Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘The Mirror’

Don’t Spare The Horses

Posted by Admin on January 13, 2014

Whenever you hear someone add don’t spare the horses to a directive, what you’ve heard is someone being told to hurry up with what they’re doing.  It’s not a negative statement, but rather, one that expresses the importance of speeding things up rather than continuing at the current pace.

When Jane Simon, journalist for The Mirror in London, England wrote her April 26, 2010 article, “We Love Telly: Pick Of The Day” she included a bit about Iron Chef UK — a spin-off of the American show which was a spin-off of the original Japanese show. While the four chefs contestants take on are impressive, it’s Olly Smith that Jane Simon writes most enthusiastically about with this comment:

Hyperactive even when he’s presenting some quite sensible item on Saturday Kitchen, here he’s been told to go for broke and don’t spare the horses.

“I’m like a Spitfire coming through the clouds!” he booms as he dashes in to peer into a frying pan. Or, my personal favourite: “Join us after the break when we shall erupt in a frenzy of judgment!”

In the crime thriller novel by Catherine Aird aka novelist Kinn Hamilton McIntosh (June 20, 1930 – ) entitled, “The Complete Steel” and published in 1969, the adventures of Detective Chief Inspector C. D. Sloan and his sidekick, Detective Constable Crosby continue. The story was published in the US under the title, “The Stately Home Murder” and was the third book in the series.

Detective Constable Crosby turned the police car …

“Home James and don’t spare the horses,” commanded Sloan, climbing in.

“Beg pardon, sir?”

Sloan sighed. “Headquarters. Crosby, please.”

Don’t Spare The Horses” was also a popular song by American actor, composer and songwriter, Fred Hillebrand (1893 – 1963) in 1934. The main focus of the song is about a date night gone terribly awry. It was recorded by “radio sweetheart number oneElsie Carlisle (28 January 1896 – November 1977) with Ambrose and the Mayfair Hotel Orchestra the year it was written. The recording was re-issued in 1966 on the Pearl Flapper label in an Ambrose compilation. These lyrics were transcribed from the 1938 edition of Song Fest.

HOME, JAMES, AND DON’T SPARE THE HORSES

It was in the gay nineties
One night at a swell affair
She was dressed in her best Sunday bustle
And wore a rat in her hair.

Her hero was both young and handsome,
But he was a terrible flirt.
He spent the entire evening
Making up to every skirt.

And when she gently reproached him,
He heeded her not at all,
And she, in her best Sunday bustle,
Went flouncing out on the hall,

She swept down the stairs most majestic
To her footman waiting below.
She spoke in accents loud and clear,
And told him where to go.

Home James, and don’t spare the horses,
This night has been ruined for me.
Home, James, and don’t spare the horses,
As ruined as ruined can be.

It’s still in the gay nineties,
In fact the very next day.
Our hero is somewhat remorseful,
And don’t know just what to say.

He thinks he’d better do something
To win her again for his own,
For she was his very best sweetheart
She was always good for a loan.

He went right straight to her mansion
And said “Forgive me dear.”
But, when he tried to embrace her,
She gave him a boot in the rear.

He swept down the stairs most majestic
And the doorman, he booted him too,
And as he threw him in the street,
She said “Humph to you.”

Home, James, and don’t spare the horses,
My suitor is just a bit tight,
Home, James and don’t spare the horses,
He’ll sleep in the stable tonight.

The song puts the expression to the 1890s, and magazines such as “McBride’s Magazine” and “Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine” corroborate this date with the publication of the story “Unc’ Ananias: A Virginia Story” written by American historian and author, Molly Elliot Seawell (October 23, 1860 – November 15, 1916) in July 1982.

“Certainly, certainly, my dear boy,” cried the Squire, taking Mrs. Cary’s arm. “I don’t wish to be informed of your and Patty’s private affairs, — not for the world; but — er — remember, you needn’t spare the horses. Of course I don’t know where you are going, as you haven’t seen proper to mention it, but — the sorrels are good for twenty miles before dark.” And in half a minute the Squire had whisked Mrs. Cary out of sight, although a crack in the door showed they were not out of hearing.

Not much further in this story, the following is written:

At this, Patty advanced and put her hand shyly in Jack’s. He led her out the door, calling out, —

“Good-by, Squire. I am to drive Miss Patty home, and afterwards — but never mind: I know you’d rather not hear.”

Don’t spare the horses, — don’t spare the horses, my boy,” shouted the Squire.

As Jack drove off in the trap with Patty, the gentlemen cheered, the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and Squire Cary came out beaming, and asking right and left, “What’s all this? What’s all this?” Nobody volunteered to tell him.

And in “Erlesmere: or, Contrasts of Character” by L.S. Lavenu and published in 1862, this passage kicks off the first paragraph of the story:

“Drive hard, Nat, don’t spare the horses. My master gave particular orders that we should do the ten miles home in fifty minutes.” So speaking, Mr. Erle’s headgroom spring up behind Sir Fitzroy Herrode’s light barouche. The postilion touched the off horse, and the equipage plunged into the steam of a sunny December morning.

And “Ballou’s Monthly Magazine: Volume 2” published in 1855, there was a story entitled, “Courtship In The Dark” by Frederick Ward Saunders that included this passage:

“I suppose you want me to drive fast, don’t you, sir?” asked the coachman, in a significant tones, as he closed the door.

“Yes, drive like blazes, don’t spare the horses,” replied Cap. though for the life of him he couldn’t have told him where to drive.

The coachman mounted the box, cracked his whip, and off they went at a deuce of a pace, Mary crying like a watering-pot, and Cap. trying to comfort her, in which he succeeded admirably, for he had a peculiar knack of comforting good-looking young women in distress; and by the time they had gone a couple of miles, she became quite lively and chatty.

While the urban myth of Queen Victoria being responsible for the expression “Home, James, and don’t spare the horses” is widely recounted as the source for the idiom, it is nothing more than a fanciful tale … an urban myth. The habit of referring to coachmen as James dates back to the 1600s, with the name James being used as a name of convenience by those from wealthy or noble families when addressing the coachman.

With this information, the idiom can be pegged to the beginning of the 17th century. With that being said, “Home, James, and don’t spare the horses.”

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Throw Caution To The Wind

Posted by Admin on January 23, 2013

If you think it’s a good idea to throw caution to the wind, don’t be surprised if your friends think you’re taking an unnecessary risk.

The Birmingham Mail newspaper published a Letter to the Editor written by D. Newton of Kingswinford on February 23, 2009 that had to do with a Championship game played by the beloved Blues soccer team.   Along with some personal insights, the letter included this bit of advice:

Also, Larsson should be returned to midfield with Fahey replacing Carsley in centre midfield. Attack is the best form of defence, throw caution to the wind and go for it.

On March 18, 1995 journalist Nigel Clarke of The Mirror newspaper in England covered the Mike Tyson v Frank Bruno heavyweight champion of the world boxing event. It didn’t take long for Mike Tyson to win the match, and the article entitled, “I Punched like a Mule: Bruno Knew He Was DOOMED!” read in part:

Tyson, who wiped out Bruno’s challenge in 410 seconds of mayhem, re-lived his chilling battle plan, bragging: “I punched like a mule – he knew he was doomed. He knew I was going to knock him out.”

His Las Vegas demolition scheme was based on a savage non-stop onslaught.

He said: “I just threw caution to the wind, I just wanted to throw punches, to knock him out.”

It appears that the expression was a favorite in the boxing field. On March 1, 1961 Deseret News Sports Editor, Hack Miller, wrote about the title fight between 4-time winner Gene Fullmer and “Sugar” Ray Robinson. The article was entitled, “Fourth Go With Sugar Ray: Gene Will Be The Favorite.” Hack Miller’s take on the upcoming fight included this excerpt:

This doesn’t mean that Fullmer will try to box with Robinson. Few have ever done that and lived to wear the title. Nor does it mean that Fullmer will not use a little of the cover tactics which protected him until he could work within shooting range the last time they fought.

It does mean, however, that Fullmer will throw a little of the caution to the wind and get along with a two-fisted fight.

And 30 years before that, in the Pittsburg Press of July 1, 1931 United Press staff writer, George Kirksey wrote a piece about Georgia boxer, W.L. “Young” Stribling, in an article entitled, “Stribling Flies Over Schmeling Camp.” Boxing fans were eager to learn more about this pugilist, and George Kirksey began his article with this:

Young Stribling’s airplane ride to Max Schmeling’s training camp in defiance of Madison Square Garden officials and his father-manager had many persons wondering today if the Georgian doesn’t plan to throw caution to the wind in Friday night’s bout in the new Cleveland stadium.

“I feel better now than any time since I started training,” Stribling remarked. “That ride was just what I needed.”

Those close to Stribling know that the Georgia boy has his heart set on trying to knock out Schmeling. “Pa,” however, favors a safer source.

And 30 years before that, when cars were the latest rage and motorcar racing was in its infancy, the Baltimore American newspaper had a very detailed article in the August 24, 1901 edition of their newspaper. Entitled, “Another Race For Motors: Four Noted Crews And Motors To Be Again Tested Around The Bowl Track” readers learned the following:

There is great rivalry between the Nelson brothers as to the speeds of the motors, while the “Blues” are a distinct camp full of all that professional jealousy that animates actors and motor riders. The outlook is that there will be more races of throwing caution to the wind after the crack of the pistol and of thrilling rides with death for the satisfaction of victory and the purses.

At the Colosseum tomorrow afternoon at 4 o’clock the two “Blue” machines will be sent out to see just how fast they can go. The motors are working well and the training of them tomorrow afternoon is apt to be watched by a huge crowd.

Prior to the use of throw caution to the wind, the expression was actually throw discretion to the wind.

The New York Times published a story on June 19, 1887 entitled, “Sharp Sleeps In A Jail: Sheriff Grant Had Begun To Get Nervous.” Jacob Sharp, a famous millionaire of that era, was placed by order of the court into the custody of Sheriff Grant and an uproar started over the condition of the jail and concerns about the cuisine, service, ventilation, and high moral atmosphere of the Ludlow Street Jail. The jury was also a source of considerable official anxiety as well. Mr. Rickets and his six assistants were charged with ensuring that the jury members did not speak to anyone other than other jury members, and the problem of what to do with the jury members on a Sunday was brought to the Judge’s attention. The article read in part:

Yesterday Mr. Ricketts asked judge Barrett what the jury would do over Sunday. This puzzled the court not a little. Sending the jury to church was questionable, because two of them were known to have free-thinking, baseball proclivities, and might create a disturbance. Coney Island was equally inadvisable, since there were church members of long repression on the jury, who, brought face to face with those follies and vices of the world which they usually took pains to avoid, might impulsively throw discretion to the winds and be detected in the act of buying popcorn and lemonade from some of those snub-nosed Circes from the factories who go to Coney Island on Sunday prepared to “mash” anything and everything that is mashable in all the width of the world.

The expression was used with ease in the article with the expectation that readers would understand what it meant, and so it is reasonable to believe it had been in use at least the generation prior to its publication in the New York Times article cited.

That being said, both expressions are related to one used by English poet and polemicist, John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) in his poem, “Paradise Lost: A Poem In Ten Books”  published in 1667. The poem addressed the temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan that led to being ousted from the Garden of Eden.  This passage is found in the poem:

Taste so divine, that what of sweet before
Hath touched my sense, flat seems to this, and harsh.
On my experience, Adam, freely taste,
And fear of death deliver to the winds.
So saying, she embraced him, and for joy
Tenderly wept; much won, that he his love
Had so ennobled, as of choice to incur
Divine displeasure for her sake, or death.

The use of deliver to the winds implies that the action is undertaken with such abandon that fear isn’t considered at the time of the action.

However, more than three hundred years before John Milton published “Paradise Lost” when it came to legal matters, the word caution was used to describe a guarantee or pledge. It was from the Old French caution which meant security or surety. The Old French word was from the Latin word cautionem (or cautio) meaning caution, foresight or precaution, and this was from the word cavere which meant “to be on one’s guard.”

The term cautio was traced back to Roman times in the reference book, “A Summary of the Roman Civil Law, Illustrated By Commentaries On and Parallels from the Mosaic, Canon, Mohammedan, English and Foreign Law” by Patrick Colquhoun. The book references a number of cautio.

In the case of a cautio de rato, an agent or attorney appears on behalf of a third-party without a formal power of attorney contract between them. It is understood, however, that the third-party agrees to abide by whatever decisions are arrived at by the third-party’s agent or attorney. This, of course, places the third-party in a somewhat dangerous position if the agent or attorney is unethical in his dealings, and therefore, it can be said that by the cautio de rato, this leaves the third party figuratively throwing caution to the wind when it comes to his legal matters.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Drop A Brick

Posted by Admin on January 21, 2013

If you drop a brick, you can rest assured that you’ve either made a tactless remark, or announced shocking — perhaps even startling — news to those around you. Yes, you’ve committed a social gaffe and perhaps been indiscreet as well in the process.

When David Moore wrote an article about David James for The Mirror newspaper in London (England) in 2001 in an article entitled, “Football: I’ll play until I’m 40.. and win 70 England Caps Says David James” he included this in his story:

“I know they call me “Calamity James” whenever I drop a brick. It has ceased to worry me. And besides, I’m probably the person who put that tag into the minds of the journalists who first wrote it. The old Doris Day musical western “Calamity Jane” has always been a favourite of mine.

The Glasgow Herald in Scotland published an article on June 27, 1968 that dealt with civil servants and the behaviour expected of civil servants. In an article entitled, “Plan For Big Overhaul Of Civil Service: Department To Take Over Management By Treasury” the article dealt with the Fulton Committee that had been appointed 18 months earlier to examine the Civil Service, and to make recommendations therein. In the article, the following was reported:

The convention of anonymity of civil servants should be modified, and civil servants as professional administrators should be allowed to go further in explaining what their departments were doing.

It would be unrealistic to think that a civil servant would not sometimes drop a brick and embarrass his Minister, but this should be faced.

On September 19, 1959, the Meriden Record in Meriden-Wallingford (CT) reported on Nikita Khrushchev’s upcoming visit to the U.S. The main focus of the visit was to build up the image of being a sensible, practical man with friendly intentions towards Americans. The article was entitled, “Khrush Driving Hard To Persuade Americans He Is Not A Monster.” Midway through the article, journalist Relman Morin wrote:

There is something ingratiatingly human about him when he expresses the hope that he won’t “drop a brick” during all the talking he will do in the United States — and that Americans will excuse him if he does.

The Glasgow Herald used the expression 15 years before that, in an article entitled, “Key States In U.S. Election: Dewey’s Prospects In The East” published on October 6, 1944. The situation faced by New York Governor Dewey was explained thusly:

There is no doubt that Governor Dewey will come down to the Bronx with a great majority collected up-State, and that it will take a great deal of energy to accumulate an adequate majority in New York City to offset this advantage.

It is here that the chance of accidents makes the most confident commentator pause. The Republican candidate or the President, or more likely a rash supporter of one or the other, may drop a brick of the first magnitude alienating Jews or Irish or Italians or waiters or the ornaments in café society.

It would seem that the Glasgow Herald has an affinity for the expression. It appeared in a news article entitled, “Agricultural Co-operation: Imperial Conference In Glasgow” published in the July 20, 1938 edition of the newspaper. It read in part:

Mr. William Adair, Glasgow, said that it was interesting to hear Mr. Rokach confess the danger in Palestine co-operative marketing that, in the absence of Government compulsion upon growers to join, the outsiders might gain more than the members from such organisation. The conference seemed inclined to applaud only voluntary co-operation, but, if he were permitted to drop a brick into the proceedings, he would remind them that, despite the exchange of nice sentiments between farmer co-operators and industrial co-operators, it was the latter who deliberately went out to defeat the West of Scotland Milk Pool, which 10 years ago marked the first large-scale attempt by agricultural producers of Great Britain to control their own marketing on voluntary lines.

It might be easy to assume that the expression was unique to Scotland back then, however, the expression appeared on October 20, 1929 in a New York Times article entitled, “Free State Politicians Plan Move To End Barring Of A Catholic Ruler” by M.G. Palmer. It was found on page 3 in the Editorial section and began with:

Are Free State politicians preparing to drop a brick on the toes of the British Labor Ministers? Naturally, in the centenary year of the Catholic Emancipation, a vigorous effort might be expected to remove any remaining religious disabilities.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his story “The Beautiful And Damned” first published by Scribner’s in 1922. It appeared in Book Two: Chapter I and subtitled, “The Radiant Hour.”

“Of course! Would you value your Keats letter if the signature was traced over to make it last longer? It’s just because I love the past that I want this house to look back on its glamourous moment of youth and beauty, and I want its stairs to creak as if to the footsteps of women with hoop skirts and men in boots and spurs. But they’ve made it into a blondined, rouged-up old woman of sixty. It hasn’t any right to look so prosperous. It might care enough for Lee to drop a brick now and then. How many of these–these _animals_”–she waved her hand around–“get anything from this, for all the histories and guide-books and restorations in existence? How many of them who think that, at best,appreciation is talking in undertones and walking on tiptoes would even come here if it was any trouble? I want it to smell of magnolias instead of peanuts and I want my shoes to crunch on the same gravel that Lee’s boots crunched on. There’s no beauty without poignancy and there’s no poignancy without the feeling that it’s going, men, names, books,houses–bound for dust–mortal–“

That being said, the President’s Address of the Northeast Wisconsin Teacher’s Association, given by Principal Charles C. Parlin in Oshkosh (WI) on February 4, 1910 entitled “The Twentieth Century High School” included this comment:

In the old school, discipline was a contest of wits, between the shrewd boys and the principal. It furnished a type of training not altogether useless to the boy and often very valuable to the teacher. I suppose many a man that has left the school rostrum to win distinction in politics or business could justly attribute his success to that training. But the school is now too big, the interests are too many, for the principal to spare time for any such enlivening pastime. The boy who is inclined to drop a brick-bat into the complicated machinery of a modern high school is too dangerous to be tolerated. That boy must either learn quickly to control his inclinations or else seek a smaller and a simpler organization.

Despite Principal Parlin’s use of drop a brick-bat in his Address, Idiomation was unable to trace the expression drop a brick back to a point prior to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use in his short story. However, that F. Scott Fitzgerald used the expression without italicizing it indicates that it was understood by the general public what it meant. For that reason, Idiomation dates the expression to the turn of the 20th century.

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Chill Out

Posted by Admin on June 14, 2011

Chill, chill out, chellaxin’ … they all mean the same thing: to calm down and relax. And who doesn’t like to chill out? It’s such a cool term, that there’s a category of electronic music known for its mellow style and mid-tempo beats that’s been around since the early 1990s known as chill out music. And yes, chill out music is part of what dance clubs refer to as “smooth electronica” and “soft techno.”

The Mirror newspaper in London, England ran an article on August 20, 2005 entitled, “Your Life: Guide To Taking A Year Out.” It dealt with those people who take a year off between going to school and moving on to the next phase of their lives by travelling abroad.

India is cheap, thought not always cheerful. However, after the seething humanity of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, you can chill out on the golden beaches of Goa.

Back on October 20, 1992 the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah published an article entitled, “Memo to America, Canada: Chill Out.” It began with this comment:

I just made it through Canadian customs. This flag thing had me worried. This was no time to be an accidental tourist, stumbling off an airplane in Toronto. Before World Series Game 2, a Marine — apparently from the Atlanta barracks of “F Troop” — hung the Canadian flag upside down, creating an international incident.

The expression chill out first appeared on the scene in 1983 as a variation of the former expression which was simply, chill.

Back in 1979, the popular hip hop group Sugarhill Gang reworked Ecclesiastes into their hit song “Rapper’s Delight” resulting in this:

now there’s a time to laugh a time to cry
a time to live and a time to die
a time to break and a time to chill
to act civilized or act real ill
but whatever ya do in your lifetime
ya never let a mc steal your rhyme

And Ann Landers, in the March 25, 1972 edition of the Calgary Herald, heard from an unhappy “southern lady” who wrote in part:

My question is, should a wife be concerned about such a mutual admiration society? Should I chill the relationship? Or should I relax and not worry?

Oddly enough, the expression “chill out” and its earlier variant, “chill” don’t appear to go back past the 1970s and Idiomation was unable to find an published version that pre-dates the 1972 version cited. However, that it would appear so easily in a letter to Ann Landers indicates that the use of “chill” meaning to calm down and relax was part of every day language by 1972 means it most likely dates back to the late 1960s.

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White Out (as in “weather conditions”)

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2011

White out is the first comic book written by novelist Greg Rucka that tells the story of US Marshal Carrie Stetko’s investigation of a murder in Antarctica. A sequel, “White out: Melt” tells the story of the theft of hidden nuclear weapons from an ex-Soviet base. 

However, when someone talks about a white out, what they are referring to is the loss of daylight visibility in heavy fog, snow, or rain, or changing or deleting something that has been previously put forth as a statement, or something that has been published or printed.

As it pertains to weather, back on February 27, 2004 the South Wales Echo published a news story entitled, “Enjoy it, it won’t last!”  The story included this:

Anyone who remembers the great white-outs of the early ’60s and ’80s knows exactly how real snow can seriously affect our lives. Those were the days when entire communities were cut off from the rest of the world for days, if not weeks. There is no doubt parts of Wales have been badly hit by the sudden Arctic snap.  It’s caused chaos on the roads and will no doubt hit businesses.

A year earlier on February 3, 2003 London’s The Mirror published a story about snowstorms in Scotland in a story entitled, “Blizzard Warning.”  It stated:

Scotland was braced for yet more bad weather last night as high winds and snow swept across the country.  Heavy snow showers and drifts caused chaos for motorists yesterday with some roads hit by dangerous white-outs. Drivers had to deal with minor crashes and tailbacks all across the country.

Canada is not unfamiliar with the concept of white outs and transferred the concept to sports in 1987 when the Winnipeg Jets organization asked fans to wear white during the Stanley Cup playoffs as a response to the Calgary Flames’ request that their fans create a “C of Red.”  The Jets won against the Flames that year and the White Out became a home playoff tradition even after the team had relocated to Phoenix.

On January 15, 1956 the Miami News carried Associated Press journalist Saul Pett‘s account of his adventure accompanying aerial explorers on a trip over the South Pole.  The article was engaging and included this commentary:

We are now 20 minutes away from the pole and still in the whiteout.  In an hour and a half, we are due to reach the towering coastal peaks.  We are still 900 miles from the base and we have been burning gas heavily all day fighting headwinds and overcast and whiteouts on the way out.

We are now flying at an altitude of 11,000 feet above sea level but the radar shows a high polar plateau only about 1,500 feet below us.  Nobody on the plane seems worried by the continuing whiteout.  Except me.  I keep thinking what had been told me many times — that if the plane were forced to land on a high plateau our chances of survival would depend largely on our ability to walk.

In 1846 a blizzard meant a cannon shot and during the Civil War a blizzard meant a volley of musketry.  However, the German settlers in Iowa and Virginia oftentimes described severe sudden winter storms with drifting and poor visibility with the phrase “der sturm kommt blitzartig” which means “the storm comes lightning like.”  The transition from blitzartig to blizzard was a natural progression.

In fact, the Northern Vindicator newspaper of Esterville, Iowa used the word “blizzard” between 1860 and 1870 to describe such snowstorms.  It stands to reason that since the word blizzard was easily understood in newspaper stories of 1860 that the term was in use in the western USA as it pertains to weather much earlier than 1860.

Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to locate when the expression white out as associated with weather was first used.  That it should be used so casually in 1956 suggests it was a colloquialism in use in years leading up to the 1956 article by Saul Pett, and at least from the previous generation, placing the expression in the 1930s at the very least.

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