Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburg Press’

Gold Bricking

Posted by Admin on April 16, 2015

Every once in a while, you may hear someone accusing another of gold bricking.  It sounds to some as if it should be a compliment, but it isn’t.  If you accuse someone of gold bricking, you’ve accused them of idling, of shirking responsibilities, or of getting someone else to do the job they were supposed to do.  In other words, the person accused of gold bricking has tricked someone into believing that it is of value for them to take the job off the slacker’s hands and do it for him (or her).

It was in the August 2, 2003 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that a story from the Associated Press was picked up and posted.  It was part of the “Auto Racing Notebook” column and began with talk of Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart and car owner Chip Ganassi.  It went on to talk about the U.S. Grand Prix in June, and Ralf Schumacher, among other topics.  While the article was entitled, “Ganassi Interested In Stewart” the photo by Tom Strattman (also of the Associated Press) was captioned thusly:

Gold-Bricking?  Ryan Newman, winner of last weekend’s race at Pocono, takes a break in the garage area before the start of practice yesterday for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Qualifying for the race is today.

On October 7, 1978 the Pittsburgh Press published a story from New York by George DeWan.  It was about the largest known accumulation of gold — valued at $75 billion US at the time of the story — and where it was stored.  While the journalist noted how safe the location was, he also provided a great of detail in his story.  The headline that went with this story was, “Fed Takes Pride In Being Noted For Goldbricking.”

The Pittsburgh Press was quick to report on gold bricking on July 27, 1952 when ir reported on qualifying for insurance for vets of the Korean War, and mentioned that some of the new laws had been introduced for family members as well.  The article was entitled, “New Law Cuts Goldbricking.”

Some dictionaries claim that the term came about during World War II, however, Idiomation has found the term published in earlier news stories.

Once again, it was in the Pittsburgh Press of January 28, 1934 ran a one paragraph article in the newspaper about a situation happening in Steubenville, Ohio the previous day.  There had been a lot of firings going on, and this is what was reported.

One hundred CWA workers were removed from the payroll here on charges of drunkenness, ineligibility and the old army game of “gold-bricking.”  Charges that some of the men were drunk on the job and that others were loafing, were investigated by the complaint board.  Others were not on the eligible list, the board found.

The article, was simply titled, “Fired for Gold-Bricking.”

And in the October 26, 1923 edition of the Reading Eagle, when it was reported that Socialist candidate for mayor, J. Henry Stump, claimed that the city garbage plant was mismanaged, the article was titled, “Candidate Stump Reviews Statement Made By Mr. Smith:  Asserts City Was Gold Bricked.”   In the story proper, the following was included:

Mr. Stump quotes Mr. Smith as admitting that the city was gold bricked in purchasing the garbage plant, and asserts that the erection of an entirely new plant at the time would have meant a large saving to the city.  Councilman Smith has charge of the city’s garbage disposal.

Perhaps the dictionaries attributing the term to World War II meant it was a term that came about during World War I.  Except that, too, would be incorrect.

The Sarnia Observer newspaper of July 22, 1898 republished a story that had been published in the Windsor Record originally.  The article stated that J.D. Moor, a produce dealer of St. Marys (Ontario)  had been robbed at pistol point and relieved of $9,000 CDN by C. Mott of Philadelphia and his accomplice, J.C. Brown, also of Philadelphia.  A third man, named Bedenfield, involved in the caper managed to escape arrest and couldn’t be found by the police.  Later on, it was learned that J.C. Brown was actually J.C. Blackwell, Bedenfield was actually George Mason,and C. Mott was none other than Chas. Watts, a known Chicago criminal.  This article was entitled, “Gold Bricked The Police: Moore’s Swindlers Were Fully Identified.”

One of the most successful gold brickers was American confidence man, Reed C. Waddell (1860 – 5 April 1895) who is credited for coming up with the gold brick game.  He wasn’t the first, of course, but he was the most successful of his time when it came to gold bricking, raking in $250,000 USD in a ten-year period.

But it was in October 1879 that gold bricking became known when newspapers across the U.S. reported that the bank president of the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio), Mr. Newell D. Clark had been hoodwinked by miners — led by Peter Lavin — requesting an advance on a 52-pound gold brick in their possession.  The ruse was that the corners of the brick were gold however the body was the brick was not, so when Mr. Clark had the blacksmith cut off one corner of the brick, and an assayer confirmed that the corner was gold, the president of the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio) advanced $10,000 USD to the miners.

In other words, that gold brick was useless to the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio) … and gold bricking became synonymous with being fooled or tricked.

To this end, the spirit of the word gold bricking, as it refers to shirking one’s responsibilities and convincing someone else to do the job, is carried over from the incident in 1879.

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

Raining Cats And Dogs

Posted by Admin on July 31, 2013

If it’s raining cats and dogs, there’s no need to worry. The idiom refers to a heavy downpour that doesn’t look like it will let up any time in the near future.  Just make sure to take an umbrella with you and to dress warmly to guard against the cutting wind.

The phrase is popular, and it’s found in all sorts of expected — and unexpected — places. In fact, on the Benton County website in Philomath, Oregon there just happened to be a juried art exhibition happening from June 21 to July 27, 2013 at the Benton County Museum. You’ll never guess the name of the exhibition … or may you will. Yes, it was dubbed “Raining Cats And Dogs.”

On Christmas Eve day (December 24) of 1959, the Daytona Beach Morning Journal carried a quick story out of San Marino, California. It was an odd little story about residents being pelted by pelts. The investigating officer spoke with the reporter who wrote:

Officer Martin Boyle said he heard of it raining cats and dogs — but never Persian lamb and muskrat pelts. The furs, packaged in sacks, fell in a three block area.

The Pittsburg Press edition of May 4, 1930 discussed the documented incidents of all sorts of objects falling from the skies during unusually heavy rainfalls. Among the items listed were: lichens, leaves, hay, toads, frogs, fish, mussels, oranges, pebbles, and in one case in Charleston (SC) a 2-foot long alligator! The title of the article was, of course, “Raining Cats And Dogs.”

And the New York Times published an article on October 25, 1890 about a local mayoralty candidate by the name of Mr. Scott who appeared at a number of locations one rainy evening to shake hands with voters and greet large and enthusiastic audiences waiting to catch a glimpse of him. He charmed audiences everywhere he went with his story of having been a hard-working man all his life, and promising to continue with that work ethic if New Yorkers saw fit to elect him Mayor. The article began with this paragraph:

Although Old Improbabilities at Washington promised to coax the stars into view last night, the shades of the late Mr. Tweed must have pulled the string behind his back, so that when the people’s candidate for Mayor got ready to sally forth it was raining cats and dogs. Nothing daunted, Mr. Scott put on his cork-soled shoes and his long mackintosh and jumped into his carriage between the drops.

Going back in time to the previous century, the “Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation” by Irish author, clergyman and satirist Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) was published in London through the agency of Mary Barber as well as in Dublin by George Faulkner in 1738.

Come, Sir John, I foresee it will rain terribly. Lady Smart. Come, Sir John, do nothing rashly; let us drink first Lord Sparkish. I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs. But pray, stay, Sir Sir John.

When English dramatist Richard Brome (1590 – 1643) wrote “The City Wit, or, The Woman Wears The Breeches: A Comedy” in 1629 (it was later revised in 1647 and printed in 1653), an earlier version of the idiom appeared in Act IIII, Scene I. In this scene, Sarpego (identified as a Pedant) says this:

SARPEGO:
From henceforth Erit Fluvius Deucalionis
The world ſhall flow with dunces; Regnabitque, and it
ſhall raine
Dogmata Polla Sophon, Dogs and Polecats, and fo forth.

Now polecats aren’t really cats at all. They’re actually more closely related to weasels and ferrets than to cats, however, the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs” can easily be seen in stating “it shall rain dogs and polecats.”

But even before Richard Brome’s play, there was a saying used by sailors to describe particularly lively cats, and that was to say: The cat has a gale of wind in her tail.  But most telling of all is that Norse mythology put forth that cats represented the wind and dogs represented the rain, and so when a storm had both wind and rain together, it was figuratively cats and dogs.

This means that the idiom proper dates back to 1629, but the concept has its roots in Norse mythology which goes back long before the 17th Century, long before the 10th Century, long before the days of the Roman Empire.  In other words, it’s way back there in time.

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

Takes The Cake

Posted by Admin on July 8, 2013

Sometimes you’ll see people get to a point where they say that the latest takes the cake. Now they don’t literally mean that someone sneaked into their kitchen and made off with any baked goods that might have been on the counter. What they mean is that the most recent event is, in their opinion, more than they are willing or able to accept as fact. In other words, it’s an expression that states something or someone is unbelievable (in their behavior or attitude), incredible, or ridiculous.

When reviewer Anna Thompson wrote a piece on November 16, 2011 that compared the two major gaming consoles on the market, she did a comparison of the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Microsoft Xbox 360 … two gaming consoles that were at the heart of any serious gamer’s collection and discussions. The article imparted this information to those who were wondering which console would best suit their gaming needs.

When it comes to trust a console, the PS3 takes the cake again. The infamous Red Ring of Death (RROD) Xbox 360 is something that every player dreads and it is amazing how so many people still complain about this problem. The PS3 also suffers from problems once in a while, but there is no lack of such debilitating and notorious RROD, that can affect it.

The Pittsburg Press published an intriguing article on July 26, 1966 about the upcoming nuptials for Luci Baines Johnson. The Scripps-Howard Staff Writer shared with readers that the bride would be wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her show at her wedding to Patrick Nugent on August 6. The wedding was to be an elaborate affair, and the honeymoon was described as something most young brides never experience as she would be accompanied by three Secret Service agents. The wedding cake was discussed in some detail and the article ended with a question: If it takes five egg whites to make enough cake for 10 people, then multiply 5 by 75 which comes out to 375 egg whites, what in the world is the White House going to do with 375 egg yolks? The article was aptly entitled:

Luci’s Wedding Takes The Cake

Now back in the day, the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner was a well-read newspaper in Kent County, Rhode Island and in the February 7, 1902 edition, the reporter wrote about a certain celebrated London beauty who had been seen in several questionable dramatic productions over in England. While her career may have had a few bumps in the productions leading up to her appearance in America, she made waves once she arrived on American shores. So much so, in fact, that the reporter wrote this about the actress:

It is not what Mrs. Pat Campbell says or does that provokes the critics, but rather what she does not say or do. She is not a beauty, according to our American canons, but her dresses — oh my, my, my! — they are a revelation, a miracle of the costumer’s art, which would make Worth’s most splendid creation look like the blanket of a Hottentot. When you talk of style, Mrs. Campbell takes the cake and with it the entire bakery. There is no changing the hard, granite fact that she has caught the town, that her houses are packed and Mrs. Campbell and her manager are reaping a golden harvest.

American author, William Trotter Porter edited a book entitled, “A Quarter Race in Kentucky: And Other Sketches, Illustrative of Scenes, Characters, and Incidents, Throughout the Universal Yankee Nation,”  It was published in Philadelphia by T.B. Peterson and Brothers of Chestnut Street in 1847. In the story, “Old Tuttle’s Last Quarter Race” which was credited to “Buckeye” of Ohio. Whoever Buckeye was, and where in Ohio he lived,.  The story was originally published in the “Spirit Of The Times” in New York.  As the reader makes his way through the story, the following passage is found:

The result was, they got up a horse and fifty dollars in money a side, to run on Saturday at two o’clock, each one to start and ride his own horse, judge tops and bottoms — the winning horse takes the cakes — and no back out! Either party refusing to run forfeits the whole stakes.

Not to give away any part of the story, suffice it to say that the twists and turns in the story are both hilarious and well thought out, and as such, should you happen across a copy of this book, I highly recommend you read this story first. You’ll understand why when you reach the last page.

In any case, over the centuries, there have been many instances where the phrase has been used in one form or another, but the earliest version surprised Idiomation … a reference that took the idiom all the way back to Ancient Greece!

For those who don’t know, in Ancient Greece, a cake was the prize at drinking parties for the man who kept awake all night. “The Knights” written by comic Greek playwright and poet, Aristophanes (446 BC – 386 BC), was presented at the Lenaean festival in February 424 BC. Although the play was one that was political in nature, ridiculing policies and legislation, it did, indeed, make use of the phrase in this way:

If in bawling you defeat him,
sing we ho! for Victory’s sake.
If in shamelessness you beat him,
then indeed we take the cake.

The audacity of it all would lead to the group taking the cake, and as it were, this play certainly plays out in a most outrageous way through to the end. That being said, the expression dates back to 424 BC thanks to Aristophanes!

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Greece | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Good Money After Bad

Posted by Admin on January 25, 2013

When you throw good money after bad, you’re spending more and more money on something (or someone) that will never yield positive results for all you’ve invested.

On September 12, 2011, Kenneth W. Davis posted a short info bite to his site. Davis, who is a past president of the Association of Professional Communication Consultants, addressed the issue of investing time and effort into writing a piece and bad decisions made therein. The info bite was aptly entitled:

This Week: Don’t Throw Good Money After Bad

The phrase certainly grabs readers’ attention and perhaps this is why it makes such a reliable headline. When the Montreal Gazette wrote an article that stated Quebec Transport Minister Michel Clair “might just as well paint fleur de lys on dollar bills and throw them into the air” the title of the story was:

Good Money After Bad

Used in headlines, the phrase oftentimes finds itself repeated in the body of such an article as was the case in a news story carried in the Pittsburg Press on February 16, 1938. The article addressed the matter of unstable employer-employee relationships and began with this paragraph:

Is it heartening that efforts have not been dropped in Congress to set up a mediation system for shipping. For we agree with Chairman Joseph P. Kennedy of the Maritime Commission that, unless labor-management relations are stabilized, discipline established and traffic and travel attracted to American ships, we would only pour good money after bad to spend more of the taxpayers’ millions in subsidies

Decades earlier, on March 16, 1893 the phrase was used in a New York Times article about Jersey City property owners who were upset over awards made by the Commissioners for property taken for the construction of the new boulevard in Hudson County. Owners felt that the project suffered from what they called “monstrous waste and jobbery.” At the time of writing, the Board Of Freeholders had spent one million dollars on the project that, upon completion, would be a mud road and nothing more. The headline for this story was:

Good Money After Bad: Another Million For Hudson County’s New Boulevard

The “American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms” claims that the expression was coined in the late 1800s but Idiomation begs to differ, especially in light of the fact that the saying is found in an article published on July 23, 1880 in the Timaru Herald in New Zealand. On page 2, the following is found in an article discussing the Otago Harbor Board Bill and local indebtedness. It read, in part, as follows:

This argument raising further opposition to the Bill and a feeling being expressed that it would be better for the Harbor Board to stop its works and even to stop payment, than to go on throwing good money after bad. Mr. Driver, who was, we may say, a strenuous advocate of the Bill, propounded the startling theory that, in the case of the Harbor Board becoming insolvent, the colony would have to take over its liabilities.

Twenty years prior to that, in an article published on July 28, 1860 and entitled, “Alarming Transmogrification” in the Moreton Bay Courier included this in their report:

For example: — “Ran away, my man, Sam. He was black last month, but when he left he had become of a smooth, soft, and delicate whiteness, that would rival that of the tenderest, purest, Circassian.” Pray, would it not be flinging good money after bad, to print such an advertisement as that? And worse than all, perhaps the faithful bloodhound, having a fraternal admiratior, of Caleb Cushing and his theory, might decline to hunt “a Circassian.” The capitalists of the South might find that riches have legs, if not wings; and such a perfect conglomeration of everything might ensue as we dread to dwell upon.

And twenty years prior to that, in the Colonist newspaper of December 8, 1840, the Australian publication made use of the expression in its story entitled, “Court Of Requests Act.” Of special interest is the fact that the newspaper story refers to the expression as a common expression. The passage in which the phrase appears is as follows:

If it were asserted that there was any country in which a man, in order to recover a debt of 6l. or 7l., must begin by expending 60l. or 70., — where, at the outset, to use a common expression, he had to run the risk of throwing so much good money after bad, — it would at once be said, that whatever other benefits or advantages that country enjoyed, at least it was not fortunate in its system of law.

In fact, the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Somerset, England published an article on March 25, 1773 entitled, “An Account Of Dr. Goldsmith’s Illness” that read in part:

… throwing away good money after bad. Whereas others are for pulling down and erecting one handsome, spacious, and commodious room in lieu thereof, with a large front door …

The “Thesaurus of Traditional English Metaphors” by Peter Richard Wilkinson claims that the idiom dates back to 1706 but does not provide the source for the claim.   However, this is incorrect as it appears nearly 20 years prior in the letters of William Fitzhugh.

Colonel William Fitzhugh was a lawyer, planter and merchant who relocated from England to Westmoreland County in Virginia in 1670. A self-made man, he was concerned with the fluctuation of tobacco prices since it was the source of his wealth. He furnished his home lavishly which included 122 pieces of English silver — a sound financial investment in that is could be melted down if need be, and made a social statement about his position in society. It’s been claimed that Fitzhugh’s letters to English merchants, ship captains and friends are filled with all manner of scheming. In a letter from 1690, William Fitzhugh wrote:

More money would be spent on prosecuting than he would be able to answer, and consequently good money thrown after bad.

Giovanni Torriano wrote and published a number of books on proverbs, including “New and Easie Directions for Attaining the Thuscan Italian Tongue” in 1639, “The Most Significant Select Italian Proverbs” in 1642, “A dictionary Italian and English, formerly compiled by John Florio, now diligently revised” in 1659, and “Piazza universale di proverbi italiani: Or A Common Place Of Italian Proverbes and Proverbial Phrases” in 1666, among other tomes.  However, it was in his book “Italian Proverbial Phrases” published in 1662 that he wrote:

The English say, To send good Mony after bad, to lose the Substance, for the Shaddow.

Since this was already a known idiom at the time of publication in 1662, it is not unreasonable to believe that it was in use in the preceding two generations. For this reason, Idiomation pegs the date of this expression to the early 1600s.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Throw Caution To The Wind

Posted by Admin on January 23, 2013

If you think it’s a good idea to throw caution to the wind, don’t be surprised if your friends think you’re taking an unnecessary risk.

The Birmingham Mail newspaper published a Letter to the Editor written by D. Newton of Kingswinford on February 23, 2009 that had to do with a Championship game played by the beloved Blues soccer team.   Along with some personal insights, the letter included this bit of advice:

Also, Larsson should be returned to midfield with Fahey replacing Carsley in centre midfield. Attack is the best form of defence, throw caution to the wind and go for it.

On March 18, 1995 journalist Nigel Clarke of The Mirror newspaper in England covered the Mike Tyson v Frank Bruno heavyweight champion of the world boxing event. It didn’t take long for Mike Tyson to win the match, and the article entitled, “I Punched like a Mule: Bruno Knew He Was DOOMED!” read in part:

Tyson, who wiped out Bruno’s challenge in 410 seconds of mayhem, re-lived his chilling battle plan, bragging: “I punched like a mule – he knew he was doomed. He knew I was going to knock him out.”

His Las Vegas demolition scheme was based on a savage non-stop onslaught.

He said: “I just threw caution to the wind, I just wanted to throw punches, to knock him out.”

It appears that the expression was a favorite in the boxing field. On March 1, 1961 Deseret News Sports Editor, Hack Miller, wrote about the title fight between 4-time winner Gene Fullmer and “Sugar” Ray Robinson. The article was entitled, “Fourth Go With Sugar Ray: Gene Will Be The Favorite.” Hack Miller’s take on the upcoming fight included this excerpt:

This doesn’t mean that Fullmer will try to box with Robinson. Few have ever done that and lived to wear the title. Nor does it mean that Fullmer will not use a little of the cover tactics which protected him until he could work within shooting range the last time they fought.

It does mean, however, that Fullmer will throw a little of the caution to the wind and get along with a two-fisted fight.

And 30 years before that, in the Pittsburg Press of July 1, 1931 United Press staff writer, George Kirksey wrote a piece about Georgia boxer, W.L. “Young” Stribling, in an article entitled, “Stribling Flies Over Schmeling Camp.” Boxing fans were eager to learn more about this pugilist, and George Kirksey began his article with this:

Young Stribling’s airplane ride to Max Schmeling’s training camp in defiance of Madison Square Garden officials and his father-manager had many persons wondering today if the Georgian doesn’t plan to throw caution to the wind in Friday night’s bout in the new Cleveland stadium.

“I feel better now than any time since I started training,” Stribling remarked. “That ride was just what I needed.”

Those close to Stribling know that the Georgia boy has his heart set on trying to knock out Schmeling. “Pa,” however, favors a safer source.

And 30 years before that, when cars were the latest rage and motorcar racing was in its infancy, the Baltimore American newspaper had a very detailed article in the August 24, 1901 edition of their newspaper. Entitled, “Another Race For Motors: Four Noted Crews And Motors To Be Again Tested Around The Bowl Track” readers learned the following:

There is great rivalry between the Nelson brothers as to the speeds of the motors, while the “Blues” are a distinct camp full of all that professional jealousy that animates actors and motor riders. The outlook is that there will be more races of throwing caution to the wind after the crack of the pistol and of thrilling rides with death for the satisfaction of victory and the purses.

At the Colosseum tomorrow afternoon at 4 o’clock the two “Blue” machines will be sent out to see just how fast they can go. The motors are working well and the training of them tomorrow afternoon is apt to be watched by a huge crowd.

Prior to the use of throw caution to the wind, the expression was actually throw discretion to the wind.

The New York Times published a story on June 19, 1887 entitled, “Sharp Sleeps In A Jail: Sheriff Grant Had Begun To Get Nervous.” Jacob Sharp, a famous millionaire of that era, was placed by order of the court into the custody of Sheriff Grant and an uproar started over the condition of the jail and concerns about the cuisine, service, ventilation, and high moral atmosphere of the Ludlow Street Jail. The jury was also a source of considerable official anxiety as well. Mr. Rickets and his six assistants were charged with ensuring that the jury members did not speak to anyone other than other jury members, and the problem of what to do with the jury members on a Sunday was brought to the Judge’s attention. The article read in part:

Yesterday Mr. Ricketts asked judge Barrett what the jury would do over Sunday. This puzzled the court not a little. Sending the jury to church was questionable, because two of them were known to have free-thinking, baseball proclivities, and might create a disturbance. Coney Island was equally inadvisable, since there were church members of long repression on the jury, who, brought face to face with those follies and vices of the world which they usually took pains to avoid, might impulsively throw discretion to the winds and be detected in the act of buying popcorn and lemonade from some of those snub-nosed Circes from the factories who go to Coney Island on Sunday prepared to “mash” anything and everything that is mashable in all the width of the world.

The expression was used with ease in the article with the expectation that readers would understand what it meant, and so it is reasonable to believe it had been in use at least the generation prior to its publication in the New York Times article cited.

That being said, both expressions are related to one used by English poet and polemicist, John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) in his poem, “Paradise Lost: A Poem In Ten Books”  published in 1667. The poem addressed the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan that led to being ousted from the Garden of Eden.  This passage is found in the poem:

Taste so divine, that what of sweet before
Hath touched my sense, flat seems to this, and harsh.
On my experience, Adam, freely taste,
And fear of death deliver to the winds.
So saying, she embraced him, and for joy
Tenderly wept; much won, that he his love
Had so ennobled, as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.

The use of deliver to the winds implies that the action is undertaken with such abandon that fear isn’t considered at the time of the action.

However, more than three hundred years before John Milton published “Paradise Lost” when it came to legal matters, the word caution was used to describe a guarantee or pledge. It was from the Old French caution which meant security or surety. The Old French word was from the Latin word cautionem (or cautio) meaning caution, foresight or precaution, and this was from the word cavere which meant “to be on one’s guard.”

The term cautio was traced back to Roman times in the reference book, “A Summary of the Roman Civil Law, Illustrated By Commentaries On and Parallels from the Mosaic, Canon, Mohammedan, English and Foreign Law” by Patrick Colquhoun. The book references a number of cautio.

In the case of a cautio de rato, an agent or attorney appears on behalf of a third-party without a formal power of attorney contract between them. It is understood, however, that the third-party agrees to abide by whatever decisions are arrived at by the third-party’s agent or attorney. This, of course, places the third-party in a somewhat dangerous position if the agent or attorney is unethical in his dealings, and therefore, it can be said that by the cautio de rato, this leaves the third party figuratively throwing caution to the wind when it comes to his legal matters.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Barge In

Posted by Admin on July 11, 2011

To barge in certainly has no positive connotations.  It can mean to intrude as in to enter uninvited or to interrupt as in to break into a conversation already in progress to which the person barging has not been invited to join. 

But a barge is also a large boat, generally flat-bottomed, that’s used to transport goods and which are occasionally self-propelled.  Barges have been around since they were used on the Nile in Ancient Egypt.  Some were even very decorative when they carried royalty down the river and these sorts of state barges were used in Europe up until modern times.

Back on June 1, 2010 NBC News New York posted a news story on their website entitled, “Boy, 14, Pulls Gun in Rockland School.”  It had been the second gun scare at that school in less than a year. 

The school went into lockdown at around 9 a.m. during the gun scare. The same school had a lockdown on June 9, 2009, when an irate parent barged in and held the district superintendent at gunpoint.

Almost 50 years before that, the Greensburg Daily Tribune ran a story entitled “Marines And Truman In Peace Move” published in the September 7, 1950 edition.  The article read in part:

Mr. Truman yesterday apologized to the Marines for his “unfortunate choice of language” in describing them as the “navy’s police force.”  Today he made an unscheduled visit to the convention of the Marine Corps League here.  Delegates who only yesterday were shouting criticism of the President for his statements turned into applauding supports today.  The chief executive barged in unexpectedly by Gen. Clifton B. Cates, commandant of the Marine corps.

Long before there were television series and soap operas, stories were published in newspapers.  On November 1, 1935 the Pittsburg Press ran a story by Aleen Wetstein entitled, “One Girl Chorus” that began with this paragraph:

I hope you won’t think I’m terribly impertinent barging in on you like this, Miss Pendergast, but I’ve beenreading you so long in the magazines, I just feel I know you.

When “The Door Of Desire” was published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on September 6, 1923, it told the story of Martin Thayne who had been engaged to Jacqueline Craye and whose cousin was none other than Julian, the second Viscount Montore who had killed a man named Thurlow who had blackmailed him.  The story included this passage on September 6, 1923:

“It’s not very, but it passed with him, and no one else has barged in except yourself.”  Martin came slowly forward, and stood on the opposite side of the writing table.  He leaned his hands upon it and peered down at Julian. Twice he tried to speak and failed.

On November 1907, the Nelson Evening Mail newspaper in New Zealand ran a short news bit entitled, “Barging In The Army: A Guards Officer’s Complaint.”  It quickly gave the highlights of a Court of Inquiry cast where the allegations of Lieutenant Woods of the Second Battalion Grenadier Guards that his superiors were impeding his career in the hopes he would resign.  The reason for this effort was due to the fact, according to Lieutenant Woods, that he was more studious than other officers.

It would seem that somewhere between 1905 and 1920, the expression “barging in” came to mean something similar and yet very different, the former implying something one more likely associated with what happened to barges in the waterways with the latter implying intruding into someone’s home.

However, in many documents referring to school boys of the 1880s, what’s interesting to note is that they had made a game of bumping into each other as if they were large, cumbersome barges they had seen on the waterways.  The joke was always that one boy had “barged in” on another boy and although it took a generation for the phrase to make it into the English language with the current definitions for the phrase, it did indeed get its start in the U.S. in the 1880s … thanks to the boys.

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

If My Grandmother Had Wheels …

Posted by Admin on January 3, 2011

The expression, while humorous, underscores the fact that people will sometimes throw irrelevant questions or comments into a discussion thereby changing the original focus of what was already being discussed (see the video included below).

Back in 1984, while watching Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, I heard Scotty exclaim, “Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon.”  It was an interesting take — this counterfactual thinking — on what was allegedly an everyday-life situation for Scotty!  But where did this expression come from and where would Idiomation find the earliest published version?

Just 6 years before the movie’s release, the New York Times ran an article on February 27, 1978 entitled “Albany’s patronage Roots Hidden By Change In Law” written by Steven R. Weisman.  He reported:

[Assemblyman Stanley Fink, the majority leader] asked her a question and she replied with a phrase she translated as, “If my grandmother had wheels, I would have been a bus.”

Nearly a decade before that, The Pittsburg Press ran an article on August 26, 1970 written by Wauhillau La Hay entitled “Hormone Theory Drawn Into Women’s Lib Debate.”  Here readers were treated to the following:

Dr. Ramey noted that “Dr. Berman says genetics is destiny.  I think what he’s trying to say is that human beings with ovaries should not enter the White House as president.  That if I did not have a certain XY (chromosomes) in my blood, I’d go th the men’s room, not the ladies’ room.  That’s like saying if my grandmother had wheels, she would be a station wagon,” Dr. Ramey declared. 

She argued against the position that women are inferior because they suffer from discomfort during menstrual periods, saying “Pioneer women crossing the plains didn’t take time out for cramps, did they?”  Her audience cheered.

The English saying is a direct translation of the Spanish:  “Si mi abuela tuviera ruedas seria una bicicleta” (If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bicycle.).

However, the sense of the phrase is found in the older French expression:  “Avec des si et des mais, on mettrait Paris en bouteille” (With ifs and buts, we would bottle Paris.)

The earliest published variation of the expression about grandmother having wheels that Idiomation could find is in the book, Jiddische Sprichwörter , written by Ignaz Bernstein and B.W. Segel, published in Frankfurt, Germany in 1908.

This video is a perfect example of the use of the idiom.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »