Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Otago Witness’

Cut Above

Posted by Admin on September 13, 2011

If something is a cut above, it is said to be better than other similar things.  Likewise, if someone is a cut above, it means that person demonstrates better qualities than most other people on average.

On February 8, 1995 the Daily Record newspaper of Glasgow, Scotland commented on two movies in the column “Cinema: Reel Lives.”  The first movie was the Zorro remake and the newspaper had this to say about it:

Mexico’s most famous swordsman is about to cut another dash on the big screen.  And this time round the great Zorro will be played by Latin hunk Antonio Banderas.  The movie also features the talents of Oscar winning Steven Spielberg and director Robert Rodriguez.  Rodriguez worked with Banderas on the excellent Desperado and assured me that his Zorro will be a cut above the rest.

Back on November 23, 1945 the Spokesman Review newspaper ran an interesting article entitled, “1000 Times More Than Ever.”  The first tidbit had to do with the first Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving — decreed by Governor Bradford in 1623 — celebrated the survival of a minority.  Unknowingly, it also marked the birth of a nation made up of minorities — the Puritans of Massachusetts, the burghers of New York, the cavaliers of Virgina, the Indians of a vast frontier.  None, mark you, liked another.  With a trait common to minorities, each felt itself a cut above the rest.  Yet the history of three centuries shows that when these minorities did get together and founded the greatest, freest, happiest nation of all time, the old animosities somehow vanished.

The New York Times ran a story on March 1, 1905 entitled, “Count On The Bowery; $30,000 To Prove It.”  It told the story of Louis Heder, a pharmacist on Avenue B, who was identified as the heir to $30,000 in “hard cash” and the title of Count of the Empire of Austria as well as a direct descendant of the ruling Hohenzollern family of Germany.

None of the Boweryites knew how it came about, but nevertheless they were all satisfied that Louis, who had always seemed a cut above the ordinary crowd, was now Count Louis Heder-Hohenzollern of the Bowery and of Budapest.

On November 3, 1883 the Otago Witness reported on the horse races in the region.  One race in particular — the Metropolitan Handicap — was of particular interest as one horse who had done well in previous races was going up against horses of a different calibre.

Tim Whiffler I have no fancy for; he has performed well in the North Island, but will, I think, find the present company a cut above him.  Envious is put about as a good thing, but if she can land the stake all I shall say is that she must have changed her nature since last season.

A dozen years earlier, on September 4, 1875 the article, “Randwick Anticipations” appeared in the Sydney Mail newspaper in Australia.  As with the previous article mentioned, it dealt with horse races and the various horses to be seen.  It read in part:

Last season Hyperiod proved himself a cut above all comers; but he has not wintered well, and the vice-regal stable will have to intrust its honour to Valentia, and I can well imagine the shouts that will rend the air should “The Viscount” succeed in carrying the spots to the front at the end of such a terrible struggle as this will be.

The idiom uses the word cut in the sense of “a higher degree or stage” which dates back to the early 1800s.  That particular expression is found in numerous newspaper articles in the first half of the 1800s such as in the article published in the Public Ledger of St. John’s, Newfoundland of April 12, 1831 with regards to the reform measures suggested in the House of Commons in London, England.  The very extensive news article was a continuation of a previously published article and reported everything in exact detail.  At one point, the following is found:

The Hon. and Learned Member had ridiculed the whole of the middle classes.  He (Lord Althorp) would tell the Hon. Member he did not know the intelligence of the middle classes when he talked as he had done.  That they did possess a higher degree of character and intelligence than at any former period, was abundantly proved, and he was satisfied they were as well qualified to select, and would select as wisely and as prudently as any other class, representatives distinguished for their honesty, their integrity, and their ability.  He confessed he was one of those theorists who thought that the House of Commons should represent the opinions of the people.  The Constitution supposed that the Members of the House of Commons were the real representatives of the people.  The Hon. and Learned Gentleman seemed to think that this measure would give satisfaction to none but a very small portion — to none but a very small class of this country.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of “cut above” and because it was used with ease in the Sydney Mail in 1875, allowing for the time it would take for a new expression to catch on to the point of being included in a news article, Idiomation agrees that the expression is from the early 1800s.

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Dutch Concert

Posted by Admin on September 2, 2011

A Dutch concert is either when everyone singing sings a different song at the same time or when there’s a great noise and uproar that sounds not unlike a group of people carrying on loudly with some singing, others quarrelling, and still others trying to organize the cacophony into something a little less chaotic.  It’s definitely not a compliment. 

How is it that a country that has produced such composers as Dutch composer, organist, and pedagogue Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 – 1621); Dutch composer and organ virtuoso Jacob van Eyck (1590 – 1657); Dutch baroque composer Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692 – 1766); Dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock (1862 – 1921); Dutch composer and teacher, Willem Pigper (1894 – 1947); and Dutch composer Lex van Delden (1919 – 1988) should also have such an expression tied to them by their English speaking friends?

On September 27, 1953 the St. Petersburg Times published a story entitled, “A Man Born For Pleasure Meets A Man Born For Work.”  About one-third of the way into the story, the following is found:

What work did Ernie Tarlton do to get here?  Riddle me that, pop … 

A couple of surly birds started a Dutch concert when I ducked through the gap in the hedge.  It looked like a mile and five-rights of slow track across the black, squishy lawn to the clump of blur first that bordered the main walk.  I seemed to take a half day, flat, to cover the distance.

The New York Times published an article on May 16, 1920 entitled, “A Manhattan Midsummer Night’s Scream.”  It dealt with the noise that could be heard coming from various flats and apartments in New York during the hot, summer months when windows are thrown open and how, when they all blended together, the sound was anything but pleasant.  The article offered this opinion on the anticipated months-long noise:

If music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, it also hath potencies to awaken it.  We predict an extra high tidal wave of crime over Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn this summer because of this threatened Dutch concert, and the Barrowbones and Cleaver Hallelujah Chorus.  The Beethovens of Babel and the Wagners of jazz are playing with deadly weapons — the infra-violet musical vibrations.

If a single sustained note can make a man commit a crime, what will be the result of our instinctive natures and our Freudian complexes when we have become chock-full (around the mutt days of mid-August) of the musical bellow, blare, yowl, grunt, bleat, ululation, woodnote, shimmy-twist, drone, gurgle, hiss, blatter, croak, squeak, pule, Ethiopian apetheosis, jingle wheese and tintinnabular teaseract?

In Louis Tracy’s book “The Captain Of The Kansas” published in 1907, the following is found in Chapter XIII:

The hammer-like blow of the bullet, the defiance of the dog, and the curiously accurate yelping of the men in the canoes, mixed in wild medley with the volleyed echoes of the firing now rolled back from the opposing cliffs. In such wise did the battle open. Courtenay, more amused than anxious, did not silence the terrier, and Joey’s barking speedily rose to a shrill and breathless hysteria. Some savage, more skilled than his fellows, reproduced this falsetto with marvelous exactness. There never was a death struggle heralded by such grotesque humor; it might have been a tragedy of marionettes, a Dutch concert on the verge of the pit.

On October 30, 1869 the Otago Witness published a news article that was comprised of a number of smaller stories.  One of them was this story:

A new method of attracting the attention of purchasers has been tried by an enterprising butcher in Auckland, who stationed a band at the windows of the room over his shop for the purpose of alluring the marketing people.  Queen Street was certainly well supplied with music on the occasion, no less than three bands being audible at the same time.  The kind of Dutch concert produced, however, could scarcely be called harmonious, although each band was very well in itself.

The definition for Dutch concert is also found in the Francis Grose (1731 – 1791) book “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.”

And on page 47 of the book “Voyages and Travels In The Years 1768 – 1788” written by Indian trader, John Long the following passage is found:

The Indians, in their war dances, sew hawk-bells and small pieces of tin on them to make a jingling noise, and at a dance where I was present, these, with the addition of a large horse-bell, which I gave the chief who led the dance, made a noise not much unlike a Dutch concert.

Considering that in the 1700s, new expressions took longer to become part of the language, and considering that John Long used the expression Dutch concert with such ease in his writing, one can date the expression Dutch concert to at least the early part of the 1700s.

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