Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Richard M. Nixon’

Clean As A Hound’s Tooth

Posted by Admin on February 20, 2013

The saying clean as a hound’s tooth means that an individual or group of individuals is above-board and honest, transparent and forthcoming. It can also refer to cleanliness and spotlessness … immaculate, in fact.

On February 16, 1971 the Lewiston Morning Tribune printed an article about the efforts put into bailing out the Penn Central railroad the previous summer, when it was experiencing financial difficulties. It came to light that Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans had a substantial amount of his own money at stake in having the railroad subsidized with a federal loan guarantee, and since he was involved on both sides of the fence, a conflict of interest existed. The article was entitled, “Not As Clean As A Hound’s Tooth” and ended with this sentence:

It must be most embarrassing to President Nixon, who once made the old phrase, “clean as a hound’s tooth,” famous all over America.

The old phrase was also a favorite of Dwight Eisenhower according to the Spokesman-Review, in an article published on June 24, 1958 entitled, “Phrase-Makers Relax; Use Up Reserve Stocks.” The story, republished from the New York Times, referred to the previous week as one that would be remembered for its metaphor glue, and perhaps as the great cliché festival.

On that day in Chicago, Adlai E. Stevenson, who in 1952 came to prominence as an eschewer of the ready-made phrase in favor of originality, accused Adams of “holier-than-those self-righteousness.”

Stevenson also made contemptuous reference to President Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign promise of government “clean as a hound’s tooth” which, of course, was the President’s phrase, not Stevenson’s.

The expression was used in a newspaper advertisement in the Vancouver Sun newspaper on March 19, 1931 promoting the “utterly odorless” Canadian made Bon Ami powder and cake. It read in part:

Just try it. You’ll be amazed. A little Bon Ami — a damp cloth — a few months’ time — and your woodwork will be clean as a hound’s tooth.” It won’t be scratched either, nor will your hands be reddened.

In the story “Whirligigs” by American author, O. Henry (1862–1910) and published in 1910, the following passage can be found:

“My precinct is as clean as a hound’s tooth,” said the captain. “The lid’s shut down as close there as it is over the eye of a Williamsburg girl when she’s kissed at a party. But if you think there’s anything queer at the address, I’ll go there with ye.”

On the next afternoon at 3, Turpin and the captain crept softly up the stairs of No. 345 Blank Street. A dozen plain-clothes men, dressed in full police uniforms, so as to allay suspicion, waited in the hall below.

Jumping back just a few more years, when the November 9, 1897 edition of the New York Times reported in the article, “Street Cleaning For The Next Four Years” that:

The department must be kept as clean as a hound’s tooth.

Now American frontiersman, Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson (December 24, 1809 – May 23, 1868) lived in Taos, New Mexico from 1828 to 1831, and according to PBS and the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau at least one of Kit Carson’s acquaintances said that Kit Carson was clean as a hound’s tooth.

And in fact, American military officer and explorer, John Charles Fremont (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890) hired Kit Carson as a guide (at a $100 per month) to take his expedition through the South Pass in Wyoming. When asked his opinion of Kit Carson, he was quoted as saying that Kit Carson was as morally clean as a hound’s tooth.

In the “Journal of Llewellin Penrose: A Seaman” written by William Williams, and originally published in 4 volumes in 1783, the following is found:

I thought every minute of their absence an hour, so great was my anxiety. In about four hours they returned, and gave the following account of their expedition  Bell said he found her to be Bermudian built sloop; she mounted guns, and had altogether a warlike appearance; her bottom was as white as a hound’s tooth. As they drew near her, he plainly heard some one say i English, “a rope for the boat,” with an oath tacked to the end of it. He then hailed them in Spanish, and was answered in the same language.

The date for the expression clean as a hound’s tooth is therefore pegged at some time between 1783 and 1800, allowing for a few years so the new version could make its way into the English language.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tune In

Posted by Admin on June 20, 2011

The phrase “tune in, turn on and drop out” was THE buzz phrase kicked off by Dr. Timothy Leary on September 19 1966.  The man most associated with encouraging an entire generation to drop acid — LSD — made the most of the expression “tune in” which means “to pay attention or be receptive to other’s beliefs or thoughts.”  By the time Timothy Leary spoke to over 30,000 hippies at the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, the buzz phrase had been turned around a bit and was now “turn on, tune in, drop out.”  The meaning of “tune in” however remained unchanged.

When the October 9, 1960 edition of the Miami News hit the streets, it carried an article written by Clarke Ash, Sunday Editor of the newspaper, about Round 2 of the “Great Debate” between then-Senator John F. Kennedy and then-Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.  The headline read:  “The Decision? Tune In Next Month.”

A generation before that, and with the phrase growing in popularity, the Portsmouth Times ran a story on January 25, 1936 entitled, “Tune In On Al Smith.”  The Al Smith in question was former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith with his message of constructive government and sound Americanism.

On May 24, 1929 the Spokesman Review newspaper of Spokane, Washington published an article entitled “Classics Furnish New Words.”  It indicates that the expression “tune in” was part of the vernacular in 1929 and understood by newspaper subscribers.  The article read in part:

With the correct logical training that comes almost imperceptibly as one reads an inflected language, there goes along with it in Latin and Greek the matter of important, interesting and exhilarating content.  To tune in mentally with Homer, Euripides, Lucretius or Vergil is a real experience.  It has been often done.  The saddest thing about it is, of course, that those who don’t do it, can’t see it.

Radio hit a fevered pitch as the new “in thing” for households in 1922.  The New York Times along with other notable major newspapers began running radio columns to keep their readers in the know about the new medium.  In fact, radio editor Lloyd C. Greene of the Boston Daily Globe wrote a column on September 10, 1922 about the success of single tube radios and their users in the story “Citizen Radio Broadcasts.”

I have been interested in reading the different articles on remarkable reception appearing in the Globe as I myself have been experimenting with a single tube outfit with more or less success.

He added that “all could be tuned in at will by varying the value of the secondary condenser.”  And so began the induction of the phrase into every day language.

The expression was picked up by flappers and such and injected into the jargon of that generation and so successfully that the Boston Daily Globe edition of May 8, 1921 ran an article entitled, “Movie Facts and Fancies” which that identified “tune in” as part of the “new slang evolved through the popularity of the motion picture.”

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

Horse Of A Different Color

Posted by Admin on April 26, 2011

If you’re told that what you’re suggesting is a horse of a different color, what the person means is that the subject you’re talking about is a different matter or separate issue altogether. 

In the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, Dorothy and Toto along with the Strawman, The Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion find themselves at the gates of the Emerald City. They experience more than just a little difficulty convincing the Guardian of the Emerald City Gates to let them in.  When they finally convince him to let them in, he says:

Well, bust my buttons! Why didn’t you say that in the first place? That’s a horse of a different color! Come on in!

Once inside, the next scene shows the group in a horse-drawn carriage and the horse, of course, changes colour from shot to shot.  Dorothy remarks to the driver, “What kind of a horse is that? I’ve never seen a horse like that before!” And the driver responds, “No, and never will again, I fancy. There’s only one of him, and he’s it. He’s the Horse of a Different Color you’ve heard tell about.”

Back on August 2, 1959 the Daily Reporter newspaper of Spender, Iowa published a news story entitled, “Reds Will Live In Era Of Fear If Aggression Continues — Nixon.”  The story was about then Vice-President Richard M. Nixon who addressed the Soviet people in a TV-radio address that was listened to by millions of citizens as he commented on the Soviet foreign policy.

The vice-president took strong exception to the slogan “Let us work for the victory of communism” which he saw frequently on his tour.

“If Mr. Khrushchev means by this slogan working for a better life for the people within the Soviet Union that is one thing,” Nixon said.  “If, on the other hand, he means the victory of communism over the United States and other countries this is a horse of a different color.  For we have our own ideas as to what system is best for us.”

On July 21, 1900, the Montreal Gazette carried a story that was originally published in the New York Times entitled, “An Albany Strike: Working Of An Old Trick In The Legislature.”  It reported on Legislature Assemblyman Leon Sanders of the 12th Assembly District who introduced a bill making it a misdemeanor for any telegraph or telephone company doing business in the state of New York to furnish keepers of poolrooms or other gambling resorts any information about racing, and what ensued after the bill was “allowed to go on its way in the Assembly.”  Things began to get out of hand shortly afterwards and led to an inquiry.

The poolroom keeper made just a feeble kick when the agent got him in a corner.  He tried to point out that if the poolrooms were really closed up, the Gambling Commission would have lost its source of greatest revenue.  Then the agents told the room keepers that the commission could go hang, and that this was “a horse of different color“; that the senators at Albany were in a bad way, indeed: that they needed the money — in fact, they protector among the rest — and that it was good-bye to the poolroom business unless they got it.

Up until the mid-1800s the expression was actually a “horse of that color” The original expression points out similarities between topics while the newer expression points out differences.

The original expression dates back to William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night where in Act 2, Scene 3 Maria schemes with Sir Andrew and Sir Toby Belch against Malvolio.

MARIA
My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.

SIR ANDREW
And your horse now would make him an ass.

MARIA
Ass, I doubt not.

SIR ANDREW
O, ’twill be admirable!

Shakespeare used the phrase, as he oftentimes did, as a play on words which indicates that the phrase a “horse of a different color” most likely existed prior to the “horse of that color.” 

This makes sense since knights in medieval tournaments rode different-colored horses in races so that spectators could tell which knight was their knight. We know from historical documents that gambling was a favourite pastime in Medieval times and so it is not unreasonable to believe that those who lost bets in tournaments would be told of their loss with news that a “horse of a different color” was victorious.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Horse Of A Different Color