Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Royal Air Force’

Devil Dodger

Posted by Admin on August 15, 2011

The devil dodger is usually found in the military and is in charge of the spiritual welfare of the troops.  Yes, a devil dodger is a man of the cloth, a minister, a clergyman in varying degrees of intensity.  It also occasionally refers to someone who attends churches of various kinds just to be on the safe side.

On September 13, 2006 the BBC News reported on a naval chaplain who had complained about the use of porn on the warships he was training on.  The news story was entitled, “Chaplain Told Porn Part Of Life.”  He left the HMS Albion and the HMS Manchester because of the pornography.  The article reported in part:

Now the rector of a shore parish, who is a father-of-four, told the hearing in Exeter he was known as “the bish” and was taunted with chantes of “bible basher” as well as “God botherer” and “devil dodger” while on board.

The Calgary Herald ran a short news column entitled, “R.A.F. Slanguage” in the June 17, 1940 edition.  Among the key terms used by the boys in the Royal Air Force were:

Quack – The doctor.
Blue-blood – Army officer.
Pay-bob – The pay officer.
Devil-dodger – The chaplain.
Stripey – Any non-commissioned officer
AC Plonk – Air craftsman second class.

Now back in September 1917, a black-and-white silent movie with a running time of 50 minutes was released by Triangle Film Corporation entitled, “Devil Dodger.”  It was a western starring Roy Stewart played as Silent Scott, John (Jack) Gilbert as Roger Ingraham and Carolyn Wagner as Fluffy, the saloon girl.  The story was of a minister who went West in search of health and came upon a town where Silent Scott kept a dance hall and saloon. 

There, the minister meets Fluffy who has a questionable past but the minister sees a great deal of goodness left in her and she sees a great more in the minister. There’s a moral struggle between the minister and the saloon keeper and in the end, the minister triumphs to some degree when he successfully awakens the good still in the saloon keeper’s heart.

On June 22, 1889 the New Zealand Observer newspaper in Auckland ran an interesting column entitled, “Round The Churches” where they dished the dirt on various churches in the area.  The final comment tidbit was this:

Another minister has been honest enough to confess that his work has been a failure, and that the world, the flesh, and the devil are too many for him.  A clergyman of Brooklyn, New York states that after many years’ labour “he has not even succeeded in breaking the crus of hell which surrounds that town.”  The simile is a new and striking one, but rather inappropriate.  Why should a parson wish to break the crust of hell, when the consequences would probably be the falling in of himself, flock, and collection?  We should fancy that his energies would have been better directed had he applied himself to placing a new cast-iron, copper-riveted covering over the hot place, and to strengthening its crust generally; but we forget — the average parson believes in keeping the pit open and giving his congregation an occasional glimpse of the fire and brimstone! When the crust of Sheol gets too thick for one-parson power to penetrate, the devil-dodger finds his occupation gone.

In the Guy de Maupassant  (1850-1893) story “A Lively Friend” the following exchange is found between two friends:

The curé left very early.

Then the husband gently remarked: “You went a little too far with that priest.”

But Joseph immediately replied: “That’s a very good joke, too! Am I to bother my brains about a devil-dodger? At any rate, do me the favor of not ever again having such an old fogy to dinner. Curses on his impudence!”

“But, my friend, remember his sacred character.”

Joseph Mouradour interrupted him: “Yes, I know. We must treat them like girls, who get roses for being well behaved! That’s all right, my boy! When these people respect my convictions, I will respect theirs!”

On December 7, 1867 the Hartford Daily Courant published a story entitled, “A Hint To The Ambitious.”  It told the story of a woman who allowed her friends to put in her head that she ought not deprive the world of the advantages of her wit and talent as a writer.  After all, the newspaper reported, she had been told she should try her hand at a “three-volume novel with plenty of sensation in it.” 

The story pointed out that her friends had urged her to look at “the trash that is published and paid for.” And so this woman set out to do just that and the reviews that followed publication of her book included this comment:

The spoon scene between Miss Whatdoyoucallher and the devil dodger is first rate.

The earliest reference Idiomation could find for devil dodger goes back to the “Memoirs” of James Lackington (1746 – 1815) published in 1791.  It’s in his book that readers find:

These devil-dodgers happened to be so very powerful that they soon sent John home, crying out, that he should be damned.

While Idiomation could not find an earlier reference, the fact that James Lackington used it with such ease in his “Memoirs” published in 1791 indicates that it was an understood expression for readers of the day and therefore, it would have been in existence at least the generation prior, putting it to about 1750.

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Black Out (as in unconscious)

Posted by Admin on May 30, 2011

When people talk about black outs, they can mean one of three things:  to cut or turn out the lights or electric power; to prevent or silence information or communication; or to become unconscious.

With regards to falling unconscious, this meaning originated with pilots who sometimes fainted briefly when pulling out of a power dive. It soon was transferred to other losses of consciousness or memory in the 1940s.

An unfortunate story was published in the May 28, 1979 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel in a news article entitled, “Boy Dies Making Self Black Out.” The article included this in the story:

After class was dismissed Wednesday afternoon, Paul and several companions went out on the playground, and he gave them a demonstration. Use two fingers, he pressed on the front of his neck to stop the air flow and blacked out.

Back on September 14, 1962 the Victoria Advocate published a story on then-31-year-old San Francisco Giants star outfielder, Willie Mays. He had been free of injuries and ailments in previous eight seasons with the Giants which is why a black-out spell was of concern to management at the time. The story was entitled, “Mays Due Hospital Tests After Black-Out Spell.” The first paragraph read:

Officials of the San Francisco Giants ordered a thorough physical examination Friday for star outfielder Willie Mays, who blacked out Wednesday night. Mays will stay in Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital over night and have the tests Friday morning, according to Manager Alvin Dark.

The December 22, 1944 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune published a story entitled, “Anti-Black-Out Suit” and reported:

Berger G-suits, designed to keep fliers from “blacking out” in steep dives and other maneuvers, are the latest togs for army and navy fighter pilots. The army’s ” G-suit “– the “G” is for gravity — is a pair of high waisted pneumatic pants with built-in suspenders and girdle, and air bladders over the abdomen and legs.

For pilots, greying out or blacking out was a serious problem when it happened. A black out was a complete loss of vision due to no blood getting to the eye even though the pilot was still conscious at the time. The loss of memory that was part of blacking out and falling unconscious was particularly disconcerting to pilot trainers, air force personnel, researchers and, of course, pilots. It was observed that black outs left pilot completely unaware that they have been unconscious and provided them with a false perception of how well they were coping with “positive G” or “eyeballs down G.”

In the mid-1920s, Royal Air Force pilots who were training for the Schneider Trophy became adept at knowing the point at which they would move from a black out to completely losing consciousness.

As an interesting side note, the first manned flight — which was 12-seconds long — was on December 17, 1903 and the first 5-minute manned flight was on November 9, 1904. The American government bought its first airplane in 1909 and the first airplane armed with a machine gun was flown in 1912. On July 18, 1914 an Aviation Section of the Signal Corps was established. In other words, blacking out became a new expression in the 20th century thanks in part to Orville and Wilbur Wright.

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