Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Post Gazette’

Token Indian

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 3, 2015

If you hear someone talking about the token Indian in the group, it’s an offensive comment.  It means that there was need for at least one person to be included regardless of qualifications, and so someone was chosen to be that token person.  The reason for having a token person in a group is to give the appearance of being inclusive and to deflect any allegations of discrimination.  The bottom line, however, is that it’s extremely discriminatory and not inclusive in the least.

Father Theo’s Blog on WordPress on August 5, 2012 talked about the passage for Aboriginal professionals.  Theo Collins is a blogger, writer, educator, parent, musician, and historiographer living in British Columbia (Canada) and his blog focuses primarily on planet and climate change, Aboriginal issues, the blues, history, people and himself.  The entry that day was entitled, “I Was A Token Indian.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewed “American Outlaw” in their newspaper edition of August 17, 2001.  Written by Post-Gazette Book Editor, Bob Hoover, the immediately took pity on the American Western which he felt had been assailed in the movie.

It’s not that he felt that the movie was terrible (because he didn’t feel that way about it at all) but rather that the movie showed no respect for the cowboy tradition of John Ford, John Wayne, and Sam Peckinpaugh movies.  The problem was, according to the reviewer, that the movie looked more like “The Sopranos” in spurs (yes, that’s what he wrote).

And, that’s really what this movie’s about — lookin’ good.  It’s got the Western outfits, the steam-engine trains, the dynamite blasts, the shirtless studs and the token Indian.  Some of the jokes are funny, too.

Sixteen years earlier (almost to the day), on July 6, 1985 the Gettysburg Times published a news story written by Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press about sculptor Michael Naranjo.  In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. army and the following year, a grenade cost him his sight, a little finger, and the dexterity of his right hand when he and his squad were ambushed in a Vietnamese rice field.   The article was titled, “Blind Indian Sculptor Seeks The Impossible” and explained how Michael Naranjo sought the impossible.  The article read in part:

I don’t want to be just your token Indian, or your token veteran, or your token handicapped artist.  I just want to be a plain old, good artist … Foremost and first, I am a sculptor,” he said at the opening of a month-long exhibition of his work in Pittsburgh.

The Montreal Gazette edition of April 30, 1980 also spoken of token Indians when it ran an article about what the president of the Indian Association of Alberta, Joe Dion, had to say about setting up a national legislative body to negotiate with the Canadian federal government.

“Indians want to make their own laws, administer justice, control resources, and look after social services within Confederation,” Dion said.

He also suggested that Indians also be allocated a block of seats in Parliament, with members elected by Indian constituencies.  And the Senate should have more than the one “token Indian senator.”

The term token Indian can be found littered across newspapers, magazines, and books over the decades and it’s understood what’s meant by the term.  However, it was in a 1946 coin collector’s almanac compiled by Hans M.F. Schulman and Hans Holzer where Idiomation found mention of a 1795 half-cent Washington token Indian head coin.

History shows that the third president of the United States and founding father Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 – 4 July 1826) strongly encouraged commercial enterprises to extend credit to Indigenous peoples in America to create a debt situation that could only be satisfied by forcing Aboriginals to cede land to the U.S. government.  When an Indian did not have a debt, but rather, had a credit coming to him, he received a token since there was a shortage of coins in circulation during this era.

Three images were most often used to differentiate three tokens of differing values, and each had a pictorial that was recognized not only by settlers and colonials but by Native American Indians as well (a buffalo on the plains, a side-wheel steamer, and a warrior on horseback).  These tokens were meant to prove good faith trading and when accusations of unfairness by commercial enterprises surfaced, it was the Indian with the token or tokens who was named as proof that the commercial enterprise in question was fair to all, including Indians.

In other words, the Indian with the token became the known as the token Indian.

The practice dates back to the late 1700s when the U.S. government decided to involve itself in the Indian trade, hence the minting of tokens as well as half-cent token Indian coins that were put into circulation as real coinage.  Idiomation therefore pegs the idiom token Indian to the late 1700s.

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Holy Toledo!

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 6, 2015

Driving through Toledo, Ohio recently, the idiom Holy Toledo came to mind.  Today, Toledo is thought of as a quiet and conservative town, but it wasn’t also so.  In fact, from the late 1800s through to the 1930s, Toledo’s reputation was anything but quiet and conservative.  It was known as a den of inequity overrun by gangsters and mobsters and crooked politicians — an immoral and corrupt city where it was open season for gang violence, illegal bootlegging, gambling, and corruption.

For example, in the 1890s, the Governor of Ohio, William McKinley (yes, the same William McKinley who was elected President of the United States of America in 1896) was debt ridden.  People such as Andrew Carnegie, Charles Taft, and other wealthy associates came to his rescue, and once elected President, McKinley repaid their help with special favors and special privileges.

In the 1930s, Purple Gang member Yonnie Licavoli was running Toledo’s bootlegging and gambling interests and was perceived as untouchable by the police.  Licavoli’s biggest claim to fame was that he was one of the few people ever to tell Al Capone where he could and couldn’t go with his business, locking him out of Detroit, and living to tell the tale.

What this means is that Toledo was oftentimes called “Holy Toledo” as a euphemism because it was the farthest thing from holy.  But everyone understood that, just like everyone understood that the expression Holy Toledo was meant to be one of surprise or astonishment (as are many idioms that being with Holy such as holy cow, holy smoke, and holy moley).

The expression remained in use well after the Depression era as well.

Taking a peek at how it’s been used over the last few decades, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette of January 13, 2009 described Toledo as Ohio’s Glass City as well as Frog Town, and revealed that the population of Toledo was officially larger than the population of Pittsburgh by more than five thousand residents!  The article by journalist Rich Lord was titled, “Holy Toledo, Look What City Just Passed Us By In Population.”

The Miami News edition of May 12, 1980 published an article about Danny Thomas who supposedly startled his audience at a $100-a-plate fundraiser in Lansing, Michigan by admitting that he hated no-caffeine coffee.  It was a shock because just a few years earlier, he was the spokesman for a commercial that peddled a no-caffeine coffee.  The story headline read:  “Holy Toledo! Danny Thomas Has Been Lying All Along.”

Back on October 11, 1971 there was an article published by Sports Illustrated about the Toledo Rockets who, at the time, were enjoying the nation’s longest winning streak. Writer Joe Jares discussed how Ohio University came close to putting a period at the end of all that for the Toledo Rockets were it not for what the writer referred to as “this hobgoblin quarterback named Chuck Ealey.”  The quarterback had a remarkable history, having played in 57 games of varsity football in high school and college, with each game being a winner. The article was aptly entitled, “Holy Toledo! Chuck Ealey Nearly Lost One.”

In the book “Red War” by  mystery and detective author, Judson Pentecost Philips (August 10, 1903 – March 7, 1989) and journalist Thomas Marvin Johnson, published by Doubleday Doran in 1936, the expression was used.

“You seem to know everything, Mr. McWade.”
Holy Toledo, I wish I did!” groaned the Westerner.  “But there ain’t one of us can figger out what’s up — except somebody’s in for a well double-crossin’.”

Unfortunately, there’s considerable confusion about how the expression initially came about and it doesn’t appear in publications prior to the mid-1930s.

What is known about Toledo, Ohio is that it was named after Toledo in Spain, and that city in Spain is known as the “Holy City of Toledo.”  Likewise, it would seem that Toledo, Ohio was known back in the day for having as many churches as it had bars and taverns, with the greatest concentration of churches located on Collingwood Boulevard. But there’s no proof to substantiate this as being the reason for the saying.

It’s also a fact that comedian Danny Thomas (6 January 1912 – 6 February 1991) — who was raised in Toledo, Ohio, attended Woodward High School as well as the University of Toledo, and began his professional career in 1932 — popularized the expression Holy Toledo in his comedy routines.  Between the comedian’s use of the expression and it’s appearance in “Red War” published in 1936, it’s safe to say the saying was used and understood by most everyone during the 1930s.

As a note of interest, back in the 1590s, Toledo steel (from Spain, not Ohio) was used in the manufacture of medieval swords.  Toledo, Spain had been a steel working center since the 5th century BC.  Toledo steel swords were chosen by Hannibal for his army, and legions from the Roman Empire relied on Toledo steel swords. In other words, Toledo steel swords set the standard in excellent weaponry.

The Toledo steel swords were the swords that defeated Muslim armies during the Holy Wars in medieval times.  And it was Toledo steel rapiers that became the choice of French Musketeers.  The reputation of Toledo steel swords was so widespread that even Japanese Samurai had their katana and wakizashi forged in Toledo with Toledo steel.

In another side note, it was in 1085 that Toledo, Spain became one of the recognized centers of Christian culture after it was liberated from the Moors by Alfonso VI of Castile, Leon and Galicia (June 1040 – July 1109). When the Crusades began (1095 – 1291) it was Toledo steel swords that went into holy battle.

While it would exciting to peg Holy Toledo to the Crusades or to Medieval times, the fact of the matter is that Idiomation was unable to find the idiom published before the 1930s and as such, the best that can be guessed at is that it first came into use sometime in the 1920s, gaining ground in the 1930s.

Posted in Christian, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 15, 2013

You’ve probably heard someone say that a leopard can’t change his spots before and what it means is that no matter how hard someone may try to change that true nature, they’ll never succeed in changing who they are naturally. It’s another way of saying: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  As Popeye was famous for saying: “I am what I am.”

For example, in the August 25, 2008 edition of the Mirror, a quick write-up was provided about the upcoming episode of Coronation Street (a popular British soap opera). Summing it up in two lines, Jane Simon wrote:

A leopard can’t change its spots and it looks like Tyrone was right to be suspicious about his mum Jackie having turned over a new leaf. After Tyrone and Molly spend a worried night in the car waiting for Jackie to return, Tyrone’s mood turns to anger when she crows about pulling yet another scam.

In Sports Editor, Al Abrams’ column “Sidelights On Sports” published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on August 17, 1950, sports fans were abuzz about was Ezzard “No Hazard” Charles, the NBA heavyweight king of boxing. It was said that he fought just enough to win without taking unnecessary risks which cost him in box office appeal and popularity with what Abrams called “members of slug society who pay the fright to see him in action.” Throwing in his two cents worth, he wrote:

Ezzard, no hazard, like the leopard, can’t change his spots. There’s no denying he is a good fighter, the best heavyweight around until the night the aged Louis proves otherwise, but he could be a far greater and exciting one if he’d just “give” a little more. That he never will. We’re all convinced of that.

The Jeffersonian Gazette of November 1, 1900 had a similar take on the subject of politics in an article entitled, “Party vs. Principles.”  The story led off with this paragraph:

It is an old saying, that it is difficult for the leopard to change his spots. It semes from actual experience that it is almost as difficult for the old time republican to leave his party. With many of us upon whom party affiliation sits lightly; what we mean is that we care nothing for the name, it is principles we want; we can’t fully appreciate how a man who voted for Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, and that long line of illustrious heroes and statesmen, now dead,will put so much stress upon a party name.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer states that it was first recorded in English in 1546, but no source was provided. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t first recorded in English in 1546, only that Idiomation has not identified what that source may be.

What Idiomation could confirm is that a version of the idiom is found in the Bible in Jeremiah 13:20-25 where it states:

20 Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

21 What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?

22 And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.

23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

24 Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.

25 This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.

The Book of Jeremiah in the Bible was written between 630 and 580 BC, at a time when the Law Of The Medes and Persians was a forgone conclusion. The Mede were an Indo-European people who inhabited ancient Media, and who had established an empire during the 7th century. And as with the law of the Medes and Persians, it was believed that the laws of nature could not be altered or changed either.

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Fox In The Henhouse

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 6, 2013

If there’s a fox in the henhouse, you’ve got problems brewing. You see, in that one idiom, people are aware that someone has been put in a position where he or she can then exploit the situation to his or her own benefit. And what’s more, it’s not that the opportunity is there, waiting to be acted upon, it’s more likely than not that the person in charge absolutely will exploit the situation.

In other words, having a fox in the henhouse is no different from having a lunatic in charge of the asylum  or asking a thief to guard the bank vault, or expecting the wolf to guard the sheep, or asking a monkey to watch your bananas. They all mean the same thing, and in every instance, the watcher can’t be trusted to do the right job.

Back on December 24, 2002 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted a Letter To The Editor from Don Van Kirk of Franklin Park. He was concerned about the potential for abuse of power from George W. Bush’s new appointee to the SEC. He was so concerned that the author was compelled to comment:

His appointment of William Donaldson as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Donaldson is part of the Wall Street Club; under his leadership nothing of any magnitude will be corrected or changed.

Jumping back one generation to January 11, 1973, a news story published in the Miami News was also concerned about potential problems in government in an article entitled, “Fox In The Henhouse.” The problem this time had to do with the Watergate scandal and ensuing prosecution. It was reported in part:

In the first place, the Justice Department is prosecuting the seven defendants who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters last July. That’s like having the fox watch the henhouse because the Justice Department is controlled by the national administration, which is generally believed to have been behind the spying on the Democrats.

Some say that the expression comes from “The Contre-League and Answere to Certaine Letters Sent to the Maisters of Renes, by One of the League who Termeth Himselfe Lord of the Valley of Mayne, and Gentleman of the Late Duke of Guizes Traine” published in 1589, and that this book gives the saying as the fox guarding the henhouse.

Some will say that the expression is implied in the nursery rhyme (but Idiomation disagrees) entitled, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” where the first verse reads:

Sleep, baby, sleep.
Thy father guards the sheep.
Thy mother shakes the dreamland tree.
Down falls a little dream for thee:
Sleep, baby, sleep.

The fact of the matter is that the expression is first alluded to in the Christian Bible in Luke 13:31-35 where the following is found:

31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.

32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

33 Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

And before the Bible, it was a Latin saying: “Ovem lupo commitere.”  The Latin translates into “mettere un lupo a sorvegliare le pecore” which, in turn, translates into “to set a wolf to guard sheep.”   Whether the expression has to do with foxes and hens, or wolves and sheep, the meaning is the same and to this end, this confirms that the saying originated in Ancient Rome.

So what have we learned from today’s idiom? Don’t assign a job to someone who will then be in a position to exploit it for his or her own ends.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Dollars To Dumplings

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 6, 2013

Just as with the expression dollars to doughnuts, the expression dollars to dumplings means the same thing: whatever you’re betting on is a safe bet.

Even though it’s not quite as popular as its cousin dollars to doughnuts, the expression hasn’t exactly fallen by the wayside either. In fact, in Greg Jarboe’s article of December 23, 2011 entitled, “From ‘Author Stats’ in Webmaster Tools to Newsknife’s Top Journalists,” and published in a number of reputable newspapers around the world, the expression made its presence known in this paragraph.

And if you want to tell your PR people something that probably they don’t know, then show them Newsknife’s list of top news sites by category. I’ll bet dollars-to-dumplings that they didn’t know the Washington Post was the top news site for health-related stories or that MSNBC.com was the top site for science-related stories.

On August 14, 1921 the Gazette Times of Pittsburg, PA, the popular column, “George Ade’s Modern Fables In Slang” shared an enchanting fable entitled, “The Night Watch and the Would Be Something Awful” where the second paragraph read thusly:

“Nothing doing at the Gate,” she would say, warningly. “It’s Dollars to Dumplings that the Girl Detective is peeking out to get a Line on my Conduct. She has her Ear to the Ground about four-thirds of the Time and if any one makes a Move, then Mother is Next. If Father takes a Drink from his Stock in the Locker at the Club and then starts Homeward on a fast Trolley, Mother knows all about it when he is still three Blocks from the House. What’s more, she is a knowing Bird and can’t be fooled by Cloves or those little Peppermite Choo-Choos. The only time when Mother kisses Father is when she wants to catch him with the Goods. Look out! This is our corner.”

The moral of the story was: Any system is okay if it finally works out

The Sunday Vindicator of Youngstown (OH) published a news story entitled, “The Local Bout” on February 4, 1900 that made brief mention of a fighter by the name of Bryant. It was unclear whether he had any staying power although it was acknowledged that he had natural talent as a pugilist. The article shared this tidbit about the fighter’s past:

In days gone by he may have been a daisy one and done just what his manager claimed for him: knocked out Kid McParland in one round in 1896. At present it would be dollars to dumplings that McParland could reverse that decision.

The expression appears in a Harper’s Weekly Magazine advertisement in the February 28, 1889 edition of the Bristol Bucks County Gazette.

Idiomation was unable to located the saying published elsewhere in newspapers or in books, and even Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang states that they believe it hails from the late 19th century, although no exact year is given.

That being said, the fact that it appears in a Harper’s Weekly Magazine advertisement in early 1889, the expression was obviously understood by the general public in 1889. Since it would take one to two decades for an expression to reach this level of recognition with the general public, Idiomation pegs this expression to about 1875.

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Skin Of His Teeth

Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 17, 2011

If you know someone who tells you that something happened to him or her by the skin of his or her teeth, it means that person either narrowly escaped a negative experience or narrowly managed to succeed,  and it all happened at the last minute! 

In Ontario, the recent provincial election at the beginning of October (2011) was a real nail biter in some regions.  In fact, it was reported on the website www.viewmag.com that some candidates barely won their seats.

In Thunder Bay–Atikokan, Liberal Bill Mauro held on again by the skin of his teeth, although this time he increased his plurality to 452 votes over the NDP.

The Democratic Convention back in 1956 also had its nail biting moments during their primaries.  In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the following in an article entitled, “Adlai Skins His Teeth” in their May 31, 1956 edition:

By the skin of his teeth, Adlai Stevenson has taken 22 of Florida’s 28 Democratic convention votes in an apathetic primary contest with Senator Estes Kefauver.  The closeness of the vote, however, will soon be forgotten.  The important thing is that Mr. Stevenson won.

It seems that the world of politics like to use the phrase moreso than others.  The phrase is found in the New York Times article of June 22, 1912 in an article entitled, “Democrats’ Method Of Nomination Best” where the following appears:

The Democratic way is really the better way.  It prevents a mere majority, by whatever means obtained, by bribery or force or promise, from compelling the party to accept the leadership of the candidate chosen by the skin of his teeth to do battle for the party.  Better make the choice of candidates a little harder than subject the party to defeat, even for the sake of making an Oyster Bay holiday.

On April 11, 1846 the Courrier de la Louisiane published a news story entitled, “Whig Victory” where the newspaper reported the following in part:

But in all the multitudinous and infinitely diversified changes and shiftings of political parties ever imagined, who expected to hear S.J. Peters affect to exult over a triumph of the Second Municipality?  And what is the triumph over which he exults?  He is re-elected by the skin of his teeth Alderman in the second ward, and two sound Democrats are elected in the same ward, where, four years ago, Peters would have told any man he was made who should have thought of opposing him or his Whig followers: Crossman is elected Mayor although is in a very small minority — other branch of this magnificent “triumph of the people!”

Now the phrase did appear in the King James Bible of 1611 with the entire verse being:

Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.

However, before the King James Bible, the phrase appeared in 1560 in the Geneva Bible, where, in Job 19:20, the literal translation of the original Hebrew is given as being:

I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe.

That being said, the phrase appears in Latin in the Medieval Latin Bibles produced by hand before the invention of printing and in Greek in Greek texts.  And so, the phrase dates back to Biblical times but how far back? 

Based on information provided in the Book of Job, readers know that it happened well after Noah and the flood and it happened in the time of Esau who was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.  The name of Job is found in the Amarna letters of 1350 B.C. and in the Egyptian Execration texts of 2000 B.C. 

So while Idiomation is unable to put an exact date on the first use of the phrase skin of his teeth, it absolutely dates back far enough for readers to know it’s a very ancient saying.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Jewish, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Indian Giver

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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 »

Dutch Rub

Posted by Elyse Bruce on August 31, 2011

A Dutch rub is when you hold someone’s head under your arm in a headlock and rub the knuckles back and forth across the top of that person’s head.  Some people refer to it as a noogie or a monkey scrub or a hippo handing or a Russian haircut or a Yankee dime or a barbershop quartet, but it’s been a Dutch rub for longer than it’s been any of those other things.

On October 23, 2006 John Den Boer mentioned Dutch rubs in a blog article on his blog site that dealt with the Dutch.  His blog site has been around since 2003 and he describes himself as someone who enjoys mumbling his disagreements with various newspaper columnists.  The last sentence in this blog article was:

Perhaps I should have turned to my antagonist and given him a good old fashioned Dutch rub.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette edition of December 29, 1996 published an article entitled, “The Great Noogie Uprising” written by William Safire.  The author was imparting his knowledge of certain actions from the Indian rub to the noogie.  The article he wrote stated in part:

Noting the hard g, making the word rhyme with boogie-woogie, etymologists will make the connection of noogie with knuckle; rooted in the Dutch word knock, “bone.”  That led to Middle Low German knoke, and to Middle English knockel.  By the 1940s, knuckle was also a slang word for “the head” leading to the World War II use of knucklehead as a jocular put-down.  Further evidence that the Bronx term has roots in Holland is that the transitive verb knuckle, “to press or rub with the knuckles” has also been called a “Dutch rub,” causing many a victim to “knuckle under.”  That is the only synonym to noogie noted in scholarly literature, leading to the conclusion that a noogie is clearly not an Indian burn.

On April 27, 1965 the New York Times published an interesting news piece by Russell Baker entitled, “Observer: Child Things.” The opening paragraph began with, “Children write to complain that they are bored and life is no fun. “What can we do?” they ask. The following list of things for children to do is based on a survey of things their parents did when they were children.”  However, one of the things suggested to children was this popular neighbourhood activity:

With several other friends, seize the new kid in the neighborhood and give him a Dutch rub. To give a Dutch rub. make a fist and rub the knuckles vigorously across his head.

Back on October 6, 1940 the Chicago Daily Tribune published a sports article by Edward Burns entitled, “Reds Even World Series: Sox Beat Cubs 3-2.”   Paul Derringer scored 5 hits and the writer noted that “Big Paul holds Detroit to five hits.”  The story had an accompanying photograph and the blurb beneath it read:

A happy Paul Derringer (left), gets an old-fashioned Dutch rub from Manager Bill McKechnie after the big right hander had set down the Tigers with five hits.

Six years earlier, the Los Angeles Times published a sports article on October 4, 1936 entitled, “With Wirephoto Photographers At Work Series Game In New York.”  With a word count of only 232 words, the photo and accompanying descriptor said it all.

Irving (Bump) Hadley, winning pitcher for the New York Yankees in yesterday’s tight-fisted 2-1 game with the Giants, gets a Dutch rub from Lou Gehrig.

While the “Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English” dates the expression back to 1930, Idiomation questions this based on the ease with which it was used in sports articles in the 1930s.  What’s more, there was a cartoon strip back in the 1930s known as Timid Ted that advertised the benefits of Ovaltine.  Poor Timid Ted was a nervous, shaky, scrawny boy who, over the course of a number of cartoons, became the alpha male in the neighbourhood.  But before that happened, Timid Ted‘s readers were treated to a number of sad cartoons depicting what a sorry child Timid Ted was and how much of a disappointment he was to his parents.  One of these cartoons showed a group of tough kids looking at Timid Ted with the caption above one boy’s head that read:

After these highballs let’s razz that puny Simpson kid.  Hold his arms while I give him a dutch rub.

In fact, Warren Faulkner of Oregon stated in 2000 at the age of 78 that the term Dutch rub was very much a part of his boyhood.  This would put the expression sometime during the late 1920s.  This supports the belief that when an expression appears in print without quotation marks, it is an expression that dates to at least the previous generation.  To this end, it is not unreasonable to believe that the expression Dutch rub dates back to about 1920.

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