Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Quebec Saturday Budget’

Gerrymander

Posted by Admin on February 25, 2013

From time to time, you may hear the term gerrymander or gerrymandering and wonder what it means. The expression is both a verb and a noun: the action of shaping a district to gain political advantage, and any representative elected from such a district by that method.

On March 1, 2006 the New York Times ran an Editorial that addressed the issue of the redrawn election districts in Texas in 2003. It was alleged that the new boundaries gave an unfair and unconstitutional edge to the Republican party and allegedly violated the Voting Rights Act. The piece was entitled:

The Texas Gerrymander

Backing up to January 24, 1961 the Deseret News published a news article about a decision arrived at by U.S. Judge Irving R. Kaufman with regards to school district lines for the 1961-1962 school year. Parents of Lincoln School felt that their constitutional rights, as well as their children’s, had been violated. The article was brief and stated:

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the New Rochelle, N.Y. board of education gerrymandered school district lines to establish an all-Negro school in that suburban Westchester County City.

The expression wasn’t just used in American newspapers, and found its way into the Sydney Morning Herald of February 17, 1927 in a news story about the House of Lords in London, England two days earlier. Readers were greeted with this introduction to the matter:

In the House Of Commons to-day during the debate on the Estimates a discussion arose about reform of the House of Lords. Colonel Gerald Hurts (Con.) moved a motion in favour or reducing the hereditary character of the Upper House. Professor Lees Smith (Labour) moved an amendment declaring that the proposed changes in the House of Lords were intended to gerrymander the Constitution in the interests of the Conservative party.

When the Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper of November 19, 1892 ran a story entitled, “Looks Like A Gerrymander” readers were treated to detailed information about the official returns of the U.S. Presidential election. Among many details provided were these:

It is worthy of remark that at the election Cleveland’s total of pluralities in all the States combined amounted to 576,158, while Harrison’s was only 478,141. That in face of this Harrison secured about 50 per cent more votes than Cleveland in the electoral college would seem to show that the Republicans are well posted in the mysteries of the gerrymander. The showing was something similar at the present election.

But while the term was understood in the major English-speaking countries, history proves that the term gerrymander was inspired by an 1812 Massachusetts redistricting scheme that favored the party of Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry.

In April 1812, one of the redrawn election districts (created by members of Governor Gerry’s party in 1812) reminded newspaper painter Gilbert Stuart so much of a salamander, that he added a head, wings, and claws to the outline. The creature was quickly dubbed by the Editor of the Massachusetts Spy newspaper as a Gerrymander and not a salamander.

Originally, the term referred only to the district, however, within the month on May 12, 1812 the Massachusetts Spy newspaper reported:

An official statement of the returns of voters for senators give[s] twenty nine friends of peace, and eleven gerrymanders.

This is the definitive starting point for the word gerrymander.

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

Diamond In The Rough

Posted by Admin on December 16, 2010

The phrase “diamond in the rough” pertains to a person or an item that has potential that, to the untrained eye, is overlooked or missed completely.  The Japanese have a saying that’s not dissimilar to the phrase “diamond in the rough” — a jewel, unless polished, will not sparkle (tama migakasareba hikari nashi).

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875 – 1955) was responsible for establishing the Bethune Nursery School — the first child care centre in Lynchburg (Virginia) — in February 1936.  She gave the school its motto: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows, it might be a diamond in the rough.” Almost a century later, Mary Bethune Academy as it’s now known, believes this as much now as when the Nursery School first threw open its doors.

On February 3, 1877, the Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper ran an article about the annual anniversary meeting of the Young Men’s Christian Association held the previous Thursday in the Music Hall.  The audience was said to be very large, select and appreciative and the Hall was said to be well heated.  In the report, readers found the following:

There he was taken hold of by good John Currie, himself a brand snatched from the burning, a diamond in the rough — a good, honest, faithful, trusting Christian, who received just such men into his house, although he scarcely ever knew where he was going to get his next meal, and prayed over them until they were brought to God.  This young engineer was now leading a sober life, — a gem of Christian piety and Godly service.

The phrase is a figurative interpretation of the literal meaning as it pertains to unpolished state of diamonds, especially those that have the potential to demand the highest prices once polished.  The first recorded implied use of the phrase “diamond in the rough” can be found in John Fletcher’s A Wife For A Month written in 1624, where the author writes:

She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.

Diamond is from the early 14th century from the Old French word diamant, which is from the Middle Latin word, diamantem.  This Latin word is from an even older Latin word, adamantem which means “the hardest metal.” As a side note, the word “adamant” is from this same Latin word.

Rough is from the Old English word ruh which means “rough, untrimmed, uncultivated.” This hails from the Germanic word rukhwaz which means rough.   As a side note, use of the word rough to mean “approximate” is first recorded in 1600. 

Based on the etymology of the words “diamond” and “rough” it is reasonable to assume that it is highly unlikely any author before John Fletcher made use of the phrase prior to the publication of his book.

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

Fat Of The Land

Posted by Admin on September 14, 2010

When a person has the best of everything in life, word has it that he or she is living off the fat of the land.  So how did come to mean that and from where does the phrase, the fat of the land,  originate?

In a news story published in the The Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper on February 8, 1890 in a story entitled, “On Behalf of Ireland’s Cause: The American Press to be Bought With British Gold to Malign the League” the story read in part:

The Chicago Times of the second instant, says editorially ‘hold no convention, is the advice to the executive of the National League in America from the gentlemen over the sea, but send us more money.  As to the money part, that has been the cry from time immemorial.  Since 1886, this one agency of the League alone has collected a quarter of a million of money and the demand is for more.  Men who are living as Members of the British Parliament on funds raised in America, and living on the fat of the land, or gossip does them great injustice, will naturally cry with the horse-leech’s daughter ‘Give, give.’

In the 1500s, the fat of something was considered to be the best or richest part.  In fact, if you read any of the recipes from that time period, you will soon appreciate the fact that fat was where it was at! 

But in the end, this phrase is from The Bible as well in Genesis 45:17-18 where it is written:

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye: lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;  And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Jewish, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »