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Posts Tagged ‘Seattle Times’

Lame Duck

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 18, 2013

Lame ducks are such interesting creatures, figuratively speaking. In politics, a lame duck is an elected official who is approaching the end of his or her tenure, and in most cases the successor to that politician has either already been elected to replace him or is being groomed to replace him. In legislative terms and still within the framework of politics, a lame duck is a session that’s inactive. If you’re talking game design, a lame duck is a player in the game who can’t win and yet remains in the game as an active player. In all nutshell, a lame duck is a person or thing that finds himself or herself or itself less capable, and currently disabled, helpless, ineffective, or inefficient.

The Seattle Times republished a news story by Washington Post reporter, David A. Fahrenthold on December 17, 2010 that talked about the most recent session of Congress where frantic legislators hurried all sorts of things. The article, stated:

In 1933, historians say, the country ratified a constitutional amendment intended to kill off sessions like this, where defeated legislators return to legislate. The headline in The Washington Post was “Present Lame-Duck Session Will Be Last.”

So what was this Lame Duck session to which David A. Fahrenthold referred?

On March 2, 1932 Senator George W. Norris put forward a proposal that would later be ratified on January 23, 1933 and take effect on October 15, 1933. This proposal became known as the twentieth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The purpose of the amendment was to reduce the amount of time between election day and the beginning of Presidential, Vice Presidential and Congressional terms. In other words, the amendment called for Congress and each new President to take office in January instead of March (as had been the customary practice), thereby eliminating the lame-duck session of Congress.

It was such an interesting news story that newspapers across the U.S. and abroad kept abreast of the unfolding proposal. This included the Milwaukee Journal of August 2, 1932 that reported on the proposal in a story entitled, “Lame Duck Amendment.”

The lame duck amendment, it will be recalled, proposes to make the federal government more immediately responsible to the will of the people by ending the “short session” of congress and by putting congressmen and president into office in the January following the November elections. Under present constitutional provisions, a defeated president remains in office more than four months after his defeat and a defeated congressman has the same time in which to continue in a course that has been disapproved by the voters. The new congressman, unless a special session is called, must wait thirteen months before taking over the duties to which he has been elected.

While additional details were provided in the story, one last bit should be included and that is to say that the lame duck amendment was seen as a desirable amendment from the standpoint of voters. And why might that be? As the newspaper put it:

Every congressman and every person ambitions to be a congressman figures that some day he may be a “lame duck” seeing what advantage he can from his last days in congress.

Another reason for putting forth this proposal had to do with the 1876 election where Samuel J. Tilden took the popular vote, and neither he nor Rutherford B. Hayes had the majority of the votes of the Electoral College. Because of this, Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes both claimed the same electoral votes in some of the states, thereby complicating matters considerably.

The Manufacturers and Farmers Journal of July 18, 1895 ran a story about the Valkyrie III, a sailing yacht of great acclaim. The article was entitled, “Valkyrie III Criticised: She Showed Herself A Lame Duck In A Strong Breeze.” The article began with this description of the yacht:

Valkyrie III is not exactly the same cutter in light and heavy winds. In light winds she proved herself alongside of Britannia and Ailsa, at Rothesay, June 29, the fastest light-weather yacht under canvas ever built in this country but on the 3rd, with a strong breeze, she showed herself a veritable lame duck.

In 1847, William Makepeace Thackeray wrote and published a book entitled, “Vanity Fair.” In Chapter 13, which was entitled, “Sentimental And Otherwise,” comments about Amelia’s father (identified in the story as Mr. Sedley) and his poor business decisions of late are discussed by Mr. Osborne and George. The discussion is important insofar as George is engaged to be married to Amelia, and this information could lead to calling off the engagement.

“I don’t deny it; but people’s positions alter, sir. I don’t deny that Sedley made my fortune, or rather put me in the way of acquiring, by my own talents and genius, that proud position, which, I may say, I occupy in the tallow trade and the City of London. I’ve shown my gratitude to Sedley; and he’s tried it of late, sir, as my cheque-book can show. George! I tell you in confidence I don’t like the looks of Mr. Sedley’s affairs. My chief clerk, Mr. Chopper, does not like the looks of ‘em, and he’s an old file, and knows ‘Change as well as any man in London. Hulker & Bullock are looking shy at him. He’s been dabbling on his own account I fear. They say the Jeune Amelie was his, which was taken by the Yankee privateer Molasses. And that’s flat—unless I see Amelia’s ten thousand down you don’t marry her. I’ll have no lame duck’s daughter in my family. Pass the wine, sir—or ring for coffee.”

To this end, it would seem that the expression is from the London Stock Market and refers to investors who were unable to pay their debts. Animals seem to be a favorite expression when it comes to stock markets; terms such as the well-known bulls and bears of the stock market. However the term dove was also used in London and is a British slang term meaning someone is a sucker, and rook, which means a swindler or to swindle, is actually a species of European crow.

The Edinburgh Advertiser reported on October 22, 1772 that many people had gone broke in the London stock market (Exchange Alley).  The newspaper story stated:

Yesterday being the settling day for India stock, the bulls had a balance to pay to the bears to the amount of 23 per cent. Only one lame duck waddled out of the alley, and that too for no greater a sum than 20,000 £.

And the Berrow’s Worcester Journal edition of September 12, 1771 published an announcement that advertised a catalogue of new books and plays “just going to be published” could be found with the names of the respective authors alongside. One such book was entitled, “The Lame Duck” by Lauchlin Macleane.

Going back just a few months prior, the Oxford Magazine of January 1771 published by “A Society of Gentlemen, Members of the University of Oxford” reviewed books, shared essays, printed letters and more. Of particular note was what was found on page 151 (just ahead of the Poetical Essays) where the following was published:

Being asked the other day why he did not visit his old friend at the Tower, he answered, “Because I am lame.” “No,” replied his Catechist, “You are not yet, to our misfortune, a lame Duck; but your back is broke by the weight of your contract, and it makes you so unweildy, that you cannot travel so far as the Tower.”

In a letter dated 28 December 1761 the Earl of Orford, Horace Walpole, wrote to the British envoy in Tuscany, Sir Horace Mann, he wrote this:

I had rather have a bronze than a thousand pounds in the Stocks; for if Ireland or Jamaica are invaded, I shall still have my bronze: I would not answer so much for the funds, nor will I buy into the new loan of glory. If the Romans or the Greeks were beat, they were beat; they repaired their walls, and did as well as they could; but they did not lose every sesterce, every talent they had, but he defeat affecting their Change-Alley.

The discussion was, obviously, about the stock market (which was known as Change-Alley at this point in history). Further in this same letter he wrote:

How Scipio would have stared if he had been told that he must not demolish Carthage, as it would ruin several aldermen who had money in the Punic actions. Apropos — do you know what a Bull, a Bear, and a Lame Duck are? Nay, nor I either — I am only certain they are neither animal nor fowl, but are extremely interested in the new subscription. I don’t believe I apply it right; but I feel as if I should be a lame duck if the Spaniards take the vessel that has my altar on board.”

While Horace Walpole may not have understood the term very well, it was a term that was understood by many who were involved with, or in, the Stock Market as seen in an etching on paper that is in the British Museum (museum number: J, 1.24) lettered with the title and captions in the image and annotated in ink, and entitled, “A Scene in Change-Alley, among the Bull, Bears, & Lame Duck.” This etching dates back to 1770.

Interestingly enough, Ducks-and-Drakes is a game that dates back to the 1580s that involved skipping flat stones on water. Figuratively speaking, if you were playing at Ducks-and-Drakes it meant the person was throwing something away recklessly. It would seem then, that long before the London Stock Exchange, the word duck was associated with losing important things, money being one such thing.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of lame duck than those found in the 1770s although for the term to be established in 1770 (albeit not well with some of the upper class who would have been knowledgeable about the Stock Market), the expression would go back at least one generation to 1750. That being said, the game of Ducks-and-Drakes seems to be the point of origin that led to the expression lame duck, and as such, Idiomation is pegging this expression to the 1580s.

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Spruce Goose

Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 7, 2013

When you hear someone talk about a Spruce Goose, it refers to a very specific item at a very specific time in history and is an updated version of the idiom white elephant. A white elephant is a valuable possession that the owner cannot get rid of and where the cost of ownership seems to be more than it’s worth. To this end, a Spruce Goose is just another white elephant.

The late rapper Johnny Burns (1979 – 2000) aka DJ Quik aka Mausberg’s song “Ring King” has the expression Spruce Goose in the lyrics:

I flow like the Spruce Goose, sting worse than a bullet from a deuce-deuce
I’m ’bout to cut loose and react with raw tactics
Rights and lefts be bustin’ like fully automatic, I love static

So does rapper Danny! aka American record producer, Danny Swain’s song “Rhyme Writer Crime Fighter” where he says:

I slayed spooked troops in my youthful days
And flew away in the Spruce Goose, ruthless ways
Now you could say my style was aloof but hey
I gotta stay elusive

But rap fans appear to be perplexed by the expression Spruce Goose, as evidenced by the many questions in various music and rap forums asking what it means.  Strangely enough, one may also wonder if the lyricists understand the expression as well.

In the July 2003 edition of Wired Magazine, Chuck Squatriglia wrote used the expression Spruce Goose in an article about aircrafts.  He wrote in part:

The “Spruce Goose” was either a brilliant aircraft years ahead of its time or the biggest government boondoggle ever. By far the largest aircraft ever conceived — its wingspan was 319 feet — the Spruce Goose was intended to be a military transport plane.

While it’s surprising that so many these days seem to be unfamiliar with the Spruce Goose, the fact of the matter remains that it was a seminal part of American aviation history.  Back on November 14, 1993, the Seattle Times newspaper carried a story out of McMinnville, Oregon that stated:

Congress has approved $4.5 million for the museum that will serve as the new roost for the Spruce Goose flying boat. The money, included in the defense appropriations bill approved Wednesday, will get the museum through planning and into the construction phase, said museum director Howard Lovering.

In other words, this airplane was of significant historical importance that it warranted being preserved in a museum supported by money approved by Congress.

But for whatever reason, the importance of this airplane seems to escaped the memories of Americans over the decades. In fact, in a Letter to the Editor published in the February 24, 1971 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, William J. Carter of Yankeetown wrote this about the airplane.

Designed to answer a desperate World War II call for transport in a Pacific area where the sea would have to supply the runways, the huge airframe housed eight nacelles for propeller driving piston-engine units, the largest power units then existing

Later in the letter he also wrote:

Rather than scorn a great pioneer’s effort to meet emergency needs in wartime, we should join Howard Hughes to such other pioneers of multi-engined aircraft as Sikorsky and Dornier, whose creations were airborne, one in 1914 and the other in the 1920s, when lesser men were living with small dreams and small aspirations.

On January 20, 1954 the Milwaukee Journal ran a series of articles on Howard Hughes, with the article in this edition dedicated to the Spruce Goose. The article contained the following facts about the airplane:

Weight – 425,000 pounds
Height at tail – 2 1/2 stories
Wingspan – 320 feet, just big enough to touch both goalposts on a football field
Hull – 220 feet long, 30 feet high, 25 feet wide
Engines – Eight of 3,000 horsepower each
Gas load – 14,000 gallons, enough to drive your car around the earth more than eight times if there were a highway at the equator
Payload – 750 soldiers fully equipped or a 60 ton tank, something that 100 World War II cargo planes were needed to carry

It was a magnificent example of aeronautical engineering at a time when aluminum was scarce due to the war, and ships were being destroyed by enemy fire. The Spruce Goose — erroneously dubbed since it was built from birch plywood and not spruce — was a solution to that problem. The Milwaukee Journal article was aptly entitled, “$41,000,000 Spruce Goose Climbed 70 Feet.”

The Schenectady Gazette of October 31, 1947 reprinted a story out of Hollywood that had been posted the day before. Entitled, “Howard Hughes To Launch Huge Plane Tomorrow” the story began thusly:

Millionaire plane designer Howard Hughes announced tonight he would launch his giant 200-ton flying boat Saturday morning at Lost Angeles harbor. The $23,000,000 flying boat will be floated from its graving dock at Terminal Island to undergo dockside tests for several hours.

The launch took place two days before a Senate committee investigating Howard Hughes’ government contracts resumed in Washington the following Monday.

And five years before the Hercules — because that was the plane’s real name — took to the skies, Henry J. Kaiser and then 36-year-old Howard Hughes were in the news as reported in the St. Joseph Gazette of September 19, 1942 in an article entitled, “Will Build 3 Cargo Planes: Kaiser And Hughes Get Authorization For Big Craft.” The article shared general details about the venture which included the following:

Neither Kaiser nor Hughes will make any profit from the job, arranged through a letter of intent from the defense plant corporation, but Kaiser was directed to draw plans for a factory in which the giant twin-hulled flying boats could be manufactured in volume should the army and navy find the experimental ships successful.

Putting the situation into perspective, by July 1942, America had just lost 800,000 tons of supply ships to German U-boats. The cargo planes were meant to address this problem.

It was also reported in the article that if the ships were successful, the earliest that Kaiser and Hughes would begin turning the ships out would sometime in 1945. When the war ended, it was expected that this project would also come to an end. Instead, Howard Hughes invested more of his money into bringing the Hercules project to its conclusion.

As readers can see, the Hercules aka Spruce Goose — while successful in that it did fly — was an expensive proposition at best and one that certainly expanded the knowledge base in aviation, but it cost Howard Hughes dearly both to persist with the project and then to house the project once completed.

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

Crisp And Clean And No Caffeine

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 29, 2013

When American rapper Big Daddy Kane released his song “I Get The Job Done” in 1988, it included the phrase crisp, clean and no caffeine. The expression has been used by those who imply that they are, or what they are doing is, above-board and without artifice.

When PopMatters Film and TV Editor, Cynthia Fuchs reviewed the movie “Coffee and Cigarettes” in the May 20, 2004 edition of PopMatters, she wrote about the return of Jim Jarmusch, and the cast which included such recognizable names as Cate Blanchett, Alfred Molina and Bill Murray. The reviewer shared that the movie was actually a set of 10 vignettes strung together, with coffee and cigarettes being the thread that ran through all of them. At one point in the review, she wrote:

Discussing his innovative combinations of alternative medicine and music (“two planets circling around the same sun”), RZA provides a clever gloss on his own numerologizing and Eastern philosophizing, by way of an acute sense of irony and good humor at his own expense (“Crisp and clean,” he rhymes, “No caffeine”). Both the ZAs are duly entertained by the arrival at their table of waiter Bill Murray (whom they repeatedly call by his full name, as a kind of punctuation to every address, as in, “Are you a bug, Bill Murray?”). When they warn him that caffeine brings on “serious delirium,” Bill Murray glugs the brew straight from the pot, as RZA and GZA watch, amazed.

On December 12, 1999 the Seattle Times published a news article written by Associated Press journalist, Ted Anthony entitled, “Little Utah Town Hits A Gusher: Pure Water From The Ice Ages.” In the second-driest state in the United States of America, an aquifer known as Humbug Well became the center of attention … and a possible source of income for the town in Summit County. The story reported that in September 1998, Weston Groundwater Engineering’s hydrogeologist hit pay dirt … or rather, pay water! 175 gallons per minute worth of water! And midway through the article, the journalist wrote:

City officials didn’t realize it was special at first. Sure, it was crisp and clean, no caffeine. But Ice Age water?

The Reading Eagle published a news story on March 21, 1982 entitled, “Seven-Up Launches Controversial Cola.” The opening paragraph stated that Seven-Up had upset its competitors in the soft-drink industry by running an aggressive ad campaign that helped re-brand it from the Un-Cola to something entirely different. With the FDA warning pregnant woman in 1982 to avoid products with caffeine on the basis that studies showed that heavy doses of caffeine caused birth defects in rats, Seven-Up seized on the opportunity to make the most of the FDA’s warnings. The article stated in part:

Seven-Up, which has lost $8.8 million in the past two years, raised the ire of the rest of the industry earlier this month when it launched a new advertising campaign attacking a basic ingredient of its competitors’ sodas — caffeine.

The ads, featuring popular sports personalities, proclaim, “Seven-Up … Crisp and Clean.  No Caffeine.  Feelin’ Seven-Up.”

Just 3 weeks before that article, the Beaver County Times published an article on March 2, 1982 that quoted Les Zuke, a spokesman for the Seven-Up Co., that the “Seven-Up … Crisp and Clean. No Caffeine. Feelin’ Seven-Up” commercials would be introduced nationwide over the next few days. One ad featured Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Randy White, with a traditional commercial featuring a high-profile sports figure. But it was the one with Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw that was the most controversial as he brushed aside cans of Dr. Pepper, Sunkist Orange, Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew and Mello Yello to grab a can of Seven-Up.

But it was the Seven-Up commercials featuring Geoffrey Holder that most people remember.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this idiom, and so 1982 is the year this first came into vogue as a slogan, and making its way into the English language shortly thereafter as an idiom.

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Bling

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 8, 2013

Bling aka Roxanne “Roxy” Washington is a fictional character in the X-Men comic books published by Marvel Comics and first appeared in August 2005. Her superpower is having bone marrow that produces diamond shards which means she has exceptional durability. But where did the word bling come from in the first place, and who coined it?

According to an article in the Seattle Times on December 27, 2005 the term bloom was off the flower where the expression bling was concerned.  Journalist Robin Givhan of the Washington Post wrote:

The word “bling” has been overused by every two-bit jeweler selling cubic zirconium. It has been worn out by virtually all fashion publicists — who for the past five months have been chirping, “Bling The New Year!” — and by every morning TV host trying to make the umpteenth holiday shopping segment sound fun and nifty.

She went on to write:

It used to be that “bling” was reserved for jewelry, decorative wheel rims or gold teeth — all of it excessively flashing and extraordinarily expensive. It was a terrific term because it had the quality of a sound effect.

In January of 2005, the Guardian newspaper took on the subject of noticeable jewelry being worn more and more often by celebrities in an article entitled, “How Bling-Bling Took Over The Ring.” The teaser with the article enticed people to read more about the bling being worn by boxing’s most noticeable personalities.

From Don King’s diamonds to Mike Tyson’s ostentatious gems, only boxing rivals in the bling stakes. Thomas Hauser and Marily Cole Lownes trace the rise of the carat crunchers — including one whose smile is worth a small fortune.

A year before that in January of 2004, the Lake Superior State University of Michigan committee had already deemed the expression bling as one of the most useless and overused words, winning the expression a place on the “List of Words Banished From The Queen’s English For Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness” — a list that has existed since 1976.

On January 22, 2000 the Gettysburg Times published a news story by Associated Press Sports Writer, Ken Peters about the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA fans who loved them. The story was entitled, “Lakers’ Victory Parade Travels Through Scene Of Violence.” Along with the festive tone of the piece, the following sentence was included:

Bling Bling” was O’Neal’s explanation for the sound made when light bounces off a diamond NBA championship ring.

It’s a fact that the term bling was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in 2006 and the Oxford English Dictionary in 2002 after rising in popularity in the English language thanks to hip hop culture.

Jamaican DJ Super Cat had a hit in 1993 with the song “Dolly My Baby” which was recorded for his 1992 album, Don Dada. It reached #64 on the R&B charts and #21 on the rap and dance charts. The expression appears midway through the song as follows:

[Third Eye]
Bling, bling! Who’s that with Supercat
(Third Eye!, Third Eye!)
Yes black, where all my troopers at
(Uptown!, Uptown!)
They got my back but I’m still strapped
Got the real phat, phat track for my ill rap
Black, ain’t no shame in my game, just because it’s real
You think I won’t scoop your girl, oh yes I will.

This makes Lil’ Wayne’s claim on the Outkast song, “Hollywood Divorce” specious at best when he raps:

Bling bling, I know and did you know I’m the creator of the term?

But in the end, credit has to go to the makers of Ultrabrite toothpaste who created a commercial campaign back in the 1970s that ran with the tag line: “Ultrabrite gives your mouth … [bling] … sex appeal!” Before the words “sex appeal”, a high-pitched bell would sound over the visual of a young man or woman smiling. It wasn’t long before comedians seized on what they felt was the silliness of the campaign, spoofing it in their routines by vocalizing the sound effect.

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Watershed Moment

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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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Out Of The Blue

Posted by Elyse Bruce 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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