Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Punch’

Ignorance Is Bliss

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 1, 2018

Ignorance is bliss, or so some would have you believe. For those who offer this up as sage advice, it is usually because they feel the other person is more comfortable not knowing facts than knowing them. In other words, what you do not know, cannot hurt you.

The expression was very popular in the entertainment industry over the years.

Punk rockers, The Ramones included a song with this title on their “Brain Drain” CD in 1989. Hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar included a song with this title on his “Overly Dedicated” CD in 2010.  The BBC had a comedy quiz on radio from 1946 through to 1950 titled, “Ignorance Is Bliss” and in 2009, “House” had an episode with that title.

If you aren’t aware of the phrase’s history, perhaps it’s because ignorance is bliss in some instances. Or perhaps not.

The Jefferson County Post edition of 19 August 2013 published an article by the Editor in the Stranger Than Fiction column. The history of surgeries and medical procedures was the main theme, beginning with an introduction that spoke of doctors being far more responsible for President James Garfield’s death in 1881 than the assassin who fired a bullet and injured him. The title of the column was “Ignorance Is Bliss.”

In 1911, the phrase was used in Volume 12 of “The Post Office Clerk” in an article by New Yorker, C.P. Franciscus in his article “The Fallacy Of A Proverb.” The author saw fit to add an extra note directed specifically at the indifferent and apathetic members of the United National Association of Post Office Clerks in the hopes that it the article would “create a DOUBT of the correctness of theory and the stability of your attitude.”

This applies to all for notwithstanding our protestations of innocence, we know more than once. Remorse has tormented us and Conscience has compelled a plea of guilty — and usually we urge in extenuation our ignorance. Thus we see the fallacy of the oft quoted proverb “If ignorance is bliss ’tis folly to be wise.” Before quoting it again try to realize how utterly ridiculous and incompatible such sentiments are with truth. Ignorance is the handmaid of poverty, the companion of sloth, the paramour of disease, and the forerunner of dissolution and death. It is the weapon of the tyrant, the despot, the demagogue, and trickster. It has enslaved millions and still holds in bonds of serfdom countless thousands.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 1: Christopher C.P. Franciscus was a clerk of the New York Post Office as well as the president of the United National Association of Post Office Clerks. He was elected to the position in 1918.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2: The United National Association of Post Office Clerks was organized in 1899, and was created by merging the United National Association of Post Office Clerks with the National Association of Post Office Clerks.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3: The United National Association of Post Office Clerks was incorporated under the laws of Maryland on 25 January 1900 and its first president was Joseph P. Healy of New York City. The first national convention was held in Atlantic City, NJ from September 3 through 6, 1900 and saw 72 delegates representing 50 branches attend. The estimated membership at the time was 4,000 members.

In an 1850 edition of the Punch, or The London Charivari magazine, the question “Where is bliss to be found?” was asked and answered.

The poet who told us that “ignorance is bliss” was certainly right as far as pantomime bliss is concerned, for it would be much better to be ignorant of such bliss altogether. A walk through the “Halls of Happiness” after the curtain goes down, when clown is being released from the top of the pole, upon which his popularity has placed him, and the other heroes and heroines of the night descend from their uncomfortable elevation into the arms of the carpenters, while the fireman extinguishes the sparks still remaining with his heavy highlows, and prepares his hose for the night — such a ramble behind the scenes would afford sad proof of the emptiness of all theatrical felicity.

Even English writer and social critic Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) weighed in on the subject of ignorance being bliss. In Chapter VIII of “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club” where readers learned how Mr. Winkle shot at the pigeon and killed the crow, then shot at the crow and wounded the pigeon, and all manner of other interesting things, the expression is found.

They drew near the house. The ladies were at the garden-gate, waiting for their arrival and their breakfast. The spinster aunt appears; she smiled, and beckoned them to walk quicker. ‘Twas evident she knew not of the disaster. Poor thing! There are times when ignorance is bliss, indeed.

However, it was English poet, classical scholar, and Pembroke College professor, Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) who wrote “Ode On A Distance Prospect Of Eton College” in 1742 that was published by English bookseller, poet, and playwright Robert Dodsley (13 February 1704 – 23 September 1764) in 1747 that say the first publication of the expression where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.

In the end, ignorance isn’t really bliss unless not being in the know is somehow better.  All that being said, ignorance is bliss dates back to 1742 thanks to Thomas Gray and all those who came after him.

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Pay Your Money and Take Your Chances

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 18, 2018

When you pay your money and take your chances, this refers to the element of luck or risk involved in choosing or making a decision.  You realize you have no control over the results, and you accept the risk involved even though the end results may not be to your liking.  In some respects, it’s a bit like being asked to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.  You’ll get what you get.

In January 2017, Today’s Parent magazine published an article about gluten-free, vegan and raw diets and why infants should not be fed health fad diets.  Written by Aaron Hutchins and titled, “No, Your Baby Shouldn’t Be Vegan Or Gluten-Free” it dealt with parents who were turning their backs on conventional nutrition as well as conventional medicine — and to the detriment of their children.  The article quoted Toronto-based chiropractor Brian Gleberzon who had this to say about using chiropractors to address such health issues as colic:

“It’s the same principle with your dentist or your chiropractor or psychotherapist,” he says. “There’s no guarantee they can help you. You pay your money and take your chances.”

In November 5, 2004 edition of the New Zealand Herald, an article title, “All Is Fare in the Power Struggle for Whenuapai” took on the possible conflict of interest the government had in light of the fact it held 80 percent ownership in Air New Zealand and was determining public policy for Whenuapai that would see budget travelers headed to the Gold Coast instead.  Some points made about duplicate passenger facilities at Whenuapai and the inconvenience of domestic passengers transferring to international flight at Mangere, there were claims that red herrings had been thrown into the arguments against Whenuapai.

The Economic Development Minister, Jim Anderton, claimed people were getting carried away with their fears and concerns, and insisted there were alternative uses for the airport in question, and that it could become an industrial park.  He was quoted as saying:

“Everyone is talking about one possible use, but there could be others – from universities to racetracks. You pay your money and take your chances.”

The February 1964 edition of the New York Forester magazine provided insightful commentary from Judge Irving Edelberg who spoke on the “Legal Aspects of Public and Private Lands Used For Recreational Purposes.”  He addressed the issue of trespassing and the legal ramifications therein as well as the responsibilities involved with those who were licensees and those who were invitees.  An invitee was someone who was invited by the land owner to use his land recreationally, oftentimes solicited to visit and encourage to partake of the recreational facilities offered by the land owner.  The idiom was used to make a point about the rights of the invitee and the responsibilities of the land owner.

In some “sitting” recreation, the saying goes that you “pay your money and you take your chances.”  But where you are invited to the recreational use of land, whether or not you pay your money, the user’s rights and the owner’s liability are not a matter of chance.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  The New York Foresters were a chapter of the Society of American Foresters and were their chapter was headquartered at the Conservation Department, State Campus Site in Albany, New York.

The 1912 edition of the American Florist magazine included an article on the heating system for growers who focused on roses.  The writer of the piece made it clear that there was “little economy in buying a boiler when starting into business that will only take care of the amount of glass erected the first season, for as a matter of fact one usually increases the number of houses annually, and the return tubular type of boiler of from 50 to 100 H.P. will always be found to be the best investment.”

When the article got to mentioning return tubular boilers — the portable and the brick-set — and the virtues therein, the writer determined the two were comparable.  In fact, the writer stated this in his article, he put his own twist on the expression by writing:

There is very little difference in price, so you pay your money and take your choice.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2:  With regards to the portable boiler, that “with its self-contained firebox, ashpit and saddle attached, [and] is made in any desirable horsepower.  This boiler takes up comparatively little room and if well covered with asbestos will be found very handy and economical.”

Something worth taking note of is that between the 1910s and the 1960s, the word chance was substituted for the word choice.

It was in Volume 26 of “The United States Army and Navy Journal and Gazette of the Regular And Volunteer Forces” published on 3 November 1888 that a Letter to the Editor dated 20 September 1888 regarding modern artillery made use of the earlier version of the expression.  The writer of the letter — A.D. Schenck, 1st Lieutenant, 24 U.S. Artillery, Jackson Barracks, Louisiana — was concerned about an article published in an earlier edition that included tables relating to horse artillery guns, and the measure of mobility the artillery would have to secure to keep pace with its troops.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3:  A.D. Schenck was Alexander DuBois Schenck (27 October 1843 – 16 September 1905).  Born in Franklin County (OH), he enlisted on April 17, 1861 as a Private in the 1st Ohio Infantry, Company F and on August 31, 1861 he was moved to the 2nd Ohio Infantry, Company B. He was promoted to Sergeant on August 31, 1861, later on becoming a Lieutenant Colonel in the Artillery Corps of the U.S. Army. He died at Fort Stevens (OR) in 1905.  

What’s more, the writer of the letter made certain to underscore that his observations and opinion on the subject was not based upon the “experiences or judgment of this writer, but upon those of some of the most experienced and capable artillery officers in the French, German, and Russian services; in the latter case coupled with those of cavalry officers as to the character of horse artillery best suited to their requirements.”

The last paragraph o f his letter included the following comment:

These two very light field guns weigh the same, carry the same number of rounds, with very little difference in the weight of projectile, and both fire the same charge, giving the same muzzle energy.  But one has a “high” and the other a “very high” initial velocity.  To his customers it is evidently “you pay your money and take your choice.”  Any one who will examine the shrapnel and their relative effectiveness, and calculate the range tables of effective battle ranges, etc., will soon find a deal of difference in the power of those guns after the projectile leaves the muzzle and reaches battle ranges.

The first time the saying saw print was on page 18 of the June 3, 1846 edition of Punch magazine (Volume X, No. 16) in a cartoon entitled “The Ministerial Crisis.”  In the cartoon, a showman tells a customer, “Which ever you please, my little dear. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.”

The cartoon addressed the crisis over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1845, the same year the Potato Famine hit Ireland and Great Britain.  The British landowners were against the repeal as the law made the import of grain prohibitively expensive, resulting in profits for those landowners whose farms grew grains.  This situation caused government problems and John Peel resigned as Prime Minister in 1845.  Lord Stanley, leader of the Protectionists, refused to form a government.  Lord Russell’s efforts failed.  Queen Victoria finally asked John Peel to form the government again, which he did, and once the repeal narrowly passed, he resigned again.

But oh! that certainly did cause an ongoing ruckus during the months this brouhaha was going on!

It’s believed by some the expression was a common stallholder’s cry to customers, and Cockney in origin.  Still others believe it was the showman’s call to customers to see the show, and still Cockney in origin.  The bottom line is the phrase existed before it was used in the 1846 cartoon Punch magazine published, as the magazine believed its audience would understand the idiom’s meaning without need for additional explanation.

In the early 1800s, the concept of taking your choice meant you were faced with a dilemma and you had to choose what you felt was the best from all that was being offered.  Idiomation therefore dates this idiom back to at least the 1820s based the cartoon and the belief by so many that its origins are rooted in Cockney slang which started in the early 19th century and was recognized as an established language in 1840 among market traders, costermongers (sellers of fruit and vegetables from handcarts) and street hawkers on the streets of London.

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