Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Roosevelt’

Devil May Care

Posted by Admin on July 3, 2013

When someone has a devil-may-care attitude, what it means is that he or she doesn’t worry about the results or consequences of his or her actions, and recklessly so. It’s actually a shortened idiom. The entire idiom is, “The devil may care, but I do not.”

In New Delhi, the Indian Express newspaper published on June 24, 2011 reported on the ICICI Banks, and their treatment of customers. It told the story of one customer in particular who had applied for a loan with which he hoped to buy a car, but he found out that a second loan in his name existed … one the customer hadn’t applied for, and for which he hadn’t signed. When he addressed the matter with the bank, the bank’s response was to have their customer charged with a criminal offence.

“How callous a banker can get is well illustrated by this case … It is a classic case where the respondent bank (ICICI) has adopted a devil-may-care attitude,” a district consumer forum bench headed by its president Rakesh Kapoor said while asking the bank to pay the damages. The bench, which also included its members S c Jain and Prem Lata, passed the judgment on a complaint filed by Delhi resident Anil Kumar Arora.

As for the final outcome of the criminal charges against the customer, the courts had this to say about the bank:

“The amount of harassment to which the complainant was subjected, against whom a criminal case was also filed, speaks volumes about the reckless, arbitrary, careless and callous manner in which this case was dealt with in the office of the ICICI bank,” the bench said.

Jumping back to November 10, 1943 journalist E.V.W. Jones covered the story of 19-year-old Nancy Oakes who begged a Bahamas Supreme Court jury to find her husband, Alfred de Marigny, innocent of the charge of murdering her millionaire father, Harry Oakes. It was a brutal murder followed by a sensational trial, and newspapers across that United States and Canada carried the Associated Press story entitled, “Nassaur Case May Go To Jury Today: Nancy Stands By Accused DeMarigny.” The article read in part:

The debonair De Marigny, pictured by the prosecution as a devil-may-care fortune hunter who killed his father-in-law because he feared he might lose a share of a vast estate, wept silently in the prisoner’s cage when his young wife started her testimony.

Now some who are painted as having a devil-may-care attitude are well-loved by the population as evidenced in the news article published in the Baltimore Morning Herald of November 26, 1903. Originally posted in the New York Evening Post, the article began with asking questions about the policy of pinpricks to which President Roosevelt was being subjected by Republican senators. The article included this paragraph for the newspapers’ readerships to consider:

It seems to us that the President’s betrayal of uneasiness only lays him open to fresh badgering. His unconcealed anxiety about the New York situation will give delight to every Hanna boomer West and South. As a rule, the country does not like to see a President advertising his eagerness for renomination.  Where is the big, good-natured, devil-may-care Roosevelt that we had fondly hoped was in the White House? The more worriment he confesses the more will his tormentors be encouraged to bait him. And if, by perchance advocating ship scandals, or letting down in the civil service, or throwing more offices to Platt, he makes it plain that his ambition is consuming, he will thereby but play into the hands of his enemies, and make his own ultimate disappointment the more probably.

Back on March 17, 1860 the New York Times published an article entitled, “The Slave-Trade: The Actual Character Of The Traffic.” The story was from St. Paul De Loando off the West Coast of Africa and had been written on January 25, 1860 (taking nearly 2 months to make to American shores for publication). The story carried this bit of insight:

The second class of slave-trade society are the semi-genteel cut-throats. This class includes in its ranks captains, supercargoes and officers of slavers. The law could make these gentry oscillate for half an hour between heaven and earth, with a rope around their necks, but it don’t. Out here they — especially the first two — are a well-dressed set, with plenty of money. They knock around in a devil-may-care style, drink plenty of liquor, are patronized by cutthroat number one and his set, and are often labeled “first-rate fellows.” They are not at all debarred from society here. Entirely unprincipled they are, of course; and some of them look as though they would cut your throat for a trifle.

A number of dictionaries state that the first published use of the expression was 1837 however none of them provided a source to support the claim. Idiomation, however, found it in “The Pickwick Papers” by Charles Dickens and published in 1837. Chapter 29 opens with this paragraph:

In an old abbey town, down in this part of the country, a long, long while ago–so long, that the story must be a true one, because our great-grandfathers implicitly believed it — there officiated as sexton and grave-digger in the churchyard, one Gabriel Grub. It by no means follows that because a man is a sexton, and constantly surrounded by the emblems of mortality, therefore he should be a morose and melancholy man; your undertakers are the merriest fellows in the world; and I once had the honour of being on intimate terms with a mute, who in private life, and off duty, was as comical and jocose a little fellow as ever chirped out a devil-may-care song, without a hitch in his memory, or drained off a good stiff glass without stopping for breath.

It’s doubtful, however, that Charles Dickens was the first to coin the expression as it also appeared in “The Warwickshire Hunt from 1795 to 1836” written by an author known only as Venator, and published in 1837 as well. In the prefatory remarks, the following is found:

This is the sort of witchering, not easily defined — but, by its votaries, pretty sensibly felt, in hunting the fox. The light-hearted high-spirited stripling, when cigaring it careless to cover, with a kind of a knowing demi-devil-may-care twist of his beaver, receives in his transit a benison from every real friend of the chase he may chance to pass; and the airy, eager zeal of the youthful aspirant to rolls, tumbles, and the brush, will flush his memory with the frolic gayety of other days, and animate his mind with reflections most welcome to his heart.

Philip Morin Freneau (2 January 1752 – 1832) wrote his poem “The Expedition of Timothy Taurus, Astrologer” in 1775. One of the verses includes the idiom as follows:

Then the soldier went out, to refresh at the inn —
Perhaps he did not — if he did it’s no sin —
he made his congee, and he bowed to us all,
And said he was going to Liberty Hall:
‘Tis certain he went, but certainly where
I cannot inform, and the devil may care.

That the thought wasn’t finished is immaterial as the implication is that the speaker in this poem does not care. Of note as well is the fact that the expression is used with the knowledge that readers understand what is meant by the author,

Idiomation believes the expression reaches back at least another 2 generations, to the 1720s.  This is based on Idiomation’s suspicions that the spirit of the idiom is a result of the Golden Age of Piracy (1715 – 1725) where on the High Seas pirates recklessly went about their business with no worry or concern as to any consequences resulting from their actions. The only being that might care about their actions would be, of course, the Devil hence the expression.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Snowball’s Chance In Hell

Posted by Admin on January 11, 2011

The expression snowball’s chance in Hell means you have no reasonable hope whatsoever of achieving something you are hoping to achieve.  The concept, of course, is that no matter how cold snow is, even when compacted into a snowball, the chances it will still be snow — or water — once it’s introduced to Hell are nil.

Now there are those who will ask, “But why would anyone want to toss a snowball into Hell? Everyone knows about the fires of Hell, right?”  Well, Hell isn’t always perceived by all people as being one huge pit of never-ending fire.

Zamhareer is one Hell pit in Islamic tradition that is characterized by extreme blizzards, ice and snow that no living being can bear.  But then there are other pits of Hell that are definitely identified as the extreme opposite of Zamhareer

In Dante’s Divine Comedy the final ring of Hell at the centre of the world is a frozen lake called Cocytus. But overall, Hell‘s a pretty hot place.

In Canada, on September 11, 1980, in the Ottawa Citizen then-Quebec Premier René Lévesque was quoted as saying the following after a day-long debate on the proposed Charter of Rights that would nullify parts of Quebec’s Charter of the French Language:

Trudeau is asking for something that is not practical, something unrealistic.  He wanted to divide and conquer while giving an appearance of generosity.  But a lot of people saw him coming; I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in Hell of getting his charter in.

In the end the score was Snowball 1, Quebec 0.  And that wasn’t the first time snowballs and Hell had been mentioned or implied as part of politics in North America.

Back on August 20, 1956, the Victoria Advocate of Victoria (TX) ran a story on page 4 of that day’s newspaper in the “Matter of Fact” column by Joseph and Stewart Alsop.  It discussed the impression left at the Democratic convention.

As for the outcome, well, they really did not think Stevenson had a snowball’s chance in Hell of carrying their particular states if Eisenhower’s health held up.  Of course, you had to remember the big Democratic gains in 1954.  But if you were really honest about it, the President’s health was the one real factor to watch.

The St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent News of September 2, 1938 reported the inside story of the Pope-Clark primary in Idaho and President Roosevelt’s reluctance to back defeated Senator Pope as an independent candidate.

Jim Farley was given a fill in on the intrigue when he passed through the state (of Idaho) on his return trip from Alaska.  It convinced him that Mr. Pope, running as an independent, wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance to beat the machine.  So he phoned Hyde Park by long distance, begging F.D.R. to make no commitments until he had learned the facts.

While the expression has been used in many situations, it seems that it’s a favourite when speaking of extreme situations in politics.

An etymology dictionary Idiomation consulted claimed that the expression dates back to 1931 but did not provide a source to support that claim. 

The earliest publication of the expression Idiomation was able to find goes back to  1938 and is used with such familiarity as to imply it was a well used expression by that time.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »