Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Public Ledger’

Cut Above

Posted by Admin on September 13, 2011

If something is a cut above, it is said to be better than other similar things.  Likewise, if someone is a cut above, it means that person demonstrates better qualities than most other people on average.

On February 8, 1995 the Daily Record newspaper of Glasgow, Scotland commented on two movies in the column “Cinema: Reel Lives.”  The first movie was the Zorro remake and the newspaper had this to say about it:

Mexico’s most famous swordsman is about to cut another dash on the big screen.  And this time round the great Zorro will be played by Latin hunk Antonio Banderas.  The movie also features the talents of Oscar winning Steven Spielberg and director Robert Rodriguez.  Rodriguez worked with Banderas on the excellent Desperado and assured me that his Zorro will be a cut above the rest.

Back on November 23, 1945 the Spokesman Review newspaper ran an interesting article entitled, “1000 Times More Than Ever.”  The first tidbit had to do with the first Thanksgiving.

The first Thanksgiving — decreed by Governor Bradford in 1623 — celebrated the survival of a minority.  Unknowingly, it also marked the birth of a nation made up of minorities — the Puritans of Massachusetts, the burghers of New York, the cavaliers of Virgina, the Indians of a vast frontier.  None, mark you, liked another.  With a trait common to minorities, each felt itself a cut above the rest.  Yet the history of three centuries shows that when these minorities did get together and founded the greatest, freest, happiest nation of all time, the old animosities somehow vanished.

The New York Times ran a story on March 1, 1905 entitled, “Count On The Bowery; $30,000 To Prove It.”  It told the story of Louis Heder, a pharmacist on Avenue B, who was identified as the heir to $30,000 in “hard cash” and the title of Count of the Empire of Austria as well as a direct descendant of the ruling Hohenzollern family of Germany.

None of the Boweryites knew how it came about, but nevertheless they were all satisfied that Louis, who had always seemed a cut above the ordinary crowd, was now Count Louis Heder-Hohenzollern of the Bowery and of Budapest.

On November 3, 1883 the Otago Witness reported on the horse races in the region.  One race in particular — the Metropolitan Handicap — was of particular interest as one horse who had done well in previous races was going up against horses of a different calibre.

Tim Whiffler I have no fancy for; he has performed well in the North Island, but will, I think, find the present company a cut above him.  Envious is put about as a good thing, but if she can land the stake all I shall say is that she must have changed her nature since last season.

A dozen years earlier, on September 4, 1875 the article, “Randwick Anticipations” appeared in the Sydney Mail newspaper in Australia.  As with the previous article mentioned, it dealt with horse races and the various horses to be seen.  It read in part:

Last season Hyperiod proved himself a cut above all comers; but he has not wintered well, and the vice-regal stable will have to intrust its honour to Valentia, and I can well imagine the shouts that will rend the air should “The Viscount” succeed in carrying the spots to the front at the end of such a terrible struggle as this will be.

The idiom uses the word cut in the sense of “a higher degree or stage” which dates back to the early 1800s.  That particular expression is found in numerous newspaper articles in the first half of the 1800s such as in the article published in the Public Ledger of St. John’s, Newfoundland of April 12, 1831 with regards to the reform measures suggested in the House of Commons in London, England.  The very extensive news article was a continuation of a previously published article and reported everything in exact detail.  At one point, the following is found:

The Hon. and Learned Member had ridiculed the whole of the middle classes.  He (Lord Althorp) would tell the Hon. Member he did not know the intelligence of the middle classes when he talked as he had done.  That they did possess a higher degree of character and intelligence than at any former period, was abundantly proved, and he was satisfied they were as well qualified to select, and would select as wisely and as prudently as any other class, representatives distinguished for their honesty, their integrity, and their ability.  He confessed he was one of those theorists who thought that the House of Commons should represent the opinions of the people.  The Constitution supposed that the Members of the House of Commons were the real representatives of the people.  The Hon. and Learned Gentleman seemed to think that this measure would give satisfaction to none but a very small portion — to none but a very small class of this country.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of “cut above” and because it was used with ease in the Sydney Mail in 1875, allowing for the time it would take for a new expression to catch on to the point of being included in a news article, Idiomation agrees that the expression is from the early 1800s.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Beat The Air

Posted by Admin on August 1, 2011

When someone beats the air, it’s because he or she is fighting without accomplishing anything.  If you imagine someone’s arms flailing about at nothing, that’s a good literal representation of the figurative meaning of the phrase beat the air.

On July 17, 2006, the Boston Globe published a story by staff writer, Ron Borges in their Sports section about a boxing match between Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley entitled, “Mosley Back In Picture: Vargas Fades Out.”  It began by reporting the following:

This rematch ended far more decisively than their meeting Feb. 25. Although Mosley stopped [Fernando Vargas] both times, the first fight ended when referee Joe Cortez stepped in to prevent Vargas from fighting the last two rounds because his left eye was swollen shut. When Cortez waved his hands, Vargas beat the air with his fists and insisted he would have beaten down the tiring Mosley had he been given the chance.

The Hartford Courant published a short news article entitled, “Let’s Talk It Over” on December 17, 1944 that stated in part:

How easy it is to pass the buck for our failures, to flounder through life blaming somebody else or even some thing else instead of ourselves. I’m thinking of Hannah, nearing 30. She has a job of a sort ….

It explains how desperate Hannah is to secure a husband and includes this bit of insight:

No wonder he always runs. What a pity no one tips Hannah off. What a shame for her to beat the air from one year to the next.

In New Zealand, the Marlborough Express published a news story on April 21, 1904 about then Opposition leader, Mr. Massey and how the electorate in New Zealand saw both him and his party.  The following is an excerpt of that news story.

It is too late in the day to go back to first principles to find a line of party cleavage.  And to tell the people that the present Government has fallen away from the lines of grace laid down by Mr. Ballance is to beat the air to no purpose.  The old lines are obliterated beyond all human power of redrawing, as Mr. Massey himself admitted when he contended that there is nothing to find fault with in the legislation of the Government, which is the party in power.

On November 5, 1841 the Public Ledger newspaper republished a story run in the Morning Herald entitled, “The Corn-Law Repealers And The Government.”  Lord Melbourne who was said to have “contempt for facts and realities” verbally attacked the Duke of Wellington for “simply stating a truth as palpable to everyone who will use his senses as the nose that completes and adorns his face, and on Saturday morning he was forthwith denounced as a monster and a modern Herod.”  The Duke of Wellington had angered Lord Melbourne because the Duke “announced a fact adverse to dishonest and unsuccessful agitation” and Lord Melbourne was now painting him as “cruel” because the Duke refused to deceive the public.  This comment was included in the story:

Unfortunately for the whig press it might “as well beat the  entrenchant air” as attack the Duke of Wellington; the character of the noble Duke is a national concern; and in whig abuse of his grace the people of England feel themselves insulted.

Going back several centuries to the days of the Apostles, the lower regions of the atmosphere was referred to as air as opposed to the higher regions of the sky which was referred to as the heavens (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 9:2; 16:17).  Ancient philosophers regarded air as an element since they didn’t know that air is essentially a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen with a small amount of carbon dioxide.  This is important to note as the expression beat the air is found in the Bible.  In fact, the earliest published version of the phrase beat the air is attributed to St. Paul.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.  (1 Corinthians 9:26)

While it’s true that boxing was a sport that ancient Romans and ancient Greeks enjoyed, and while it’s true that there are accounts of boxers beating the air prior to a boxing match, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this phrase.

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

Many A True Word Is Said In Jest

Posted by Admin on July 7, 2011

Have you ever been the brunt of a someone’s cutting remark only to have that person recant with the comment “just kidding” and a big grin on the speaker’s face?  All of us have found ourselves in that position from time to time.  Contrary to popular misconception, however, the “just kidding” comment only serves to take some of the sting out of what the speakers believes to be true about his or her subject.

Recently, on March 2, 2011 the Mail and Guardian newspaper in Cape Town carried a story about South African government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi and his comments about Indian South Africans.  The Democratic Alliance Federal Chairperson, Wilmot James, took Jimmy Manyi to task for his remarks.  The newspaper reported the following:

Contacted for comment on Wednesday, Manyi confirmed he had made the remarks in his Durban address, but said they were in jest.  “The remarks were made in jest; just a jest, on a light note. I was quoting figures at the time. The remark was really just made in jest,” he said.  He declined to comment further.

On May 7, 1905 the New York Times published a story their regular column, “The Financial Situation.”  The story addressed the large decline on Wall Street over the course of 14 days — larger than what had been seen in several months leading up to those two weeks.  It stated in part:

It may seem a sorry jest to those whose margins have run off, and who find themselves out on the sidewalk just as the fiddler scrapes a merrier tune.  And yet, many a true word is spoken in jest.

On January 30, 1849 in the Public Ledger newspaper of St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada), an article appeared where the identities of the parties involved was kept from readers.  The storyteller, however, regaled readers with a personal experience that began aboard the Washington steamer bound to New York where she met an English woman married to an American merchant from New York.  Years later, the storyteller read of the American merchant’s death in the obituaries and she wondered about the English woman she had met years ago.  As life would have it, the storyteller contracted yellow fever while living in New Orleans and her doctor advised her to return to England.  She set out towards New York but upon arriving there, she was so ill that she contacted a doctor that the English woman on the Washington steamer had mentioned in conversation.  The story ended with:

After prescribing for me, and receiving the customary fee of two dollars, he was about to leave the room; when a few words from me nailed him to the spot.  They were these, “Pray, Doctor, is Mrs. A— still in New York?”  He coloured slightly — looked first at me, then at his boots — at length said, “She is; and at my house; we were married a month ago.”  I was thunderstruck.  Many a true word is spoken in jest!

In Jonathan Swift’s “A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation In Several Dialogues” in published in 1738, the following exchange between Miss Notable, Colonel Atwit and Mr. Neverout is found:

MISS NOTABLE:
I vow, madam, I saw something in black; I thought it was a spirit.

COLONEL ATWIT:
Why, miss, did you ever see a spirit?

MISS NOTABLE:
No, sir; I thank God I never saw any thing worse than myself.

MR. NEVEROUT:
Well, I did a very foolish thing yesterday, and was a great puppy for my pains.

MISS NOTABLE:
Very likely; for they say, many a true word’s spoke in jest.

In “The Merry Man’s Resolution or A London Frollick” written by Thomas Joy, a ballad singer of Oxford, and found in the “Roxburghe Ballads” published in 1665, we read:

Be n’t angry with this fellow, I protest
That many a true word hath been spoke in jest.
By degrees he layes a wager, money’s scant
Until five shillings out; then ends his Rant.

In the book, “Proverbs in Scot” by J. Carmichael and published in 1628 the following proverb is found.  Keep in mind that in 1628, suith meant true and bourding meant jesting also known as joking or, more recently, kidding:

Manie suith word said in bourding.

The sense of the proverb, however, can be traced back to Geoffrey Chaucer and his “Monk’s Prologue I” found in his “Canterbury Tales” of 1390.  Again, the word sooth meant true and since the speaker mentions that truth is “ofte in game” we can take that to mean he is referring to jesting which we now know is kidding.

This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!”

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this expression “many a true word is said in jest” however that it would appear in the Canterbury Tales implies that it was common knowledge at the time putting the expression to at least the mid 1300s.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »