Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Record’

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 »

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Posted by Admin on August 9, 2013

If someone says you’re like a cat on a hot tin roof, it would seem that you can’t keep still. You’re restless. Imagine for a moment, if you will, what it might be like if you were actually a cat who was literally trying to walk about on a hot tin roof. You wouldn’t be still for very long and you’d probably be pretty jumpy about being up there in the first place.

Back in 1955, Tennessee Williams wrote a play by that name that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year. Its success was in part due to the play’s theme which dealt with how complicated the rules of social conduct were in the Southern U.S. at the time. But was the expression something Tennessee Williams came up with for the play or did it exist long before Tennessee Williams put pen to paper?

The idiom cat on a hot tin roof is actually based on the earlier version cat on hot bricks which means exactly the same thing.

NOTE:  Before continuing, note that the version using hot bricks is still in use today as evidenced by the news story by 3News out of New Zealand published on November 27, 2011 and entitled, “Joyce A Cat On Hot Bricks Before Election.”

On December 1, 1933 the New York Times published an article entitled,”Britain Is Assured On Our Money Plan: We Are As Safe From Unbridled Inflation As Are The British” The story was about Ambassador Robert W. Bingham who gave a speech (at the American Society in London) defending President Roosevelt’s monetary policies. Keep in mind that 1933 was right in the middle of the Great Depression that continue up until the outbreak of World War II, and so money matters — for individuals, for companies, and for governments — were a reason for being restless. The news story made use of the idiom in this way:

… exchange fluctuations to the benefit of everybody concerned and contrasts this with the dollar, “which jumped about like a cat on hot bricks. …

The Philadelphia Record edition of June 10, 1894 provided a description of British Prime Minister (5 March 1894 to 22 June 1895), Archibald Philip Primrose — the 5th Earl of Rosebery and 1st Earl of Midlothiany –that was in drastic contrast to the calm and collected demeanor that was expected of Lords. In fact, the description was one that the reporter described as “intensely agitated.” The article was entitled, “Hounding A Premier: He Went Wild Over The Derby.” Of course, that Lord Rosebery was the owner of the Derby winner that year certainly explains the behavior which doesn’t seem so outrageous in today’s terms.

“His Lordship could not keep still in his box, and hopped about from paddock to ring like a cat on hot bricks; Prime Ministerial dignity was not his forte just then. At that part of the race when Matchbox appeared to have the measure, his face moved convulsively. When his horse had passed the winning post, the Premier took off his hat, waved it wildly three times around his head in a dazed kind of manner, and then dashed onto the course to lead the favorite in.”

That being said, however, tin roofs were used in America at the turn of the 1800s when the Pennsylvania Statehouse — better known as Independence Hall — in Philadelphia was finished with tin shingles. Even Thomas Jefferson, who commissioned a study on tin shingle roofs, felt compelled to have tin shingles used when roofing Monticello. But the tin roof was most popular in America between 1860 and 1920.   It’s safe to say that Tennessee Williams didn’t coin the phrase, and picked it up in conversation.

Of course, before either cat on a hot tin roof or cat on hot bricks was in vogue, the idiom was to be a cat on a hot bakestone, which was found in Rev. E. Cobham Brewer’s “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” published in 1894, where idiom was explained as meaning a person was “in a great hurry to get away.” It further explained that the bake-stone in the north (of a house) was a large stone on which bread and oat-cakes were baked.

When English naturalist, John Ray also known as John Wray (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) wrote his “Collection of English Proverbs” in 1670 which included the expression using the hot bake-stone reference. In fact, he recorded it as “to go like a cat upon a hot bake-stone.” And so, we know from this that the idiom dates back to before the publication of John Ray’s book since it’s included as a proverb.

It’s also cited as a Yorkshire proverb in literature of the day, along with the idiom, “as nimble as a cat on a haite backstane” which dates back to the 14th century.  At that point, the trail went cold. Idiomation feels that since it was a proverb in the 14th century that it most likely dates back to at least the beginning of the 14th century, and if it’s possible to trace it back to an earlier date, please feel free to add your comments and where you gathered the information.

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Indian File

Posted by Admin on September 7, 2011

Most people have figured out that the expression Indian file is another way of saying single file.  But where did the expression Indian file come from in the first place?  Is the answer obvious?

The St. Maurice Valley Chronicle newspaper in Three Rivers, Quebec ran a story on June 30, 1960 that dealt with cycling safety.  The article, entitled, “Indian File When Cycling” had this to say on the matter:

When cycling in a group or more, cyclists should always ride Indian File, that is one behind the other, the Provincial Highway Safety Committee (Prudentia) says.  This advice is oft repeated but somehow is not taken to heart by cyclists.  If cyclists would only realize the danger.  When riding side by side, two cyclists take the space of an ordinary car on the highway or street.  Not only is this practice a definite traffic hazard, but it creates a veritable danger to the cyclist and to the motorist alike.  Ride Indian File and stay alive this summer.

On October 31, 1934 the Milwaukee Sentinel published a story about give huge water spouts that roared into Buffalo harbor from Lake Erie amidst snow and near gale winds.  The story was entitled, “Erie Water Spouts Crash Buffalo Seawall: Tumble Sea Gulls, Advance On City In Indian File.”  The newspaper reported in part:

At least 100 to 500 feet high, the spouts traveled in Indian file as they swirled into the harbor from a black spot on the lake about a mile southwest of the city.

It was quite the spectacle as John P. Scanlon, United States coast guard station lookout was quoted as saying this about the five towers that, according to him, shot towards the city at “terrific speed from a mile southwest on the lake.”

“They looked like spiral staircases,” Scanlon said.  “The spouts seemed to spring up suddenly and followed each other in Indian file.  One attracted my attention particularly.  After tumbling sea gulls about, it sped along the municipal beach and grabbed bushes up.  It seemed as though it drenched a lot of people when it finally smashed against the docks.”

On August 14, 1900 the Philadelphia Record republished a story from the Associated Press entitled, “Peculiar And Unusual Occurrence On The Saratoga Track.”  The story read in part:

A heavy rainfall converted the track into a quagmire ankle deep this afternoon, and the fields were greatly reduced by withdrawals.  In the first race, Starter Caldwell dropped his flag.  The man holding the advanced flag failed to see the bunting go down and all of the jockeys except Sam Doggett, on his own horse Terrorist, and Burus, on Lieber Karl, the 4 to 5 favorite, pulled up.  This pair raced towards to the finish with the former winning.  The field straggled in in Indian file.  The race was ordered to be run over again by the stewards under the rule providing that the advance flag must fall.  All bets stood.

On August 14, 1878 the Montreal Gazette published a news story entitled, “Vice Regal Tour: Lord Dufferin In The Townships.”  As was the case when such visits occurred, the event was a very serious and formal affair as can be seen by this snippet from the story:

Her Excellency, Mrs. Col. Lyttleton, and attendants, followed in another carriage, and the guard of honor wheeled in columns of subdivisions.  The firemen, who had been provided with flaming torches, had been in waiting, and at a signal from Chief S F Foss, wheeled into line, and turning were Indian file, flanking the escort.  Along with the firemen were hundreds of citizens bearing torches.  This was a prettily executed movement, and the blazing torches of the firemen and citizens in constant motion reflected from the glittering bayonets of the guard of honor, the cheering of the surging crowd and the glare of thousands of lights from the different windows, made a most impressive sight.

In 1849, the Providence, Rhode Island January 25th edition of the Manufacturers and Farmers Journal published a piece of fiction entitled, “Adventures In New Mexico.”  The author went by the name of E … no first name, no last name … just E.  The story included this tidbit:

Hitching John to the hind gate of a wagon, I borrowed a large bored rifle, and set off after them on foot.  The prairie here being undulating, and in many places broken into deep gullies, it presented every facility for a “still hunt” in other words for a “creeping on to” game.  The bulls were plodding soberly along some distance from me, in Indian file.  I knew by the “law of the land” that they were making for some watering place, and it was there I expected to crawl upon them; but on they went and on I followed; the wagons soon passed out of sight, and far before could just be traced the sand hills of the Big Arkansas.

It’s in the journal of William Parkman, — a 17-year-old soldier in the Massachusetts regiment — dating back to the summer of 1758 that the following entry is found:

August 8.  Set out for Fort Edward in an Indian file, Major Putnam in the front, and when we had marched about a mile and a half the enemy waylaid us, and fired upon our front and cut off Major Putnam.  Upon that Major Rogers came up from the rear and formed the men in a line, and they drove the enemy, and had an engagement, which lasted two hours and ten minutes.

The expression, however, is a direct translation of “en file indienne” found in journals written by the French who settled in Quebec in the 1600s.  Samuel de Champlain (1567 – 1635) and Anadabijou speaking on behalf of the Montagnais, the Etchemins and the Algonquin nations from the Ottawa River area to the far northwest agree to embark upon a campaign against the Iroquois in 1603. The campaign is successful and of course, gives rise to celebration.  Samuel de Champlain described the events that took place in June of that year when the allies assembled at Tadoussac, Quebec using the expression “en file indienne” to describe what he observed.

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