Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Telegraph Herald’

Black Friday

Posted by Admin on November 29, 2013

The expression Black Friday — outside of its use to describe the Friday after American Thanksgiving — is applied to any Friday when a public calamity happens. It’s most often applied to calamities that are associated with finances, however.

On July 16, 1966 the Leader-Post newspaper reported about Britain’s new economic crisis where millions of pounds were wiped off market value of shares according to a news story entitled, “Wilson Hit Hard On Black Friday.” The second paragraph reported:

It was called Black Friday in the financial district. It was a Black Friday for Wilson politically as well, with a stunning byelection defeat of the government and reports of a cabinet tussle between two senior ministers.

When the Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal was rolled out on April 10, 1932 one of the news stories dated April 9, 1932 and out of Washington that dealt with the long deferred investigation of the New York stock exchange situation where a group of traders planned to raid the market in an attempt to collapse the market. The article read in part:

One member of the senate banking and currency committee declared the reports indicated the raiders hoped to cause a more sensational decline on prices than occurred on the “Black Friday” of October 1929.

Jumping back almost 50 years, an article was published on February 23, 1881 in the Owosso American newspaper that talked about the Funding Bill that forced banks to call in their loans and where brokers refused to buy stock on margins. It was reported that the stock exchange was in pandemonium. It was also reported that while the fall in stocks was significant, it was nothing equal to the panic of 1873. The article was entitled, “Another Black Friday In Wall Street.”

It was the New York Times edition of March 1, 1870 that spoke of the original Black Friday of September 24, 1869 when Jay Gould and James Fisk Jr. cause the gold market to collapse in an attempt to corner it. The Congressional Committee appointed to ask into the circumstances of that day head that Messrs. Gould and Fisk along with their associates had tried to force gold to 100 premium and in doing so, the gold market actually collapsed when President Ulysses S. Grant ordered a release of government gold for sale. The created the situation where gold prices to plummeted thereby creating a panic in the stock market. The article was entitled, “The History Of Black Friday.”

At the time, Black Friday caused a scandal as some speculated that President Ulysses S. Grant (27 April 1822 – 23 July 1885) had been complicit in the scheme. This potential scenario was offered up in light of the fact that the president’s brother-in-law, Abel Rathbone Corbin (May 24, 1808 – March 28, 1881) and Secretary of the Treasury, George Sewall Boutwell (January 28, 1818 – February 27, 1905) were involved in the scheme, coupled with the fact that President Grant had personal associations with Messrs. Gould and Fisk Jr.

The use of the expression Black Friday first appeared with this scandal and for this reason, Black Friday is pegged to this event in history back in 1869.

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

Indian Giver

Posted by Admin on September 6, 2011

Indian Giver is an offensive term that leaves the very clear yet nasty impression that a person has given a gift and expects that gift returned to them or to receive in return the equivalent value of the gift given.

Back in on July 29, 2009 American singer Jessica Simpson, 29, was asked by a TMZ.com video crew if she wanted an expensive gift back from former boyfriend Tony Romo. Her shocking response was: “Hey, I’m not an Indian giver.” She got into the back seat of a waiting car and drove off into the night.

Us Magazine  and Fox News carried the news as quickly as Jessica Simpson had tossed off the remark and there was public outrage over her use of the term “Indian giver.” 

The expression has been identified as offensive over the years and is rarely heard these days.  However, the expression hasn’t always been treated this way.  There was a time not that long ago when the expression could be found in any number of publications without negative reaction from the public.

On November 16, 1977 the Palm Beach Post newspaper ran a column written by Washington based humourist, Art Buchwald about the land the United States government had given back to the North American Indians — land the government at the time considered to be worthless.  As it turned out, the land was more valuable than the government at the time realized.  The land in question was found to hold one-third of all the low-sulphur coal suitable for strip mining, 55% of America’s uranium and 4% of America’s oil and natural gas. Of course, realizing the previous government’s mistake and the then-current government’s attempt to get that land back in exchange for different land was something Art Buchwald took aim at in his column.  The title of the piece was:

Trials Of An Indian Giver

On March 9, 1959 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article on March 9, 1959 that took a look at inflation and the impact it had on the wallets of hard-working American.  It wasn’t bad enough that the headline was “Just An Indian Giver.”  Adding insult to injury, the first sentences were:

Not only is inflation an “Indian giver” — he’s a pickpocket to boot.  Under inflation you think you get a few more dollars in pay.  But then you go to spend them.  Now you find that inflation has already taken back those dollars!

A decade before, the Milwaukee Journal carried a scandalous story about Millionaire Gar Wood and his secretary, Violet V. Bellous.  It was the case of an affair gone bad and both sides were dissatisfied with how things ended.  The story was entitled, “Wood Called Indian Giver: Secretary Tells Story.”  It related the following in part:

Mrs. Bellous, 30, called Wood an “Indian giver.”  He is seeking the return of a $100,000 palatial home, now in Mrs. Bellous’ name, $20,000 in bonds and $5,000 in cash.  Mrs. Bellous related that Wood endeavored to have her leave her husband … calling attention “to the fact that he was an enormously wealthy man”; that he could giver her luxuries of life that her husband never could; that she could “be like a queen because I am a king.”

The Telegraph-Herald seems to have had a sweet spot for the expression.  On June 24, 1932 it ran a story out of Chicago entitled, “Al Is Tired Posing For Photographers.” It was a brief piece that read thusly:

Through the generosity of an Indian giver, Al Smith today was the recipient of a five-pound bass.  Chief Man of the Heavens, sachem of the Chippewa tribe, journeyed from the reservation at Minocqua, Wis., to the former New York governor’s convention headquarters here to present the fish.

Through his interpreter, Thunder, the chief informed the “happy warrior” that he himself had captured the bass.

Asked to pose for a photograph, Smith wearily replied:  “I’ve been posing for nine hours today.  Take one of the other pictures and paint a fish on it.”

And on November 3, 1918 the Telegraph-Herald ran an advertisement with the headline, “Don’t Be An Indian Giver! Hold the War Savings Stamps you have bought.  Buy more.  Don’t cash them in now.”  The advertisement was courtesy of the Savings Department of the First National Bank on 5th and Main Streets in beautiful downtown Dubuque, Iowa.  The text read thusly:

You have loaned the Government the money you have invested in War Savings Stamps for five years.  Don’t be an unpatriotic “Indian giver” and ask for the money now.  Hold your stamps until the date of maturity — January 1, 1923 — and get your full interest from Uncle Sam.

Worst Kind Of Slacker

The person who demands money for the Stamps he is financially able to hold is a worse slacker than the person who has bought none.  Financial distress is the only excuse for demanding your money now.

On May 28, 1893 the New York Times published a short story entitled, “An Irrational Impulse.”  There’s no mention of the author however the story reads in part:

“My dear Mrs. Tedford,” he began, “I hear — ” (little Mr. Phibbs had a proclivity for hearing) “I hear that you have executed a paper for your father which shows that no title passed by his registering the securities in your name, and that if any did, you thereby retransferred it.  This is most serious, in fact, most fatal.  If there was a consensus of your — “

“What does all that mean?” asked Kate flippantly.

“It means that you understand that he didn’t give the securities to you and so stated in writing.”

“Oh what a wicked lie.”

“But are you quite sure?  It would be in accordance with your father’s cautious nature to exact such a document.”

“And be a regular Indian giver? Oh, no!  Pa was gone on me in those days.  He would have cut off his ears had I craved them.  He said, ‘There, my dear daughter, there is a little present for you.'”

The term “Indian giver” was first cited in John Russell Bartlett‘s “Dictionary of Americanisms” in 1860.  However, the term “Indian gift” is found in the book by businessman, historian, and a prominent Loyalist politician of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780) entitled, “History of Massachusetts Bay.”   In his book he stated:

An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.

From this, it is reasonable to assume that one who gave an Indian gift could be considered to be an Indian giver as opposed to a European or British giver.  The British and European settlers in the new world didn’t seem to understand the barter system that was part of North American Indian society.

And somewhere between 1765 and 1893, the expression went from being a descriptive term for a different cultural tradition to being an offensive reference.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Go Bananas

Posted by Admin on March 1, 2011

Gamewright published a board game named “Go Bananas” in 2000.  It was a children’s game designed by Monty and Ann Stambler with artwork by Dave Clegg and had a playing time of about 20 minutes.  The 55-card deck was comprised of 20 monkey cards with wild monkeys, 20 monkey cards with mild monkeys, 8 Gotcha Gator cards, 6 Banana cards and one Wild Gotcha Gator card.  And, of course, as cards were slapped onto the winning pile, players shouted “Go bananas!

According to University of Tennessee English Professor J.E. Lighter who wrote “The Historical Dictionary of American Slang” published in 1994, the phrase alludes to the phrase “go ape.”

On January 21, 1986 Ray Sons writing for the Chicago Sun-Times reported on how football’s Mike Ditka saw himself in his team’s rebels.  It was a three-part report and in part two that ran on that date, he wrote:

Jim Dooley, now Ditka’s assistant for research and quality control, was a split end when Ditka joined the team and coached Ditka and other receivers before succeeding Halas as head coach when the Old Man retired in 1968. He remembers the fire Ditka ignited, not only in games, but in practices. “Every practice was like a game,” Dooley says. “He’d go bananas if he dropped a pass, yelling and screaming.”  His fury was infectious.

Readers of the Anchorage Daily News were treated to an interesting article on April 13, 1978 by Jack Anderson entitled, “Washington Merry-Go-Round: Plugging The Carter Leaks.”

From time to time, we have published excerpts from the confidential minutes and memos of the Carter Cabinet.  This has upset the muck-a-mucks who attend the meetings.  They have started to go bananas over their inability to find and block the leak.

Just a few years earlier, on September 2, 1971 the Telegraph Herald of Dubuque, Iowa ran Erma Bombeck’s column, Wit’s End with the title, “Why Housewives Go Bananas.”  Erma Bombeck’s column that day was on the recent appliance epidemic in her home and how she viewed the events that led to the writing of the column.

However, the term banana as it relates to people comes from 1920s burlesque and vaudeville where a banana was a comedian.  The top banana was the main comic and the second banana was the straight man.  The phrase go bananas referred to an act that was badly under-rehearsed and relied on desperate slapstick.

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

For The Birds

Posted by Admin on January 17, 2011

If it’s worthless, not to be taken seriously, and no good, and if the individual speaking deems it useless, and unacceptable, chances are you’ll that person say the idea, group, individual, ideology or event is strictly for the birds.

Sixty years ago, on December 2, 1951, the Telegraph Herald newspaper of Dubuque, Iowa reported on U.S. gamblers who were leery of the federal gambling tax stamp.  The stamp didn’t license gamblers. The stamp meant the gambler was eligible to pay a 10 percent tax on his “handle” — the amount of money he took in on bets.  The law had come into effect just a month earlier on the first of the month.  And what was the effect of this new law?

The sheriff’s office at Los Angeles, where only 26 registrations were on the books, reported that many bookies were switching to the dope racket, prostitution and other “non-taxable” pursuits.

A Washington, D.C., bookie declared:  “I’m quitting.  This racket was tough enough in the first place.  Now with the G-men breathing on your neck it’s strictly for the birds.”

A few people bought stamps because they thought it would legalize their gambling business. When they discovered it wouldn’t, they wanted their money back.

On October 20, 1944, the Lewiston Evening Journal in Illinois ran an article from guest star, Sgt. Buck Erickson of Camp Ellis.  He was quoted as saying:

“Don’t take too seriously this belief that we have football at Camp Ellis solely for the entertainment of the personnel — that’s strictly for the birds.  The Army is a winner.  The Army likes to win — that’s the most fortunate thing in the world for America.”

But long before then and long before cars were the preferred mode of transportation, horse-drawn carriages in New York left reminders along the way that let people know horse-drawn carriages had passed that way. To put it as politely as possible, the scavenger birds in New York found those reminders to their liking. 

Back in the day, when someone in New York politely said that something was for the birds, they were not-so-politely saying it was something else altogether.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »