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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Nixon’

Hold The Line

Posted by Admin on December 11, 2013

When you hold the line, you make sure you maintain an existing opinion, position, or status regardless of what outside or opposing forces may try to do. Even the military has a mission referred to as a Hold The Line mission.

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported on what was going on in Murrysville in their November 20, 2013 edition. It was all about mills and taxes: mills for the general tax rate, mills for capital improvements, mills for municipal debt repayment, mills for road improvements. It seemed that if there was a mill, there was a discussion. The opening paragraph read as follows:

Murrysville council members reviewed recommendations from the administration to hold the line on taxes for the coming year, giving unanimous approval Wednesday night to advertise an ordinance setting the tax rate at 12.15 mills for 2014.

Back on December 1, 1971 the Spokesman-Review reported on President Richard Nixon’s announced intention to veto his own tax cut bill. It seems that what had happened to the President’s bill was that the Senate attached additional provisions to the bill that, if the bill went through, would result in another $11 billion dollars added to the deficit. The story was entitled, “Hold The Line.”

During World War II, what was happening on the front was vigorously reported in the newspapers regardless of what country was reporting on the war. The Calgary Herald edition of October 27, 1941 carried international news that was cabled from the Calgary Herald‘s London bureau courtesy of the London Times. As the Russian campaign continued, battles raged near Rostov-on-Don anda round Kharkov. The Germans hoped to reach Roslov to cut the main railway line from the Caucasus to Moscow. The report included this news byte:

When the Red armies failed to hold the line of the lower Dnieper, German forces, with the aid of Hungarians, Rumanians and Italians were able to undertake a determined eastward drive and Marshal Budenny had no adequate line of defence available until he reached the River Don.

When the New York Times ran an article entitled, “Boxers Engaged In Big Battle” on June 8, 1900 many were alarmed at the events unfolding in China. The article claimed that the Daily Express had sent the following dispatch from Shanghai on June 7 with regards to the results of the Dowager Princess’s orders to General Neih-Si-Chong to take 3,000 men and protest the railroad at Peking. British was unable to send more than 900 troops as they were involved with the situation in South Africa, and the United States was urged to act. The article included this information:

Attempts to repair the damage to the railway between Tien-Twin and Peking have been frustrated by the Boxers who, thousands strong, hold the line against the engineers, gangs attacking the trains arriving.

Another show of force was reported in the American and Commercial Advertiser of August 23, 1864 — thanks to the New York Tribune newspaper — this time with regards to the skirmishes of the Fifth Corps against Rebel forces at Weldon Railroad just below Petersburg. The focus of this mission was to destroy the road completely this time. It was seen as a successful mission no three counts: It resulted in greater losses being inflicted than suffered; it prevented the Rebel forces from sending more troops into the Valley; and Fifth Corps achieved its main objective. The newspaper story reported the following in part:

Exactly one half of all the Rebel forces in Virginia are in the Shenandoah Valley awaiting Heridan. The other half hold the line from Richmond to Petersburg. From Gen. Birney’s Headquarters, the right of the line of operations, to Gen. Warren’s, the extreme left, is a distance of over twenty-five miles by the shortest roads. The whole distance is entrenched and two large rivers straddled. Grant having much the larger army, can afford to stretch the line of operations and thus attenuate Lee’s forces.

Jumping back to 1805, the idiom was used in “The Vindication of Mr. Maurice’s Modern India” also known as “A Vindication of the Modern History of Hindostan From The Gross Misrepresentations, And Illiberal Strictures of the Edinburgh Reviewers” by schoolmaster and former chaplain to the 87th regiment, Thomas Maurice. In his book, he wrote:

It seems however, by the Edinburgh standard of criticism, at least, that an author can no longer be permitted to mark out for himself the outline of any work which he may meditate, or of the limits by which his prudence may lead him to bound, or his temerity to extend his excursion in the wide field of literary research. The Reviewer must hold the line of demarcation, and let the author transgress it at his peril. The direst anathemas of critical vengeance, infallibly attend the slightest deviation.

The word hold is from the Old English word geheald which means keeping, custody, or guard and dates back to 1200, and the word line (as in demarcation) dates back to the middle of the 15th century. That being said, it doesn’t seem that the words met up and became an idiom until later. Although the idiom was used easily in Thomas Maurice’s book, and research hints at the idiom being used in the early 1700s, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version than the one in 1805. Taking into account that those who read Thomas Maurice’s book would have understood what he mean when he used the expression hold the line, it is most likely that the idiom hit its stride two generations prior to the publication date, putting it somewhere in the 1750s.

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Hit The Nail On The Head

Posted by Admin on October 23, 2013

When you hear that someone in a discussion has hit the nail on the head it means that the person has driven the point home, having summed it up in a few, understandable words or sentences. It’s oftentimes used in politics and business, but even in everyday conversation, you’ll hear people talk about those who have hit the nail on the head.

When the political debates of 2010 were the rage in the media, everyone watched as Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Senator Rick Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul discussed matters in a televised debate anchored by George Stephanopolous and Diane Sawyer. When the transcripts were released, what people thought they had heard could be checked against the written word. In the transcripts, Rick Perry was quoted as having said:

Yeah, well, I — I’m — I’m stunned, ’cause — the fact of the matter is, you know, Michele kinda hit the nail on the head when we talked about the individual mandate. Both of these gentlemen have been for the — individual mandate. And I’m even more stunned, Mitt, that you said you wished you could’ve talked to Obama and said — “You’re goin’ down the wrong path,” because that is exactly the path that you’ve taken Massachusetts.

Politics seems to make liberal use of the expression, including in the September 26, 1972 article “Political Tools” published in the Milwaukee Sentinel. The news story addressed the presidential campaign of that year, which saw George McGovern going head-to-head against then-President Richard Nixon. Four paragraphs into the article, the following was written:

Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird hit the nail on the head when he said that “it is a despicable act of a presidential candidate to make himself a spokesman for the enemy.” One news account called Laird’s observation “some of the harshest rhetoric of the 1972 presidential campaign.” Considering some of the rhetoric Desperate George [McGovern] has engaged in, particularly comparing Nixon to Adolf Hitler, this characterization os Laird’s remark is a gross misstatement of the facts.

Again with a political reference, the Evening Independent newspaper published a story entitled, “Hitchcock Sends Ultimatum He Will Take Issue To Upper Chamber If Compromise Fails” on January 27, 1920. In sharing news of the failure of the bipartisan conference in Washington, DC to reach a compromise, resulting in the peace treaty ratification fight that was ongoing in the Senate, this was reported:

Senator Hitchcock declined to speculate on the possibility of so early a renewal of hostilities but most Democrats declared nothing was to be gained by further secret conferences.

“It looks as if the jig’s up,” declared Senator McNary, Republican, Oregon, a leader of the “mild reservations” group, and this seemed to hit the nail on the head, in the opinion of most senators.

Things didn’t change much in the years leading up to 1920, as shown in the news article “Republication Ratification Meeting” in the Boston Evening Transcript of September 27, 1883. The story was about a meeting held to give feedback on the level of satisfaction with the action of the Sate Republican Convention’s choice of candidates. An extensive piece, halfway down the fourth column readers were greeted by this from J.M. Forbes who could not be in attendance, but who sent his thoughts in a letter that was read aloud by Henry Packman, had this to say about nominee, George D. Robinson:

The brilliant orator, the ally and mouthpiece of the faction, whose shining words everybody reads, has for once hit the nail on the head and proclaimed the truth, that there is room for only two parties in this State, and that we must choose between the two, leaving all minor issues for future consideration. We accept his and their challenge, and declare …”

The letter goes on for a bit, outlining five major points, but the article continues for another two columns before finally signing off.

Various reputable sources claim that the expression — meaning a person is communicating effectively or gets to the point — dates back to the early 16th century without providing proof to substantiate that claim.  But Idiomation continue to research for sources and English dramatists Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher yielded up the phrase. Together, they wrote an early 17th century comedic stage play entitled “Love’s Cure” in 1612, then revised it in 1625, and finally published it in 1647. It was also known as “The Martial Maid.” In Act II, scene 1 of this play, regardless of which version you read, you will find the following:

METALDI
I give Place : the Wit of Man is wonderful.
thou hast hit the Nail on the Head,
and I will give thee six Pots for’t,
tho’ I ne’er clinch Shooe again.

French Renaissance writer, doctor, humanist, monk and scholar, François Rabelais (4 February 1494 – 9 April 1553) wrote “The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel.” The third book, “Le Tiers Livre” in which the passage appears was published in 1546. In Chapter XXXIV, readers find the idiom in this passage:

Let us come to where we left off, quoth Panurge. Your words, being translated from the clapper-dudgeons to plain English, do signify that it is not very inexpedient that I marry, and that I should not care for being a cuckold. You have there hit the nail on the head. I believe, master doctor, that on the day of my marriage you will be so much taken up with your patients, or otherwise so seriously employed, that we shall not enjoy your company. Sir, I will heartily excuse your absence.

Despite ongoing research, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of the expression which appears unchanged over the centuries. It is therefore, highly probably that the expression dates back to at least the early 1500s as reputable sources claim, especially in light of that fact that it was used with easy by François Rabelais.

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Head Over Heels

Posted by Admin on August 19, 2013

You may have heard someone you know say he or she is head over heels in love with someone or something. They may be standing right before you making it obvious they are literally head over heels, but what does the idiom mean? What it means is that they are completely enamored with a person or an idea or an item. They may be obsessed or infatuated or engaged or any number of things when it comes to that person, idea or item, but whatever the emotion may be, it’s intense and encompassing. In other words, it has turned the speaker’s world upside down … the opposite of what he or she is used to feeling.

When it comes to love, no one seems immune.  Of course, rumor has it that the bigger they are, the harder they fall!  On April 18, 2008 the New York Daily News ran with a story by feature writer, Nicole Carter, that made the world sit up and take notice of what was going on in Russia. It seemed that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was divorcing his wife at the time, was involved with an Olympic Gymnast named Alina Kabayeva. As with many scandals that erupt at the most inopportune time, it came with a snappy headling: “Why Vladimir Putin Fell Head Over Heels In Love With Gymnast.”

Considering that the words in love are added to the idiom indicates that there are times when someone can be head over heels and the expression has little (or nothing) to do with love.  As we have all heard, politics makes for strange bedfellows and back on January 25, 1956 the Lewiston Evening Journal shared the news that something odd was going on in the world of American politics. While few details could be pulled from the article entitled, quite simply, “For Nixon” it began with this eye-opener!

For whatever a poll is worth — the California Republicans are head-over-heels for Vice President Richard Nixon if President Eisenhower doesn’t rerun. So says the daily newspaper, Los Angeles Times. If Ike should run, majorities in both parties are for him.

Back in April 1922, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation released a movie to theaters that starred Mabel Normand, Hugh Thompson and Russ Powell. The movie told the story of three men involved in the life of a perky Italian acrobat who has come to America at a theatrical agent’s bidding. Interestingly enough, because the acrobat is such an adorable spitfire, there’s mayhem a plenty, and maybe more than even she expected when she falls for the theatrical agent’s partner. While it’s true this movie is from the silent movies era, the intertitles didn’t detract from the movie that was known as “Head Over Heels.”

The New York Times has always published articles of political interest to a wide cross-section of its readership. It’s a long-held tradition that can be seen in this article dated May 9, 1860 dealing with the American Anti-Slavery Society and it’s 27th anniversary held at the Cooper Institute. Most of the attendees who half-filled the institute were women. The gathering put forth resolutions condemning slavery. When Wendell Phillips stepped up to the podium to speak, he had a great deal to say about the situation including this quote attributed to a Mr. Seward:

Let it be marked that they (the Abolitionists) didn’t know anything, that they were turned head over heels with their passions — couldn’t see an inch beyond their own ignorance and mistakes — were mere boys — madmen — strong-minded men and women, who did not know anything.

When David Crockett wrote his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee” which was published by Carey, Hart & Co. in 1834. As he wrote about his early days as a young man, fond memories surfaced including this one:

The next day, I went back to my old friend, the Quaker, and set in to work for him for some clothes; for I had now worked a year without getting any money at all, and my clothes were nearly all worn out, and what few I had left were mighty indifferent. I worked in this way for about two months; and in that time a young woman from North Carolina, who was the Quaker’s niece, came on a visit to his house. And now I am just getting on a part of my history that I know I never can forget. For though I have heard people talk about hard loving, yet I reckon no poor devil in this world was ever cursed with such hard love as mine has always been, when it came on me. I soon found myself head over heels in love with this girl, whose name the public could make no use of; and I thought that if all the hills about there were pure chink, and all belonged to me, I would give them if I could just talk to her as I wanted to; but I was afraid to begin, for when I would think of saying any thing to her, my heart would begin to flutter like a duck in a puddle; and if I tried to outdo it and speak, it would get right smack up in my throat, and choak me like a cold potatoe.

But he certainly wasn’t the first to use the idiom. In fact, the idiom in years leading up to Davey Crockett’s autobiography was usually intended to mean that an individual had been hit with such force that it toppled him over as evidenced in Herbert Lawrence’s book, “The Contemplative Man, or The History of Christopher Crab, Esq., of North Wales” published by J. Whiston in 1771. Rather than describe a romantic encounter, Herbert Lawrence wrote this:

He gave such a violent involuntary kick in the Face, as drove him Head over Heels.

Oddly enough, an earlier variant of the idiom head over heels appears to be heels over head as seen in the Medieval poem, “Patience” from the 14th century:

ORIGINAL TEXT
He [Jonah] glydez in by þe giles, þur glaymande glette … Ay hele ouer hed hourlande aboute.

TRANSLATION
He [Jonah] passed in by the gills, through sticky slime … All heels over head tumbling about.

In the end, however, the idiom seems to originate in Ancient Rome when Roman poet, Gaius Valerius Catallus (84 – 54 BC) wrote his seventeenth poem in “Catulli carmina.” It reads in part:

quendam municipem meum de tuo volo ponte
ire praecipitem in lutum per caputque pedesque,
verum totius ut lacus putidaeque paludis
lividissima maximeque est profunda vorago.

The passage per caputque pedesque translates to over head and heels. So while the more modern romantic version goes to Davey Crocket in 1834, while the original idiom goes to Catallus

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

Well-Heeled

Posted by Admin on August 12, 2013

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know if you were well-heeled? Being well-heeled means you live in fortunate circumstances and are prosperous. The opposite of being well-heeled then would be to live in abject poverty, also known as being down at the heels.

Vrinda Gopnath wrote an article entitled, “Well-heeled American Travelers Discover India” for the Indian Express newspaper on September 10, 2005 that discussed the life experience stylists from a number of tour houses that comprised the Travel-Leisure Travel Agent Advisory Board.  With the exchange rate being favorable for American tourists to visit India coupled with the fact it was a politically safe destination, India became a hot spot for Americans looking for to escape to somewhere exotic. The article began by saying:

India has finally caught the attention of the well-heeled American tourist. A multi-million dollar industry in the US, high-end tourism is looking beyond Europe at Indian shores. An eight-member delegation of the Travel+Leisure Travel Agent Advisory Board, the ritziest travel magazine in the US, are in the capital to promote India as a high-end destination to American deep pockets.

In the Column In Brief published in the St. Petersburg Times of July 19, 1974, Rowland Evans and Robert Novak announced that well-heeled suburbanites were terrified of blue-collar workers during the inflationary times in which they lived. Upper middle class voters were said to have a mood of panic about the economy that was usually reserved for working class voters. What’s more, the residents polled in Westchester County were in favor of impeaching their President and wondered why Congress hadn’t done so yet. The article, of course, was entitled, “Well-heeled Suburbanites Turn Against Nixon.”

Back in 1956, readers of the Miami News wondered where Russians went on vacation and the July 18 edition of the newspaper provided answers to that question in an article entitled, “Well-Heeled Commies At Resorts.” Russians, it was reported, traveled south to the Caucasus Mountains, and settle in down in Yalta and Sochi on the Black Sea. What was interesting was the exchange that reporter Earl Wilson had with one Russian woman.

This is indeed a high-rent district they come to and there are many well-heeled Commies hereabouts. A woman bank manager about to retire on half pay told me she has a car, private home, and money in the bank.

“Why, you’re a capitalist,” I said.

“Yes, I suppose I am,” she laughed.

On November 27, 1922 the Rochester Evening Journal journalist Fay King had a go at financially secure widows whose behavior seemed to give Europeans the wrong idea of Americans. The article was entitled, “Fay King Lays Dollar Dumbells Who Disgrace U.S. Abroad” and the journalist spared no OpEd expense expressing an opinion on the subject of those who “packed themselves off bag and baggage to spend war profiteerings and bootlegacies in poor war-ripped France.” The article included this paragraph:

I cringe in my chair with humiliation every time I lamp a photograph showing some silly old dame dolled up in a comic valentine creation parading the bullebards of Paris and labelled “an American.” Or some other well heeled half-wit who lugs her deceased American husband’s fortune over and lays it at the shrine of some decayed family crest!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary claims that the first known use of the word well-heeled is from 1897 but Idiomation begs to differ on that point.

Back on May 17, 1892 the Warsaw Daily Times reported on labor troubles at stone quarries in New England as 20,000 men were locked out by quarry owners with another 50,000 ordered by the labor leaders of New York to quit, and the prospect of another 30,000 sitting idle a real possibility before the strike was settled. The owners felt certain they could out wait the workers, but the workers felt differently about it.

At the Bay View works yesterday morning little knots of strikers were gathered near the polishing mill and the company’s office. They claimed that they were given a fifteen-minute notice of lockout, instead of three months, as agreed upon. “We are well heeled,” said one, “and will hang out as long as we can.”

One of the best examples of the use of the expression well-heeled was found in The Weekly Press of September 15, 1876 that went to great lengths to describe the assets of Saris Birchard of Fremont, Ohio. Poor Sardis had passed on and the newspaper printed his will dated January 29, 1874 in its entirety. But the crux of the story was that the will was the cause of considerable discord, with Governor Hayes, acting as executor of the will, weighing in on the matter by saying clearly the intent of the deceased was for money to exchange hands, not property. The judge, however, was concerned about the governor’s handling of the estate, citing that, contrary to the law, an account of the Governor Hayes’ stewardship as it pertained to the estate had never been filed as required by law. It was a difficult situation rendered all the more difficult by the vastness of the deceased man’s assets which were described in part at the onset of the article.

The fortune of Sardis Birchard was never definitely known by the people among whom he lived. There was a tradition that it crowded hard upon the heels of half a million  and there was never any disclaimer put out against such reports. It was known that he owned the controlling share of the First National Bank of this city, something like $30,000 or $40,000; that he held a cartload or less of mortgages, from which he derived a good income; that he had broad acres and limitless lots elsewhere beyond the borders of this county; that he made a pretty good thing on his third of the profits of the board of which he was president, and that, in short, Sardis Birchard was what would be generally designated as a man mighty well heeled.

At this point, Idiomation was unable to find further published examples of newspaper accounts or books using the expression. However, that it should be used within the context of the article published in 1876 indicates that he newspaper’s readers certainly understood its meaning. For this reason, Idiomation dates the expression to sometime in the 1850s.

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Water Under The Bridge

Posted by Admin on July 24, 2013

Whenever you hear someone say it’s all water under the bridge, it’s just another way of saying that a problem or unpleasant situation has been addressed, and is best left in the past. Yes, whatever the problem was, it’s considered by everyone to be forgiven and, quite possibly, forgotten as well. So whenever you hear those words, you can be at peace knowing that whatever event you’re agonizing over is no longer an issue for all parties involved.

Back on May 12, 2011, The Libertines frontman, Carl Barat was quoted in the Glasgow, Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper as saying that a band reunion wasn’t in the cards for fans of the band. It had everything to do with the bad blood between Pete Doherty and himself. In the interview, he added:

We are all in very different places. Right now is not the time for The Libertines. I thought the water under the bridge was under the bridge, bug may it’s not. It’s a very hard thing. Every time we talk, it just brings it back up.

The expression was used in Vadim Bytensky’s book “Journey From St. Petersburg” published in 2007 by AuthorHouse. The book told the story of how the author returned to Russia in the 1990s, and witnessed how everything had changed since he had last seen it in 1975. At one point in the author’s story, he has this to say on page 128:

He spoke Russian with a Japanese accent. I played around with Japanese like a child playing with bricks. It was a most absorbing occupation, although unfortunately it lasted for only one year. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and my knowledge of Japanese has also evaporated — after all, who in Toronto needs a non-Japanese to translate from that language?

An uncomfortable situation in American history had to do with Watergate, and when the Gettysburg Times newspaper published a story entitled, “President Grilled By Press On Watergate; Will Not Resign; Would Get On With Business” back on August 23, 1973, it was obvious how uncomfortable the situation was. The story indicated that whenever the matter of Watergate cropped up, Richard Nixon deflected with comments that steered reporters in the direction of who the new Secretary of State and other such things. The story began with this paragraph:

Declaring that Watergate is “water under the bridge,” and giving explanations that conceded no personal negligence, Richard Nixon responded Wednesday for the first time in five months to direct questions about the scandal that has shaken his presidency.

Back on September 21, 1931 the Editorial of the Day in the Tuscaloosa News had everything to do with the Long no-cotton plan that was dead, as forecast in the Montgomery Advertiser 10 days earlier. There had been a number of opponents to the plan from Governor Long of Louisiana, and many Texans saw the plan as an attempt to boss Texans around. The editorial stated in part:

Had the Long plan been good, Long would have killed it in Texas. But all of this water under the bridge. The fact is that the no-cotton law of Louisiana will not be adopted by the other States, notwithstanding that on yesterday the Senate of the South Carolina Legislature voted to enact it. It is plainly unthinkable that the other cotton States should adopt the Louisiana law now that Texas, the greatest producing State, has rejected it.

The idiom has the same meaning as the older version known as water over the dam.

In fact, the New York Times published an article about the Mexican situation (as it was referred to at the time) on December 20, 1919. The issue of the cost of maintaining a border patrol of regular and National Guard troops to protect the Us border (at a cost of $1,000,000,000 since in the years since Madero had started Mexico on the revolutionary road back in 1911) was foremost in people’s minds. Among those interviewed was James S. Black, editor of the El Paso Times, who was quoted in the news story as saying:

But that is all water over the dam. What has been done cannot be undone, but the Administration might profit by the mistakes of the past. Mexico and Mexicans will respect American and their property once they are convinced the United States means business.

A few dictionaries claim that the expression water over the dam is American slang from the 1840s, however, Idiomation was unable to find any proof to support the claim.

However, because the expression was used in a published news article in 1919, it was obviously a common expression that was as easily understood in El Paso as in New York, and back dating it a generation, this pegs the expression to at least 1890. It’s possible that it goes back two generations, which would place it to sometime in the 1860s. But without proof, it’s difficult to guess that it goes back yet another generation (although it may very well go back to the 1840s).

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Watershed Moment

Posted by Admin on February 8, 2013

A watershed moment is a critical point that marks a crucial change and results in profound effects due to that change. For example, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria allowed the U.S. to emerge as a superpower.

Had the assassination not happened, there never would have been widespread shock across Europe. Had there not been widespread shock across Europe, there never would have been reason to write the July Ultimatum. Had the July Ultimatum never been written, there would have never been reason to issue a declaration of war. Had there never been a reason to issue a declaration of war, the Secret Treaty of 1892 obliging Russia and France to go to war against Austria, Hungary and Germany (and eventually Italy) making the war a World War. Had there not been a World War, the United States of America would not have had the opportunity to emerge as a superpower.

That’s a watershed moment!

On November 28, 2010, the Seattle Times published a column by guest columnist. Frederick Lorenz, senior lecturer at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and senior peace fellow with the Public International Law and Policy Group. The topic was the future of international justice and offered Mr. Lorenz’s opinion on the role that major powers should take in this matter. The OpEd piece was entitled:

Watershed Moment For International Justice At The Hague

Politics seems to be where most watershed moments are reported. The Spokane Daily Chronicle published an article by Smith Hempstone on June 7, 1976 that reported on Spain’s watershed moment. The headline read, “Spain Seeks Strong Ties With Americans.” Among many changes in Spain was the fact that the first free elections in more than 40 years was scheduled to happen the following year. This change in Spanish politics was a major turning point in history, and the newspaper reported the following:

At this watershed moment in Spain’s history, the U.S. Senate has before it a five-year treaty of friendship and cooperation and providing for continued American use of U.S. naval facilities at Rota and of air bases at Torrejon, Saragossa and Moron. In return, Spain would receive $1.05 billion in loans for the purchase of military equipment plus Export-Import Bank credits, and $170 million in grants for other projects. This represents a quadrupling of the funds previously made available to Spain and an upgrading from executive agreement to treaty of the relationship between the two countries.

In the August 6, 1959 edition of the Spokesman Review, the newspaper reported that the Republican right-wing was sensitive about comments being made about Vice-President Richard Nixon’s relationship with the Russians. Previous to the phrase being “watershed moment” it seems that what watershed was being discussed was made clear through added details as was done in this article.

Entirely apart from political considerations, there will also be Americans who find the change of direction emotionally difficult. Yet, it seems clear that another watershed of history is here and demanding exactly the kind of direction that the President proposes to give it.

The Regina Leader-Post published an article entitled, “Mankind On The Great Divide” on January 23, 1948 that reported on then-Saskatchewan Premier Douglas, and Walter Tucker’s address to the Rotary club on the subject of Russian policy of indirect aggression towards the Western world. The second paragraph of the story dealt with the position America had on this indirect aggression.

Undoubtedly the Marshall project, which came out of the much-maligned United States, is one of the greatest factors for peace in the world today, and it may well prove that Secretary Marshall’s Harvard speech was the true watershed of the post-war period.

On August 3, 1938 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story entitled, “The Balkan States: Growing Fear Of Germany.” The story had to do with Austria’s loss of independence, the Balkan States were in danger of also being overtaken by Germany by way of complicated trade schemes and disregard for their independence. A basic overview of recent history was provided in the article and French commentator and essayist “Pertinax” aka André Géraud (18 October 1882 – December 1974) was quoted.

“March 7, 1936.” declares “Pertinax,” “appears as a decisive date in the diplomatic history of Central Europe — a watershed between two political continents. So long as the Rhine was free from German fortifications, the French Army at any time could bring irresistible pressure to bear on Hitler’s Reich. It could warn it to respect the independence of the Danubian States. It cold say ‘Thus far, and no farther.'”

Jumping back another decade, on October 18, 1925 the New York Times published an article entitled, “Locarno and The League.” The first paragraph read:

Mr. Austen Chamberlain called the Locarno Treaty “a watershed between war and peace.” It is a striking phrase — doubly significant as coming from the nation and from the man who have been roundly accused of “knifing” the Geneva Protocol. It recalls a prior saying, much ridiculed in the Senate of the United States.

And a decade before that, on July 14, 1916 the Montreal Gazette quoted British Minister of War, David Lloyd George in the article entitled, “Victory’s Tide Flower Towards Allies’ Arms.” The article printed that the Minister had said to reporters the day before:

“The overwhelming victories won by the valiant solders of Russia have struck terror into the hearts of our foes, and these, coupled with the immortal defence of Verdun by our indomitable French comrades  and the brave resistance of the Italians against overwhelming odds in the Southern Alps, have change the whole complexion of the landscape. Now, the combined offensive in the east and west has wrenched the initiative out of the hands of the enemy — never, I trust, to return to his grasp. We have crossed the watershed and now victory is beginning to flow in our direction. Why have our prospects improved? The answer is, the equipment of our armies has improved enormously and is continuing to improve.”

In fact, the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary provided this as one of three definitions for watershed:

3.  a point in time marking an important transition between two situations, or phases of an activity; a turning point.

And so while the origins of the phrase are rooted somewhere at the beginning of the 20th century,the actual phrase does not appear in print until some time in the early 1950s.

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