Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

That Dog Won’t Hunt

Posted by Admin on June 11, 2015

It’s not often you hear someone say that dog won’t hunt and have it refer to something other than actual hunting.  The idiom refers to suggesting losing propositions for serious consideration.

Just a shy of a decade ago, on Jun 29, 2005 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Idaho published an OpEd piece written by Murf Raquet that addressed the issue of licensing county dogs and who would pay for the licensing.  Part of the problem was that many of the dogs in the county were strays, and that the county was seen by many as a dumping ground for unwanted pets.

The Humane Society of the Palouse was looking to Moscow and Latah County to fund the animal shelter with an increase from the previous approved amount of $10,000 USD to $30,000 USD, and county commissioners got the idea into their heads that the additional monies could come from licensing dogs in the county.  But not everyone saw things the way the county commissioners saw things!

But there are many other deserving groups that also look to the country for funding.  The county well is not deep enough to satisfy everyone.

“I don’t know where we’re going to find the funds unless we increase the revenue,” Commissioner Tom Stroschein said.

Well, that revenue won’t come from licensing in rural Latah — that dog won’t hunt.

In the “Outdoors Section” of the Times Daily on January 26, 2002 journalist Dennis Sherer used the idiom in his column titled, “Dog Days Coming To Mt. Hope.”  The article began thusly:

Growing up in Walker County — where most folks speak southern English — I often heard the phrase “that dog won’t hunt.”

I cannot recall hearing someone say the phrase in reference to an actual hunting dog.  But it was a polite way in Walkerese to tell someone that what they were suggesting was not likely to work.

In the August 7, 1987 edition of The Dispatch, Tom Wicker wrote an article about Ronald Reagan’s peace plan for Nicaragua.  He wrote that the plan was most likely nothing more than a ploy to win votes for renewed military aid for the CIA organized and controller Contras fighting in Nicaragua. The article was entitled quite simply, “That Dog Won’t Hunt.”

In the fourth book of Volume XIV of the “American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Usage” magazine published by the American Dialect Society in 1939, the idiom was listed.

‘If the’ ain’t no fools, the’ ain’t no fun,’ said usually in self-derision; and ‘That old dog won’t hunt,’ meaning that an excuse offered will not serve. These and the numerous specimens which follow have simply been grouped by the present writer under the heading of Miscellaneous, explanations being made only when the meaning is not clearly evident.

During the Civil War, however, the expression was this:  Pride is a dog that won’t hunt.  During the Civil War, the expression was abbreviated to that dog won’t hunt and it has stayed that way ever since.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Whistle-Stop Campaign

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2015

Every once in a while, you’ll hear or read about a whistle-stop campaign, and it’s usually in the weeks leading up to an election (although not always).    A whistle-stop campaign refers to a series of brief appearances in a string of stops along a set route.

Of course, whistle-stop campaigns left the railway and took to the highways in 1992 when Bill Clinton decided to he and Al Gore would run with a whirlwind intercity bus tour to meet the people.  But the more traditional whistle-stop campaign had a good run — and continues to have good runs from time to time — with the railroads that criss-cross America.

On May 15, 1976 the Gadsden Times reported on the showdown battle between Ronald Reagan (6 February 1911 – 5 June 2004) and President Gerald Ford (14 July 1913 – 26 December 2006).  It was part of the “red, white and blue Presidential Express” train and the headline read, “Ford On Whistlestop Campaign.”

On September 14, 1964 the Lawrence Journal World newspaper announced that wife of Lyndon B. Johnson (27 August 1908 – 22 January 1973) would be making the first ever whistle-stop campaign by a First Lady.  The train was aptly named the “Lady Bird” and was scheduled to travel 1,682 miles from start to finish.  The editor okayed the headling, “Mrs. Johnson Plans Whistle-Stop Campaign.”

On March 1, 1956 the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph announced that President Dwight Eisenhower (14 October 1890 – 28 March 1969) stated that leading up to the election, he wouldn’t engage in “whistle-stop” talking while Democrats trumpeted the fact that their candidate would be making multiple personal appearances in a vigorous campaign.  The article was entitled, “Whistle-Stop Campaign Ruled Out By President.”

Back in 1948 when Harry S. Truman (8 May 1884 – 26 December 1972) was running for President, he decided to visit Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California by train.  A special platform was set up at the rear of the train and it was from that Pullman railway carriage platform that Harry Truman gave speeches, sometimes as often as eight speeches each day.

Time magazine compared the campaign to a vaudeville act, and in Seattle, someone in a balcony shouted out, “Give ’em hell, Harry!

SIDE NOTE 1:  This phrase entered politics as a slogan meaning blunt, straight-forward campaigning.

Senator Robert A. Taft (8 September 1889 – 31 July 1953) stated to the media that Truman was “blackguarding Congress at every whistle station in the West” during his campaign tour.  Taking the Senator’s comments in stride, Truman stated that Los Angeles was the biggest whistle-stop he had visited on the tour.

While it’s true that campaigning via the railroad wasn’t new when Truman ran in 1948 (it had originated in 1896 with Democrat William Jennings Bryan (19 March 1860 – 26 July 1925) who traveled 18,000 miles by rail and gave 600 speeches in an attempt to unseat President William McKinley (29 January 1843 – 14 September 1901) who chose to campaign from his front porch in Canton, Ohio), after his comments about Los Angeles, such campaigns were noted in the media as being whistle-stop campaigns.

Four years later, on October 11, 1952 the Associated Press sent out a story to the newspapers titled, “Whistle Stopper Truman Pours It On In New York.”  The article began by stating this:

Whistle stopper Harry S. Truman lends a hand to Adlai Stevenson here today in the biggest “whistle stop” of them all.

He turns his “give ’em hell” technique from the rear platform of his 16-car campaign train to a park in Harlem to try to help build up a big enough Democratic margin in New York City to overcome normal Republican majorities upstate.

Two years before the first whistle-stop campaign, George Taft and Ava Gardner starred in a 1946 movie entitled, “Whistle Stop” that was based on the novel of the same name written by author Maritta M. Wolff (25 December 1918 – 1 July 2002).  When her novel was published in 1941 at the tender age of 22, it was declared a literary sensation, and critics referred to it was the most important first novel of the year.  She went on to write five more novels.

When George Bush ran for office in 1992, he did so by taking a page out of Harry Truman’s whistle-stop campaign handbook as he campaigned by train in Ohio and Michigan in a whirlwind trip before returning to Washington, D.C.

Originally, the term whistle-stop meant any small towns along the railroad lines that were of little to no importance to anyone except those who lived there, and those who visited there.  Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to refer to any town or city on a political whistle-stop campaign as being of little to no importance to anyone, most especially the candidate!

And now for a little history lesson:  For those who aren’t aware of the history of how railroads came to be, it was in 1851 that the Illinois Central was chartered to build a railroad to open up the entire state of Illinois to development and commerce, with an eye on transcontinental travel.  It required that federal legislation be enacted to allow for the first land grant railroad, and it set a precedent for all other railroad routes stretching back and forth across the United States.

SIDE NOTE 2:  The first presentation to Congress on the subject of a transcontinental railroad for the U.S. was made by Asa Whitney  (1791 – August 1874) in 1845, after returning from a trip to China from 1842 to 1844.

Back when the railroad was stretching across the country, not every town with a station could count on the train stopping.  In fact, most often, if a passenger wanted to disembark, he had to ask the conductor to inform the engineer to stop and let him (or her) off at the specific train station.  The conductor would pass along the message to the engineer by pulling on the signal cord, and in return, the engineer would sound the whistle twice to let the conductor know he’d gotten the message.  This is how some town became known as whistle-stop towns.

So while there were whistle-stop towns for decades before Harry S. Truman ran his campaign in 1948, it was indeed in 1948 that the idiom whistle-stop campaigning was coined by Harry S. Truman, with a considerable amount of help from Senator Robert A. Taft.

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

Fit As A Fiddle

Posted by Admin on March 12, 2015

When you’re fit as a fiddle, you’re healthy and well.  Ask any musician with a violin or fiddle and he or she will confirm that a fit fiddle is one that’s in excellent shape.   And how does one keep a fiddle fit?  As with any musical instrument, a well maintained fiddle is one the owner keeps in top condition which means the sounds emanating from the instrument will always equal the talent and ability of the person playing it.

When Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, there were those who were concerned over his health … not because he appeared to be suffering from any health issues, but because he was far from being a young man at the time.  However, the Montreal Gazette of October 31, 1981 published a news story that was picked up from UPI that stated that all was well with the President.  The article was titled, “Reagan Fit As A Fiddle” and the first paragraph of the story read:

Two days of physical examinations at the National Naval Medical Center found U.S. President Ronald Reagan to be “fit as a fiddle,” a presidential aide said yesterday.

Over the years, Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia ran newspaper ads in major newspapers across the U.S., and these ads advocated taking Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia to cure indigestion woes.  In fact, in the Spokesman Review of October 22, 1942 the ad copy read in part:

Say goodbye to those “morning blues.”  Next time you overeat, or stay up late at a gay party, take Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia at bedtime and wake up feeling “fit as a fiddle.”

The saying was used in other newspaper advertisements.  Going back to May 12, 1909, the Pittsburgh Press ran one for Hires with the headline copy, “As Fit As A Fiddle On A Fine Spring Day.”

FIT AS A FIDDLE_IMAGE 1
On May 21, 1888, the Evening Post newspaper of Wellington in New Zealand published an article in the Sporting section titled, “Turf Notes” and written by the anonymous reported, Vigilant. The news was that the Wanganui Steeplechase had nine horses entered, and barring accidents, racing fans could expect to see all ready to run at post time.  One horse in particular seemed to be of enough interest to warrant mention by the reporter.

Faugh-a-Baalagh, 11st 12lb, is generally voted well in, and as he will have T. Lyford up on him and is reported as fit as a fiddle, whatever beats him will, I think, get the stakes.

Volume 15 of the “American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine” published in January 1844, discussed the strengths of a horse owned by Mr. G. Salvin.  In Monday’s race, the odds were 13 to 4 against The Cure, and 3 to 1 against The Cure in Thursday’s race, making him an equal favorite with another horse by the name of Ithuriel.

The Cure is an extraordinary good horse, and we have reason to believe the stable money is upon him.  If so, and his partly only mean it, then will our anticipations be realised in seeing him not far from No. 1.  The distance is the only obstacle in his path, but his friends assert that makes no difference.  He is, we hear, as “fit as a fiddle,” and none the worse of his being a little off at Newcastle.  It is understood that Sam Rogers will now have the steering of the “little gentleman” for the St. Leger.

English naturalist John Ray (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) — known as John Wray until 1670 — included the idiom in his book ,”A Compleat Collection Of English Proverbs” first published in 1670.  Before it was included in John Ray’s book, it was used by English Elizabethan dramatist and pamphleteer, Thomas Dekker (1572 – 25 August 1632) in “The Batchelor’s Banquet” published in 1603 with a bit of a twist.  Instead, the word fine was inserted for fit, however the sense of being in top-notch shape was clear in the dialogue.

Then comes downe mistresse Nurse as fine as a farthing fiddle, in her petticoate and kertle, having on a white waistcoat, with a flaunting cambricke ruff about her neck, who liks a Doctris in facultie comes thus upon him.  Good Lord Sir, what paines you take, here is no bodie can please our mistresse bot your selfe:  I will allure you on my credit that I doe what I can, yet for my life I cannot I, any way content her.

And in English playwright William Haughton’s Elizabethan era stage play, “Englishmen For My Money: A Pleasant Comedy Called A Woman Will Have Her Will” published in 1598, the idiom appears.  In the scene, we find the Italian Aluaro, the Frenchman Delion, and Frisco, who is described as Pisaro’s man and a clown.  Pisaro is a Portingale, and the story has to do with this three daughters — Laurentia, Marina, and Mathea — and their suitors.

FRISCO:
In Leaden-hall?  I trow I shall meete with you anone: In Leaden-hall?  What a simple Asse is this Frenchman.  Some more of this:  Where are you sir?

ALUARO:
Moy I be here in Vanshe-streete.

FRISCO:
This is excellent ynfayth, as fit as a Fiddle:  I in Tower-streete, you in Leaden-hall, and th third in Fanchurch-streete; and yet all three heare one another, and all three speake together:  either wee must be all three in Leaden-hall, or all three in Tower-streete, or all three in Fanchurch-streete; or all three Fooles.

The word fiddle is derived from the Old English word fithele, and in Old German it was fiedel.  The word came into vogue during the 14th century when Medieval fiddles became popular street musical instruments, due in large part to their portability.  Fiddles during the Middle Ages were described as having four strings, a hollow body, and an unfretted fingerboard, and was played with a bow.

It was an instrument equally favored by waits (official town musicians employed by the large English towns in which they lived), minstrels (who were first and foremost entertainers who were also musicians, and who traveled from town to town), and troubadours (who, even though they were musicians, interacted with royalty and nobility).

It can be guessed that those musicians who played fiddle — especially for aristocracy — would want their instrument to be in the best condition possible, and fit for performances.  Although Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published use of fit as a fiddle than the one found in William Haughton’s comedy, because it was used in the play, it was obviously an expression that was already known to the general population by the late 1500s.

Considering how language evolved during this era, it is very likely that the idiom most likely came into vogue during the early to mid-1500s.

Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dollars-and-Cents

Posted by Admin on February 1, 2013

When someone talks to you about things from a dollars-and-cents point of view, they’re strictly talking money.  But what’s the background on that expression? Who started being so specific that they had to insert dollars-and-cents into a conversation about money? Once you know the history behind this saying, you’ll understand why it sometimes needed — and still needs — to be said just this way!

On August 26, 1994 the Milwaukee Journal published an article that discussed the difficulties the United Nations was having in making ends meet. The problems arose as the UN faced new responsibilities including foreign peacekeeping operations. The article was aptly entitled:

Dollars-and-Cents Plea For Peace

On October 3, 1980 the Evening Independent newspaper of St. Petersburg (FL) excerpted an article by Robert Runde that was originally published in  MONEY Magazine. As with any article dealing with an upcoming election, it focused on inflation, taxes and employment opportunities. In other words, money issues. Ronald Reagan wanted an across-the-board tax cut that would most help upper-income taxpayers. Jimmy Carter focused on an economic renewal plan. And independent presidential candidate (who received 6% of the vote in that election) John Anderson wanted investors and savers to get bigger tax breaks. The story ran with this headline:

The Dollars-and-Cents Plans Of The Presidential Candidates

The Miami News ran a news story on March 31, 1943 entitled, “New Beef, Lamb, Veal And Pork Prices To Be Set For April.” It reported on the controversial issue of ceilings on livestock “on the shelf” and the revamping of the then-current meat price controls. It was a move that intended to curb the soaring prices on live animals at the farm level and relieve the pressure on packers, wholesalers and retailers who had to abide by the fixed prices. The article read in part:

For some months the agency has been engaged in replacing the old controls, which fixes maximums at the high price charged in March, 1942, by each individual seller, with specific dollars-and-cents ceilings at the packer, wholesale and retail level.

The New York Times published a story on March 4, 1906 that reported on the skepticism of real estate men and builders alike with regards to a proposed 40-story tower at the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street in New York City. It wasn’t that anyone was concerned that such a building couldn’t be built, but rather that building an ‘extremely high building‘ on a small lot wasn’t held in high regard. What’s more, the cost of putting up such a building would never justify the cost of advertising its value and generating a reasonable annual income in revenues.

With 3,000 square feet of space for rent on each floor at a cost of $3 per square foot, it was almost unimaginable in the day that a floor would command a rent of $9,000 per month! And the prediction that the building would generate $250,000 net per year was audacious, especially at a time in history when the concept of tenants renting entire floors for their businesses was only just growing in popularity. There was also the question of the elevator equipment needed for such a building. The problems that could be foreseen were many and all of them serious. The article ran under the headline:

Dollars-and-Cents Side Of Forty-Story Tower: Gigantic Structure To Be Built Primarily As A Money-Maker

Twenty-five years earlier, on August 18, 1876, the Weekly Press republished a New York Times story on Governor Tilden’s war record and Mr. Hewitt’s defence of Governor Tilden’s war record. Reporting on the proceedings of the House, readers learned that Mr. Kasson of Iowa “began a violent and vindictive political campaign speech, in which he indulged in personal attacks upon Gov. Tilden. He denounced him in most flagrant terms as having been a secessionist and disunionist.”

There was a fair bit of excitement after that speech and finally the floor went to Mr. Hewitt of New York, who took on Mr. Kasson’s attack of Governor Tilden. It was said that Mr. Hewitt “approached the subject as he would take hold of a slimy snake, with a desire to get rid of it.” Over the course of his defense of the governor,  Mr. Hewitt said many things, but none so cleverly said as this one statement:

I am not going to state dollars and cents. Patriotism is above dollars-and-cents in some quarters.

Dropping back to the law reports published in the New York Times on December 6, 1859, a number of court cases were mentioned in detail. In the case of The People vs Sarah Stuart et. al, alleged shoplifter, the newspaper stated that “a certiorari and a habeas corpus to obtain the papers upon which the defendant was committed, for review” and to have the body of the prisoner brought into Court” had been made. The matter of 15 yards of stolen silk and the accusation that Ms. Stuart was an accomplice to another woman’s theft of the purloined fabric resulted in the following:

The matter was brought before Justice Clerke, at Chambers, who refused to hear it, stating that the business of the Court should not be interrupted by such motions. Counsel for the prisoner said his client’s interests were of as much importance as the dollars-and-cents of civil litigants, who claimed the exclusive use of the Court at Chambers — that liberty was of more account than silver and gold.

The matter was subsequently postponed until Wednesday.

It would appear that accusations of political bribery have been around for as long as can imagine. The Charleston Mercury republished an article on January 18, 1842 that had originally been posted in the New York Herald, on the issue of repealing the Bankrupt Law. The Charleston Mercury reported that the New York Herald had reported that the Courier and Enquirer had reported (yes, this sounds a lot like the childhood game of ‘hot potato’) that foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America, had accumulated a secret fund of several million dollars which bought and paid for the repeal of the Bankrupt Law at a rate of $100,000 USD per vote. Bribery and corruption! And who was alleged to have accepted bribes from these “foreign agents and agents of British creditors living in America?” The first nine named were:

Charles G. Ferris of New York
Thos. J. Campbell of Tennessee
R.L. Caruthers of Tennessee
B.S. Cowans of Ohio
J.H. Cravens of Indiana
Garret Davis of Kentucky
A.R. Soliers of Maryland
C.H. Williams of Tennessee
A. Young of Vermont

A subsequent nine were named, under the heading “Kentucky Delegation” and these included:

Mr. Boyd
Wm. O Butler
Mr. Green
T.F. Marshall
Mr. Owsley
Mr. Pope
Mr. Triplett
Mr. Underwood
J.B. Thompson

The news was awash in political intrigue, criminal activity, and aggregate blackmail in the eyes of newspaper subscribers! The response by Mr. Webb and published in the newspaper read thusly:

We do believe that such political bribery and political corruption have been and are at the bottom of this disgraceful proceeding; and we do not hesitate to say, that in our opinion, the member of Congress who could be thus seduced from his duty to his country, to his own, conscience, and to his unfortunate fellow citizens, is as dishonest and dishonorable as if he had openly received a bribe in dollars-and-cents.

The reason for using the expression dollars-and-cents with hyphens is due to the fact that during this period of American history, many Americans distrusted any paper money that used the decimal system of dollars and cents. In fact, public officials and private businesses often preferred using the British system of pence, shillings, and pounds even though American money was dollars and cents. In this respect, even if pence, shillings and pounds were in use, the overall cost was still considered the dollars-and-cents cost of doing business.

What’s more, in America in the 1830s, there was insufficient currency in circulation for all the business people, making America cash-poor. At that point in American history, gold, silver and copper coins held the value of the metal in the coin, and paper money was only as good as the private bank that printed it. If the bank failed, the paper money printed by that bank was useless to those holding on to that paper money.

Businesses and professionals continued to attach “dollars and cents” amounts to products and services, however, they began to extend credit since real dollars and real cents were unreliable barter. Thus began the layers of interlocking debt at the foundation of the American economy … the dollars-and-cents amounts owed to, and by, individuals.

The next time you hear someone talk about the dollars-and-cents costs of an expenditure, they’re talking about the hard costs … the costs of services and products associated with that expenditure … in dollars and cents.

Because of this, Idiomation pegs dollars-and-cents to the early 1830s.

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