Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Poverty Bay Herald’

Accidentally On Purpose

Posted by Admin on January 18, 2013

When someone does something they intend to do but pretends it was an accident, it’s said that what was done was done accidentally on purpose. It’s a contradiction since something that’s done on purpose can’t possibly be an accident and something that’s an accident can’t be done on purpose. However, the phrase has found its way into the English language and carved out a niche for itself over the years.

On June 21, 2009, the Racing Post (which is published in London, England) published an article by Phil Agius entitled, “Why Baby Schumi Is Nothing Like The Old One.” The article began with this bit of information:

The man threatening to do a Schumacher chose an interesting race to put in his worst qualifying performance of the season, allowing the man dubbed the next Schumacher to grab pole for today’s British Grand Prix.

Except don’t think for a minute that Sebastian Vettel is anything like Michael Schumacher. Yes, the charging Red Bull driver is super-fast and German, with an already apparent ability to get his team working behind him and the natural talent to pull out a quick lap exactly when required.

But it’s fairly safe to say you won’t ever see the chap the German press call Baby Schumi barging rivals off the track in a bid to win world titles, or indeed parking his car accidentally on purpose on the racing line in order to preserve a pole position.

The Milwaukee Sentinel used the expression in a sub-heading in Lloyd Larson’s column of the January 5, 1973 edition. Discussing the Miami-Pittsburgh AFC title battle, under the sub-heading he wrote:

Players have been known to fumble accidentally on purpose, so to speak, in scoring territory on fourth down. The rule is designed to prevent such happenings.

During WWII, whimsical stories sometimes found their way into newspapers and such was the case with the Windsor Daily Star on February 4, 1941 when the newspaper published a story that was humorous but unattributed. It began:

“Boomps!” exclaimed Miss Sadie Shortskirts, as she bounced her bustle on the old horse pond. “The things I do for Canada!”

Our Nosing Reporter, who had been an interested spectator of an exhibition that would hardly make Sonja Henie green with envy, hurried forward, but the sturdy little figure was already back on her feet. And almost as quickly back on her back again.

“What do you mean when you say you’re doing this for Canada?” the reporter wanted to know. “What benefit will the Dominion derive if you break your neck?”

Break my neck? Phooie!” exclaimed Miss Shortskirts. “Can’t you see I’m not learning to skate? I’m learning not to skate. I’m striving for perfection in the art of falling realistically, so that every tumble will have patriotically commercial possibilities.”

The story continues for a number of paragraphs and ends well. And do you know what the title of the story was?

Starbeams: Accidentally On Purpose

Years earlier, on page 2 of the Poverty Bay Herald, in Volume XXX, Issue 9654, the newspaper published a fine short story by Henry Humiston on January 31, 1903. It was the story of mix-up and mayhem in true Victorian fashion and had to do with a Miss Helene Elizabeth Martin, a rogue by the name of John Lassiter and envelopes each of them received with letters addressed to other people. The title of the story?

Accidentally On Purpose

In the book “Lady Morgan’s Memoirs: Autobiography, Diaries and Correspondence, Volume I” the following is found in Chapter X entitled, “Thomas Dermody – The Poor Scholar” on page 90:

Among her guests she frequently numbered the young Marquis of Granby, the son of a former brilliant and well-remembered, lord-lieutenant, who was quartered in the garrison. On the occasions of a fête given specially for him by Mrs. Austen, she commanded her young poet laureate to compose an ode in favour of the vice-regal reign of the Duke of Rutland, with a well-turned compliment to his handsome son. Dermody neglected the order — perhaps “accidentally on purpose” — he thought the desire fulsome, and he had become restive. Mrs. Austen, indignant at the negligence, considering it as the refusal of an upstart dependent, made us of some expression that struck his Irish pride on the life nerve; she ordered him to leave her house and never return, he accepted the command and did not reappear, in the expectation of being sent for.

The expression showed up nearly 100 years prior to the publication of Lady Morgan’s Memoirs in a book by José Francisco de Isla (April 24, 1703 – November 2, 1781). A Spanish Jesuit, humorist and satirist, he wrote, “The History Of The Famous Preacher Friar Gerun de Campazas” in which this passage is found:

Tell us what is Modesty of Voice, for you happened accidentally on purpose to drop this word, and I don’t rightly know what it signifies.

Because of the satire in the book, the book was banned by the Inquisition in 1760, and it was forbidden not only to publish the book but to discuss its contents. Seven years later, José Francisco de Isla was expelled from Spain. But as is the case with all good literature, the book continued to be published by a number of brave souls. The book is now considered a literary masterpiece.

Despite all attempts to find an earlier version of this phrase, Idiomation found nothing before its publication in “The History Of The Famous Preacher Friar Gerun de Campazas” and so the first use of the phrase goes to at least 1760 … the year the book was banned by the Inquisition.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th 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 »

Helter Skelter

Posted by Admin on December 30, 2010

The phrase helter skelter means that something happens very quickly but in a disorganized and confused way.  The phrase has existed since long before Charles Manson or the Beatles used the phrase. 

In fact, on November 18, 1922 the Evening Post newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand ran an article about a very successful revue that read in part:

Helter-Skelter” was an apt name for the entertainment planned and presented last night at the Concert Chamber in aid of the Mayor’s City Improvement Fund by Mr. Pat Ward, who had gathered around him apt exponents of mirth and music. 

Almost a decade earlier, on September 14, 1914, the Poverty Bay Herald in New Zealand published a news story about WWI.  The headline read:

HELTER SKELTER RETREAT CONTINUES: British and French Vigorously pursuing five days incessant Fighting – Evidences of German Rout and Demoralisation

In the previous century, Bentley’s Miscellany authored by W. Harrison Ainsworth, Esq., and published in 1841, contained the following passage:

Mr. Rasp promised to comply, and moreover to set forth his friend’s military prowess to the best advantage.

“I think,” said he, “your division stormed the Press-yard, and captured the whipping-post, during the Loyal Aldersgate Street Volunteer campaigning in 1805.”

“Right, brother Ralph,” replied the comical coffin-maker, “and when the Finsbury awkward squad routed your left wing in the City Road, and you all ran helter-skelter into the boiled buttock of beef shop in the Old Bailey, we valiant sharp-shooters protected your flank, and covered your inglorious retreat!”  And he entertained the company with this appropriate recitation.

A little over a century before that, in 1731, Irish poet Jonathan Swift wrote “Helter Skelter” which is also known as “The Hue And Cry After The Attorneys Upon Their Riding The Circuit.”

Thomas Nashe made good use of the phrase helter skelter in his ‘Four Letters Confuted’ published in 1592:

Helter skelter, feare no colours, course him, trounce him.

In the end, E. Cobham Brewer wrote in his book, “The Etymological and Pronouncing Dictionary of Difficult Words”  that helter skelter is an Old English phrase that means “in tumultuous confusion.”   Old English is defined as English used up until the middle of the twelfth century or about 1160.  While the book itself was published in 1870, Brewer was a fastidious researcher therefore identifying the earliest known date for the phrase helter skelter to Old English was not done without great effort and fact-checking on Brewer’s part.

Posted in Idioms from the 12th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »