in an article by Gary Borders entitled, “Modern Billingsgate Betrays Puerile Imbecility Of Pundits” which was published in the Rome News-Tribune on March 4, 2006. The article took on the subject of television news programs that features guests and hosts yelling angrily with each other instead of discussing matters in a logical fashion with facts to back up their opinions.

In his article, he wrote about the elderly Presbyterian minister, the Reverend James Russell (died 10 August 1847) who was the last editor of the Red Lander newspaper in San Augustine, Texas.

Russell had been running the newspaper for about a year when a young whippersnapper started a competing weekly, The Shield. Henry Kendall, who had a bad habit of stealing Russell’s hired help, owned the paper. His editor moonlighted as president of the other university in town, started by the Methodists. San Augustine could support neither two newspapers nor two universities.

The Reverend James Russell began to print some nasty comments in his editorials with increasing intensity. He was responsible for some of the insults that we still hear thrown about in the media today: right-wing, liberal, secularist, and religious right.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: When the Reverend James Russell used his newspaper to state that Henry Kendall’s mother was a “woman of easy virtue” and his father was a liar and a murderer, Henry Kendall was incensed at the audacity the Reverend had to publish such insults. Ten days after the insults were printed in the Reverend’s newspaper, Henry Kendall shot him dead as the Reverend walked out of his office. The killing was noted as the first editorial killing in Texas.

In the Milwaukee Journal edition of June 28, 1967, even journalist Robert W. Wells lamented the demise of the term in his column, “All Is Wells.” In the column published that day he decried the fact that the literary pendulum had swung in favor of one syllable nouns and verbs drawn from graffiti of the day. With regards to whippersnapper, he wrote:

Thirty years earlier, on May 30, 1937, the St. Petersburg Times published O.O. McIntyre’s regular column, “Whip Snaps Of A Whippersnapper” where O.O. McIntyre reflected on a number of things. He wrote about the “best darned quartet you ever heard – there’s five of them.” He wrote about a woman’s model husband who “doesn’t drink, smoke or run after woman – just sorta stupid.” He wrote about how many residents in France were against the reduced utopian 40-hour work week that left people with too much time on their hands to do nothing. And that’s just some of what O.O. McIntyre wrote in his column of May 30, 1937.

There was an era when some crusty character — the heroine’s father, usually — could be relied on to open every discussion of juvenile delinquency by shouting: “You young whippersnapper!”

This confrontation between youth and age made for tense drama, but it has been abandoned. The whippersnapper is apparently as extinct as the New Zealand moa.

Whippersnapper was a favorite expression of English novelist, journalist, editor and educationalist George Manville Fenn (3 January 1831 – 26 August 1909) and appeared in many of his novels. It was also a favorite expression of influential poet, critic and editor William Ernest Henley (23 August 1849 – 11 July 1903). And it was a favorite expression of English popular novelist, Mary Elizabeth Braddon (4 October 1835 – 4 February 1915), author of her sensation novel “Lady Audley’s Secret” published in 1862.

In the third volume of the Association Medical Journal of 1855 edited by Dr. John Rose Cormack, M.D. and published by the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association of London (England) the expression was used in the article, “Medical Practice Among The Poor.” It had originally been published in “Household Words” on October 21, 1854.

There are the young men entitled whippersnappers; to whom the poor are said by Messieurs Souchong, Sirloin, and Wick, to be shamefully and neglectfully handed over. Mr. Souchong, Sirloin, and their friends refuse on their own parts to take counsel of a whippersnapper; so do their betters with considerable unanimity. They wait until he has more experience; that is to say, until he has tried his prentice hand sufficiently among the poor. He would be happy enough to attend viscounts and bankers; but he is bidden by society to try his hand first among beggars.

Going back to 1742, English author and magistrate Henry Fielding (22 April 1707 – 8 October 1754) wrote, “The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams” which included whippersnapper in his book.  The book is written in comic prose, and tells the story of the absent-minded parson Abraham Adams and his foot man, Joseph Andrews as they travel home from London.

“What dost thou think of Ms. Andrews?”

“Why, I think,” says Slipslop, “he is the handsomest, most properest man I ever saw; and if I was a lady of the greatest degree, it would be well for some folks. Your ladyship may talk of customs, if you please; but I am confidous there is no more comparison between young Mr. Andrews, and most of the young gentlemen who come to your ladyship’s house in London – a parcel of whippersnapper sparks; I would sooner marry our old parson Adams. Never tell me what people say, whilst I am happy in the arms of him I love. Some folks rail against other folks because other folks have what some folks would be glad of.”

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: Henry Fielding, along with his half-brother, Sir John Fielding (16 September 1721 – 4 September 1780) who was also a magistrate as well as a social reformer, founded London’s first police force.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3: British author, Sarah Fielding (8 November 1710 – 9 April 1768) was Henry Fielding’s sister. She wrote “The Little Female Academy” which is considered the first novel in English written especially for children.

In the 1600s, whipperginnie was a derogatory term for a woman, and snippersnapper was a derogatory term for a man.

It’s most likely that people blended whipperginnie and snippersnapper together during the mid-1600s and the new word was whippersnapper. It would make sense since the definition for whipperginnie (female) and snippersnapper (male) are the same, and both whipperginnie and snippersnapper share an identical definition with whippersnapper.  By the time Henry Fielding was using the word in his novel of 1742, the word was recognized among the general population which means that it was established in the English language as being a legitimate word with a recognized definition.

Idiomation therefore pegs whippersnapper to the late 1600s in light of these facts.

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

Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

Posted by Admin on August 3, 2011

When you’re accused of beating the Devil’s tattoo, you’re being told that you are drumming on a hard surface with your fingers.  More often than not, it’s thought of a sign of impatience or ill-humour to be beating the Devil’s tattoo, but it need not be.  The saying, though seldom used these days, is still heard from time to time.

California psych-garage trio Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released their sixth CD last year entitled, “Beat The Devil’s Tattoo.”  This trio of young musicians must have heard or read the expression somewhere along the line to christen their CD with the phrase.  And it appears to work for them as Rolling Stone has referred to the band and their music as “unremittingly grim and undeniably fun.”

Back in the 1960s there was a very famous race horse according to Florida Horse Magazine known as “Devil’s Tattoo.”  If another horse beat the “Devil’s Tattoo” there was definitely some serious drumming going on the racetrack surface! In 1965, Miami resident — and former Chairman of the Florida State Racing Commission — Louie Bandel along with Mrs. Edith Marienhoff, bred and sold Devil’s Tattoo for $70,000.

In O. O. McIntyre‘s column “New York Day By Day” run in the Milwaukee Sentinel on January 8, 1935, the author included a tidbit about the Rainbow Room, a top “swank spot” in the sky high Rockefeller Center. Part of Mr. McIntyre’s review of the Rainbow Room included this bit:

The night I was there a melancholy mood singer was husking to a twanging guitar.  Several couples sat starry eyes, enraptured.  I could only beat a devil’s tattoo on the chair arm and wonder how much the tax on the check.  Sacre tonnere, what a thing to get old!

On June 7, 1907 the Pittsburgh Press ran a story about President  Roosevelt entitled, “Roosevelt Is Very Restless.”  It detailed the woes of a professional photographer who had agreed to do an official portrait of the President but much to his dismay, this proved to be quite a task in itself.  The story related in part:

He did pull his head back a bit then, but he immediately began to drum on the table with the fingers of his right hand.  I requested him to belay that while I was focussing him, and then he began to beat the devil’s tattoo on the armchair with the fingers of his left hand.  He smiled very broadly when I asked him not to do that, and by this time he was huddled all in a bunch in the chair again, and once more I had to take hold of him and unravel some of the knots from his right position. 

Finally I got the snap at him, but the picture wasn’t satisfactory to me, although he seemed to like it.  He was profoundly bored, apparently, by the time I got through pulling him around in the chair, and when Mr. Roosevelt is bored his expression is sardonic.

In Chapter 11 of the book entitled, “No Name” written by Wilkie Collins (1824 – 1889) and published in 1862, one passage in the book recounts the following with regards to Captain Wragge:

He sat unflinchingly at the window with a patience which Mrs. Lecount herself could not have surpassed. The one active proceeding in which he seemed to think it necessary to engage was performed by deputy. He sent the servant to the inn to hire a chaise and a fast horse, and to say that he would call himself before noon that day and tell the hostler when the vehicle would be wanted. Not a sign of impatience escaped him until the time drew near for the departure of the early coach. Then the captain’s curly lips began to twitch with anxiety, and the captain’s restless fingers beat the devil’s tattoo unremittingly on the window-pane.

The New York Times ran a series of short news items on September 27, 1854 with one sub-heading entitled, “Calloa Items.”  The two news items under this sub-heading were each a paragraph in length and read thusly:

The fine clipper ship Kate Hayes was sold at the offices of the American Consul in Calloa on Monday last.  She brought $27,400, Mr. Seville of this city being the purchaser.

The same day, during a drunken brawl, two men were wounded, and a cavalry soldier, in attempting to beat “the devil’s tattoo” on the heads of two countrymen with the ramrod of his pistol, inflicted serious injury.

In Edgar Allen Poe‘s satirical short story entitled, “The Devil In The Belfry” published on May 18, 1839 in the Philadelphia issue of the Saturday Chronicle and Mirror of the Times, the story takes readers to the Dutch borough of Vondervotteimittiss — a quaint, out-of-the-way spot where very little of anything happens.   In this story, fans of Edgar Allen Poe (1809 – 1849) find this paragraph:

But the little chap seized him at once by the nose; gave it a swing and a pull; clapped the big chapeau de-bras upon his head; knocked it down over his eyes and mouth; and then, lifting up the big fiddle, beat him with it so long and so soundly, that what with the belfry-man being so fat, and the fiddle being so hollow, you would have sworn that there was a regiment of double-bass drummers all beating the devil’s tattoo up in the belfry of the steeple of Vondervotteimittiss.

Idiomation was unable to find a published version of the phrase “beat the Devil’s tattoo” prior to Poe’s use however as with other expressions that are found in literature, it is reasonable to believe the phrase was a common expression used often enough to be recognizable to the general public and so it’s very likely that this phrase goes back to at least 1800.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »