Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Rod Blagojevich’

Sitting Duck

Posted by Admin on August 25, 2011

The expression sitting duck refers to someone or something vulnerable to a physical or verbal attack.  It’s such a common expression that the National Society of Newspaper Columnists established the Sitting Duck Award, a tongue-in-cheek honour that pokes fun at the most ridiculed newsmakers in the United States.  The winner in 2009 was Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who beat out ousted former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

In 1977, Canadian artist Michael Bedard created a lithograph entitled, “Sitting Ducks.”  It depicted three ducks sitting in beach chairs and wearing sun glasses.  The lithograph became so popular that it became a TV show and led to a children’s book by Michael Bedard, published in 1998, titled identically to the lithograph.

On June 14, 1944 the Milwaukee Journal carried a report by journalist Ira Wolfert onboard the Tuscaloosa and harboured in the Bay of Seine in France and how they deal with the Germans who dare to attack.  The story, gruesome in many respects as it reports in some detail how the Americans are beating the Germans, also brings some humour to the news article.  One can imagine the very silly image that accompanies the statement that “when the Nazis throw down the gauntlet to a warship you see the gauntlet splash in the water.”  The new story, entitled, “Ira Wolfert, On Sitting Duck Cruiser Sees — and Hears — Some Good Big Gun Action.”

Capt. Waller, in command of the Tuscaloosa, gives his gunners every chance to plot the line pointing to the battery.  He holds this $15,000,000 warship steady, setting it up as a “sitting duck” bait for the Germans.  He waits for German shells to come close enough, say within 50 yards, so that he knows the next shots will be right on him.  Then he picks up and moves and the Tuscaloosa’s guns go to work.

Just a few years earlier, on June 13, 1938 the St. Petersburg Times published an article entitled, “Hobnobbing With The Heavies.”  In the article the following is found:

Schmeling would not be going into the ring unless he was absolutely convinced of the outcome.  He thinks it will be like shooting a sitting duck.  Louis seems confident enough, himself, but not like Schmelling.  Louis, if anything, appears to be slightly tired of the fighting business.  Schmelling loves it and is imbued with a fierce determination to win back the title for himself and for Germany.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published reference to this phrase however as with other phrases, when it is found in a mainstream newspaper, it is understood by the general readership which means that the expression was well-known and understood in 1938.  It is reasonable to guess that the expression dates back at least another generation to the early 1920s at the very least.

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Out Of The Blue

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2011

The expression out of the blue — also known as out of the clear blue sky and a bolt out of the blue — is used by Brits, Australians and Americans. out of a clear blue sky means something happens suddenly and unexpectedly, without warning or preparation.

On December 8, 2009 Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills wrote a piece entitled, “Holy mackerel! One Year Since Blagojevich Arrest” which was published in the Seattle Times.  Christopher Wills wrote in part:

When the news arrived, Rep. Bill Black thought at first it was somebody’s lame idea of a joke. But it was true: The FBI had arrested the governor of Illinois, hauling him away wearing a track suit and handcuffs … [snip] … Blagojevich’s arrest on Dec. 9, 2008, didn’t come out of the blue.  Federal prosecutors had long been investigating whether the governor, then in the middle of his second term, had used his official powers illegally – to pressure groups into making campaign contributions, for instance, or to award government jobs and contracts to political allies.

On July 13, 1971, the Miami News ran a story on Reggie Jackson‘s hit, estimated at close to 600 feet since it hit against the facade over the upper deck at Tiger Stadium’s right-centre field, in a story entitled, “Bolt From The Blue.”  The story’s first paragraph read:

After eight years of All-Star Frustration the American League finally won … and it came like a bolt out of the blue.  Reggie Jackson’s bolt, not Vida Blue’s.  While the fans came to see Blue pitch, they all went home talking about Jackson’s home run that helped the Americans stop an eight-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Nationals in last night’s 42nd All-Star Game.

The Youngstown Vindicator ran an interesting news story on June 16, 1905 entitled, “Czar’s Uncle Quits; Grand Duke Alexis Resigns Post As Head Of The Russian Navy.”  The news bite related:

Although from time to time since the war began there have been rumors that the grand duke would retire on account of the savage criticism, not to use harsher terms, directed against the administration of the navy, especially in the construction of ships, the announcement of his resignation came like a bolt out of the blue.  Consequently it was assured that some sudden event precipitated it and ugly stories immediately came to the surface.

On May 15, 1880, John Brown Gordon (1832 – 1904) former Confederate soldier with an Alabama regiment and an American businessman and politician who dominated Georgia after the Reconstruction period, tendered his resignation to Governor Alfred H. Colquitt.   He claimed that he was carrying out a long cherished desire to retire from public life after 20 years in public service, either at war or in politics.  This story was reported by the media four days later on the 19th and the Atlanta Constitution reported that the resignation had come as “a bolt out of the blue.”  The fact of the matter is that the change had been in the works for several months leading up to his resignation.

The earliest citation is found in Thomas Carlyle‘s book The French Revolution published in 1837:

Royalism s extinct; ‘sunk,’ as they say, ‘in the mud of the Loire;’ Republicanism dominates without and within: what, therefore, on the 15th day of May 1794, is this?  Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the Blue, has hit strange victims: Hebert, Pere Duchesne, Bibliopolist Momoro, Clerk Vincent, General Rosin; high Cordelier Patriots, red-capped Magistrates of Paris, Worshippers of Reason, Commanders of Revolution.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version for the phrase out of the blue.

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