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Posts Tagged ‘Palm Beach Post’

English On It

Posted by Admin on November 8, 2013

The idioms put some English on it is most often associated with baseball and refers to the pitcher giving the ball curve while it’s in the air, on its way to the batter.  That idiom, along with and put some reverse English on it, are  found in billiards halls the world over when talking about a ball that drops into a pocket with the aid of some spin. And it also refers to communications intended to distort or deceive others.

On December 8, 2002 Joe Goddard of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an article entitled, “Ramblers Thump Valpo” which made quick work of the basketball game between the Loyola Ramblers and Valparaiso Crusaders in the Horizon League that ended in a score of 80 to 62. In the brief article, the following was written in part:

“I had to get it over him, so I put some English on it.” Most of Tsimpliaridis’ shots were from the perimeter. He shot 7-for-9 from the field.

On December 19, 1953 Bill Beck, Sports Editor for the St. Petersburg Times wrote about an odd sport that played the walls like handball, demanded the strategy and rhythm of tennis, required the skills of baseball infielding, and allowed spectators to place bets as if they were at a race track: Jai-Alai. It didn’t catch on, contrary to Bill Beck’s hopes, but it certainly gave insight into the game, the players and Adriano Aguiar, who managed the lone American of the 32-man team. In the end, this is what Bill Beck had to say of the game:

You will find the players not only retrieve and return the ball, but put “Englishon it.  You will find they fire it so close to the wall, their opponent cannot get his cuesta (wicker racket-type glove) between ball and wall for return.

The Palm Beach Post newspaper of November 21, 1921 also carried the idiom in a somewhat modified form in an article entitled, “Preparing For Failure.” The story dealt with the surprise disarmament conference announced by President Harding, which led to a number of metropolitan newspapers stating that “the administration” was considering measures against “agitators” who were trying to force “real disarmament” to eliminate the chances of war. The article read in part:

Toward the end of the dispatch there lies the secret:

“The hope of the president for a continuation of the conferences like the present one became known at a moment when the arms delegates reached a stage in their deliberations strongly suggesting itself that further negotiations will be necessary to consummate the task begun here.”

That surely is putting the “reverse Englishon it.  It must not be forgotten for a moment that the men at this conference are all politicians, and that they want to keep their jobs more than anything else. The hopes of the peoples all over have been aroused by this disarmament (beg pardon) by this limitation or armaments conference.

In the New York Times article of February 1, 1879 the idiom appeared in altered form — with the meaning intact regardless of the use of the word reverse — in an article reporting on a billiards tournament. It was clear that the “English” in question was going to be “put on it” as the Brunswick and Balke Championship Tournament entered its second week of play. The stakes were high, and at one point, it was reported:

It was a difficult shot from every direction, and before essaying it, the Frenchman, amid general laughter took off his dress-coat, and came up again in the full brilliancy of his diamond-studded and much-starched shirt. He then stroked his mustache, drew his cue backwards and forward, and struck the cue ball. Failing to count, he retired, laughing quietly, and gave Sexton an opportunity of gathering 4 points. The latter made a very pretty “kiss” shot, with “reverse English” in the twelfth inning, but retired after scoring 7 billiards.

Ten years prior to the newspaper article in the New York Times, Mark Twain used the expression in Chapter XII of his book “Innocents Abroad” published in 1869 in which he wrote:

We had played billiards in the Azores with balls that were not round and on an ancient table that was very little smoother than a brick pavement—one of those wretched old things with dead cushions, and with patches in the faded cloth and invisible obstructions that made the balls describe the most astonishing and unsuspected angles and perform feats in the way of unlooked-for and almost impossible “scratches” that were perfectly bewildering. We had played at Gibraltar with balls the size of a walnut, on a table like a public square—and in both instances we achieved far more aggravation than amusement. We expected to fare better here, but we were mistaken. The cushions were a good deal higher than the balls, and as the balls had a fashion of always stopping under the cushions, we accomplished very little in the way of caroms. The cushions were hard and unelastic, and the cues were so crooked that in making a shot you had to allow for the curve or you would infallibly put the “English” on the wrong side of the hall. Dan was to mark while the doctor and I played.

It appears  that the expression is as a result of billiards, but how did this come about?

The earliest mention of the game of billiards is in “Mother Hubberd’s Tale” published in 1591 where the author speaks of “all thriftles games that may be found … with dice, with cards, with billiards.”  It’s mentioned in William Shakespeare’s play “Anthony and Cleopatra.”  But it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s that changes were made to the game and how the game was meant to be played. Of particular note was the introduction of the leather cue tip in 1823 which allowed players to add side-spin to the ball, and this was new advancement was introduced to billiards players the world over, including those in America.

By 1860, the French were referring to spin imparted to a billiards ball as anglé … a clever play on words since anglé meaning angled and anglais meaning English share the same pronunciation. This play on words quickly caught on with other billiards players, and when someone put spin on a billiards ball, they were playing a ball that was anglé / anglais which was literally translated to the word: English.

The expression, put English on it, is therefore from 1860 and has its roots firmly planted in the game of billiards.

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

Nailed It

Posted by Admin on October 21, 2013

If you aren’t building anything that requires a hammer but someone tells you that you’ve nailed it, what they mean is that you’ve succeeded in doing something well. You hear it said most often when discussing political matters, but it really can be said about any situation that’s done well.

When “Post On Politics” — a blog from the Palm Beach Post — discussed the Florida primaries on August 25, 2010, they talked about the results of the major GOP Governor primary polls as well as the Senate primary polls. The article was entitled, “Pollsterpalooza: Who Nailed It, Who Didn’t, In Pre-Primary Surveys.”

The Deseret News of July 20, 1987 published a story entitled, “Slow And Steady Falso Wins British Open” written by journalist Scott Ostler of the Los Angeles Times. The writer spoke of a golf tournament in Muirfield, Scotland that finished with dashing, flashing and hard-charging at the 116th British Open. And he wrote of the old hare-and-tortoise theme being one of no hares, three tortoises and a slow Walrus. In all, however, someone was going to emerge victorious and in this case it was Nick Faldo of Great Britain.

Faldo, in the twosome ahead of Azinger, needed to sink a five-foot putt so save par on 18, and calmly nailed it.

On August 29, 1965 the Miami News carried a story out of Philadelphia about the Los Angeles Dodgers beating the Philadelphia Phillies in a National League game the night before. It was quite the series that year, and new stories bear that fact out. In this article, this was reported:

Before the Dodgers nailed it, however, Manager Walt Alston called on 21-game winner Sandy Koufax in the ninth inning to get the final three outs. It was Koufax’s first relief appearance of the season.

It wasn’t just men who could nail it. The Lawrence Journal World newspaper of May 13, 1959 shared a news bite by Robert C. Ruark in an article entitled, “Wayne Made Error On Clare” that made use of the idiom when speaking about ex-Ambassador Luce’s wife, Clare.

Our gal Clare is the undisputed mistress of our times of the delicate art of cutting folks into shreds. Mr. Morse’s hid is not the first she has tacked to the barn, and possibly will not be the last. This time she nailed it by severe lady-like refusal of the post to Brazil, playing the part of dutiful wife beautifully.

The Vancouver Sun of September 25, 1931 published a news story entitled, “Labor Stands On Own Feet.” The story was about the morning’s session of the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada and the reaffirmation of its stand in favor of independent political action. The story included this information:

After bouncing over the fence once of twice it was thrown back to home plate, where “Paddy” Draper veteran of 31 years as secretary-treasurer of the Congress, nailed it in a fighting speech. There was a misunderstanding among the delegates without any ground for it, he asserted. Moving non-concurrence in these resolutions might result in giving the impression that the Congress was opposed to independent political action whereas this was the farthest thing away from this Congress.

Going back to Philadelphia, this time to the December 2, 1894 edition of the Philadelphia Record in the news article, “Yale Defeats Princeton.” The final score was 24-0 in front of 20,000 spectators. According to the newspaper, it was the worst thrashing ever administered to the Jerseymen except for the thrashing they got in 1890 when they were beaten by the Blues at Eastern Park by a score of 32-0. Furthermore, the newspaper announced that Princeton was outclassed at every point while Yale showed unexpected strength. The story shared game highlights including the following one:

Barnard received instructions to kick the ball out of danger, but his attempt was so poor that the oval only advanced five yards, and was saved for Princeton by Trenchard, who nailed it in great style. Another punt by Barnard was more successful, for Butterworth was forced outside Princeton’s 40-yard line by Holly. Yale then began a series of short rushes, and the Tigers were forced to retreat toward their goal line.

Despite efforts to find an earlier published date for the expression than the one from the Philadelphia Record, none were found. That being said, that the expression nailed it was used so easily in this newspaper story indicates that it was an accepted expression during that era and as such, it most likely dates back to the generation before, putting it at about 1875.

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

Indian Giver

Posted by Admin on September 6, 2011

Indian Giver is an offensive term that leaves the very clear yet nasty impression that a person has given a gift and expects that gift returned to them or to receive in return the equivalent value of the gift given.

Back in on July 29, 2009 American singer Jessica Simpson, 29, was asked by a TMZ.com video crew if she wanted an expensive gift back from former boyfriend Tony Romo. Her shocking response was: “Hey, I’m not an Indian giver.” She got into the back seat of a waiting car and drove off into the night.

Us Magazine  and Fox News carried the news as quickly as Jessica Simpson had tossed off the remark and there was public outrage over her use of the term “Indian giver.” 

The expression has been identified as offensive over the years and is rarely heard these days.  However, the expression hasn’t always been treated this way.  There was a time not that long ago when the expression could be found in any number of publications without negative reaction from the public.

On November 16, 1977 the Palm Beach Post newspaper ran a column written by Washington based humourist, Art Buchwald about the land the United States government had given back to the North American Indians — land the government at the time considered to be worthless.  As it turned out, the land was more valuable than the government at the time realized.  The land in question was found to hold one-third of all the low-sulphur coal suitable for strip mining, 55% of America’s uranium and 4% of America’s oil and natural gas. Of course, realizing the previous government’s mistake and the then-current government’s attempt to get that land back in exchange for different land was something Art Buchwald took aim at in his column.  The title of the piece was:

Trials Of An Indian Giver

On March 9, 1959 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article on March 9, 1959 that took a look at inflation and the impact it had on the wallets of hard-working American.  It wasn’t bad enough that the headline was “Just An Indian Giver.”  Adding insult to injury, the first sentences were:

Not only is inflation an “Indian giver” — he’s a pickpocket to boot.  Under inflation you think you get a few more dollars in pay.  But then you go to spend them.  Now you find that inflation has already taken back those dollars!

A decade before, the Milwaukee Journal carried a scandalous story about Millionaire Gar Wood and his secretary, Violet V. Bellous.  It was the case of an affair gone bad and both sides were dissatisfied with how things ended.  The story was entitled, “Wood Called Indian Giver: Secretary Tells Story.”  It related the following in part:

Mrs. Bellous, 30, called Wood an “Indian giver.”  He is seeking the return of a $100,000 palatial home, now in Mrs. Bellous’ name, $20,000 in bonds and $5,000 in cash.  Mrs. Bellous related that Wood endeavored to have her leave her husband … calling attention “to the fact that he was an enormously wealthy man”; that he could giver her luxuries of life that her husband never could; that she could “be like a queen because I am a king.”

The Telegraph-Herald seems to have had a sweet spot for the expression.  On June 24, 1932 it ran a story out of Chicago entitled, “Al Is Tired Posing For Photographers.” It was a brief piece that read thusly:

Through the generosity of an Indian giver, Al Smith today was the recipient of a five-pound bass.  Chief Man of the Heavens, sachem of the Chippewa tribe, journeyed from the reservation at Minocqua, Wis., to the former New York governor’s convention headquarters here to present the fish.

Through his interpreter, Thunder, the chief informed the “happy warrior” that he himself had captured the bass.

Asked to pose for a photograph, Smith wearily replied:  “I’ve been posing for nine hours today.  Take one of the other pictures and paint a fish on it.”

And on November 3, 1918 the Telegraph-Herald ran an advertisement with the headline, “Don’t Be An Indian Giver! Hold the War Savings Stamps you have bought.  Buy more.  Don’t cash them in now.”  The advertisement was courtesy of the Savings Department of the First National Bank on 5th and Main Streets in beautiful downtown Dubuque, Iowa.  The text read thusly:

You have loaned the Government the money you have invested in War Savings Stamps for five years.  Don’t be an unpatriotic “Indian giver” and ask for the money now.  Hold your stamps until the date of maturity — January 1, 1923 — and get your full interest from Uncle Sam.

Worst Kind Of Slacker

The person who demands money for the Stamps he is financially able to hold is a worse slacker than the person who has bought none.  Financial distress is the only excuse for demanding your money now.

On May 28, 1893 the New York Times published a short story entitled, “An Irrational Impulse.”  There’s no mention of the author however the story reads in part:

“My dear Mrs. Tedford,” he began, “I hear — ” (little Mr. Phibbs had a proclivity for hearing) “I hear that you have executed a paper for your father which shows that no title passed by his registering the securities in your name, and that if any did, you thereby retransferred it.  This is most serious, in fact, most fatal.  If there was a consensus of your — “

“What does all that mean?” asked Kate flippantly.

“It means that you understand that he didn’t give the securities to you and so stated in writing.”

“Oh what a wicked lie.”

“But are you quite sure?  It would be in accordance with your father’s cautious nature to exact such a document.”

“And be a regular Indian giver? Oh, no!  Pa was gone on me in those days.  He would have cut off his ears had I craved them.  He said, ‘There, my dear daughter, there is a little present for you.'”

The term “Indian giver” was first cited in John Russell Bartlett‘s “Dictionary of Americanisms” in 1860.  However, the term “Indian gift” is found in the book by businessman, historian, and a prominent Loyalist politician of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780) entitled, “History of Massachusetts Bay.”   In his book he stated:

An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.

From this, it is reasonable to assume that one who gave an Indian gift could be considered to be an Indian giver as opposed to a European or British giver.  The British and European settlers in the new world didn’t seem to understand the barter system that was part of North American Indian society.

And somewhere between 1765 and 1893, the expression went from being a descriptive term for a different cultural tradition to being an offensive reference.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

In The Pink

Posted by Admin on June 21, 2011

The expression in the pink paints a pleasant, positive picture, doesn’t it?  It suggests healthy babies and cute little girls in frilly dresses and flowers that bloom in early May.  If someone is in the pink it’s understood that the person is in good health.  If something is in the pink it’s understood that it’s operating optimally.

Sandra Guy wrote an article for the Chicago Sun-Times that was published on November 8, 2002 entitled, “Field’s Makeover Begins With A Little Rouge.”  This is what she had to say about the redesign of the Marshall Field’s store on State Street in Chicago:

In September 1999, French luxury goods group LVMH bought a two-thirds stake in London-based Thomas Pink, a name taken from a late 18th century Mayfair tailor who made gentlemen’s riding jackets. (Anyone who could afford one was said to be “in the Pink.”)

On March 8, 1951 the Palm Beach Post published an advertisement hailing the benefits of a product known as Hadacol.  It claimed to relieve lack of energy brought on by a lack of vitamins B1, B2, Niacin and Iron.  Officer Jimmy Kilroy of 1153 Belden Avenue in Chicago, Illinois was quoted in the advertisement and an impressive photograph of this former prizefighter and Chicago police officer.  The headline read:

Policeman Back In The Pink Again — Says He’s The “Kilroy of Old”

At the turn of the century, the Toledo Bee newspaper published an article on November 14, 1901 about the upcoming prize fight between the champion, James J. Jeffries managed by William Brady and trained by Billy Delaney, and Gus Ruhlin, known as the “Akron giant” managed by Billy Madden and trained by Henry “Pop” Blanken.  The day before the fight, the odds were 10 to 4 in favour of the champion and fight fans from New York City, Chicago, Cincinnati, Seattle and Portland were making themselves heard as they journeyed into San Francisco where the event was scheduled to take place.  The headline read:

Just Before The Battle:  Both Jeffries And Ruhlin Are Reported In The Pink

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) referred to a specific Italian town he’d visited in 1845 thusly:

Of all the picturesque abominations in the World, commend me to Fondi. It is the very pink of hideousness and squalid misery.

The word “pink” became part of the English language in 1573 as the name of a plant, not a color.  Less than 25 years later, it was used to describe a level of courtesy as seen in William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and JulietAct II, Scene IV, published in 1597:

ROMEO
Pardon, good Mercutio, my business was great; and in
such a case as mine a man may strain courtesy.

MERCUTIO
That’s as much as to say, such a case as yours
constrains a man to bow in the hams.

ROMEO
Meaning, to court’sy.

MERCUTIO
Thou hast most kindly hit it.

ROMEO
A most courteous exposition.

MERCUTIO
Nay, I am the very pink of courtesy.

What Mercutio meant was that he was not just courteous, he was the epitome of courtesy.

And so it is easy to see that shortly after the word “pink” became part of the English language, it was associated with someone or something being in good shape or being the pinnacle (both good and bad) of what the word “pink” was describing.  The idea of being “in the pink” or ‘in the very pink’ doesn’t appear to have changed much over the past 400 or so years.

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

Black Out (as in “censorship”)

Posted by Admin on June 1, 2011

When people talk about black outs, they can mean one of three things:  to cut or turn out the lights or electric power; to prevent or silence information or communication; or to become unconscious. 

Preventing or silencing information or communication, either in its entirety or in part, is derived from the 15th century word “blackening” which means to defame a person.  In other words, if someone was the subject of a negative commentary on his person, it was said that the speaker was “blackening” the subject’s reputation.

It’s only from a black out — keeping the “blackening” from being expressed to others — that the subject could maintain a pristine reputation, whether it was warrantedor not.

The Milwaukee Journal of May 21, 1984 ran a news bite with the headline, “Bucks Black Out USA Telecast” and continued with this additional information in the first paragraph:

The National Basketball Association playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics Monday night, scheduled to be televised by the USA Network, will be blacked out within a 35-mile radius of the City of Milwaukee.

On October 8, 1965 the Windsor Star ran a news story entitled, “Reds Black Out Moon Shot News” that reported on the Soviet space program.  It read in part:

The Soviets today placed a news black-out on the face of Luna 7 hours after the space rocket was to have reached the surface of the moon.  All indications were that the unmanned instrument probe failed to make a soft landing.

Oddly enough, a black out doesn’t always have to be caused by the media as shown by an article in the Palm Beach Post on September 25, 1950 entitled, “Smoke From Canadian Fires Black Out Much Of The North.”  The story addressed the thick layers of smoke coming from Canadian forest fires in northern Alberta and effecting the Great Lakes area with smoke that “brought the darkness of night to many cities in midday.”  The states most affected by the thickest smoke palls were Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, although the smoke had also spread as far south as Virginia and Iowa.  What is particularly interesting about this natural phenomena is that:

Some callers [to the Washington Weather Bureau] wondered whether the strange darkness had anything to do with atomic bombs.  Others thought tonight’s scheduled total eclipse of the moon had arrived sooner than expected.  Street lights were turned on early in many places.

Even back at the turn of the previous century, black outs occurred as read in a news story carried in the Poverty Bay Herald in New Zealand on August, 24, 1912 about Queen Mary and her son, the Prince of Wales (23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972). 

He is only permitted to read the London Times among the English papers, and his tutor is to carefully black out anything verging on the objectionable in the Paris Temps, the only French paper he is allowed to see.

The Prince of Wales — officially invested as such in a special ceremony at Caernarfon Castle on July 13, 1911 — became Edward VIII and abdicated the throne in order to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson.

iI should be noted here that the Prince of Wales was the eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George V and Queen Mary, and his great-grandmother was Queen Victoria.  When the First World War (1914–18) broke out, Edward was the minimum age required for active service and he was keen on enlisting as well as keen on serving on the front lines.

Back on track with this idiom, during the 1760s and 1770s, a political reformer and polemicist, writing under the pseudonym of Junius, portrayed the press as “an essential restraint for bad men and impediment to bad measures.”  In fact, in his book “Dedication to the English Nation” he wrote in 1772:

The liberty of the press is the palladium of all the civil, political, and religious rights of an Englishman.

Speaking for the radicals, he stated that he was not causing dissension by way of “blackening the reputations of the nation’s leaders.”  Instead, he believed the press should have, along with others powers, the right and freedom to expose a politician’s every action.  He stated that press prosecutions did more damage than the questions and news accounts originally published by the press.  This is, in part, how incomplete, false or delayed news reports were referred to as black outs.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »