Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Him and Ananias are like that" and more

"Say, him and Ananias are like that," Asey held up two fingers.
Acts chapter 4 closes by stating that the first followers of Jesus did not consider their possessions to be their own, but they had all things in common -- not of obligation, but all were ready to use what they had on behalf of those in want. Barnabas, a Levite from Cyprus, sold a plot of land and donated the profit to the apostles.

In chapter 5, Ananias and Sapphira also sold their land, but withheld a portion of the sales, having decided that they did not wish to give it all to the common purse. Ananias presented his donation to Peter claiming that it was the entire amount. Peter replied, "Why is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?" Peter pointed out that Ananias was in control of the money and could give or keep it as he saw fit, but that he had withheld it from Peter and lied about it, and stated that Ananias had not only lied to Peter, but also to God. Ananias died on the spot, and as a result, everyone who heard the tale became afraid. Three hours later, his wife told the same lie and suffered the same fate.

Ananias has gone down in history to mean a chronic liar.

"He thinks he's got us buffaloed."
Believe it or not I can't find a history of this phrase. I'm assuming that it refers to the fact that buffalos were the staple of hte American Indian, and in order to beat the Indians with as little bloodshed as possible, buffalo hunters exterminated the beasts - killing thousands at a time and just leaving their carcasses to rot.

"With the aid of a few of Uncle Sam's strips of currency with Cs in the corner of 'm."
A C is the Roman numeral for 100. That's why a C-note is a hundred dollar bill. Benjamin Franklin is on the hundred dollar bill - the only non-president so honored.
Phoebe Atwood Taylor apparently never saw a hundred dollar bill - there are no Cs in the corners, but rather the number 100.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mysterious Days: 23 August

Shoemaker Nicolo Sacco and fish peddler Bartolomeo Vanzetti had been arrested on May 5, 1920 in South Baintree, Massachusetts, and charged with the April 15, 1920 robbery and murders at the Slater and Morrill shoe factory. With only circumstantial evidence presented against them, they will eventually be convicted and sentenced to execution. Current thought is that this occurred primarily because of their immigrant backgrounds and anarchist policies.

Despite worldwide sentiment for them - they are one of the century's greatest judicial cause celebres-both men are electrocuted at Charlestown Prison on August 23, 1927.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good godfreys mighty and more

"What's that got to do with the price of beans?"
"What's that got to do with the -- ?" is an expression which is used to denote something which is unrelated to the current topic of discussion.

A common form "what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?", is a retort to an irrelevant suggestion. This facetious usage implies that the topic under discussion might as well be the price of tea in China for all the relevance the interlocutor's suggestion bears on it. It has been said that this expression has stemmed from economists, who describe everything economic as affecting everything else, trying to find an expression which denotes the farthest logical connection from their current economic focus. In this way, the price of tea in China was used to denote the farthest possibility. It can also be used to denote an irrelevant topic.

In the United States, the phrase "What's that got to do with the price of eggs?" has been in use since the 1920s. The variance "of tea in China" seems to date from the 1940s and may be influenced by the idiom All the Tea in China. The British equivalent is "What's that got to do with the price of fish?" or "What's that got to do with the price of meat?". A Scottish variation is "What's that got to do with the price of cheese?"

There is also the derivative form of "what does that have to do with the price of rice in China," due to the common association between countries of Asia and rice. This variant was famously used in the 1976 film, Network. Another derivative form is "What's that got to do with the price of beans in Albuquerque?"

The six of us spke like a carefully trained Greek chorus.
A Greek chorus is a homogenous, non-individualised group of performers in the plays of classical Greece, who comment with a collective voice on the dramatic action. It originally consisted of fifty members which were later reduced to twelve by Sophocles, then increased to fifteen members by Euripides in tragedies. There were twenty-four members in comedies, and it performs using several techniques, including singing, dancing, narrating, and acting.

"Was there any cars goin' along the beach or parked there round the lane then?"
"Uh, huh. Lots of spooners."
People in their parked cars were "spooning" - caressing each other - but probably not going so far as to have actual sex.

"You wouldn't notice it in that pullman car you've been rolling around in."
Asey is comparing Miss Prudence' car to the Pullman car of a train.
The sleeping car or sleeper (often wagon-lits) is a railway/railroad passenger car that can accommodate all its passengers in beds of one kind or another, primarily for the purpose of making nighttime travel more restful. The first such cars saw sporadic use on American railroads in the 1830s and could be configured for coach seating during the day. Some of the more luxurious types have private rooms, that is to say fully and solidly enclosed rooms that are not shared with strangers.

The man who ultimately made the sleeping car business profitable in the United States was George Pullman, who began by building a luxurious sleeping car (named Pioneer) in 1865. The Pullman Company, founded as the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1867, owned and operated most sleeping cars in the United States until the mid-20th century, attaching them to passenger trains run by the various railroads; there were also some sleeping cars that were operated by Pullman but owned by the railroad running a given train. During the peak years of American passenger railroading, several all-Pullman trains existed, including the 20th Century Limited on the New York Central Railroad, the Broadway Limited on the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Panama Limited on the Illinois Central Railroad, and the Super Chief on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Pullman cars were normally a dark "Pullman green," although some were painted in the host railroad's colors. The cars carried individual names, but usually did not carry visible numbers. In the 1920s the Pullman Company went through a series of restructuring steps, which in the end resulted in a parent company, Pullman Incorporated, controlling the Pullman Company (which owned and operated sleeping cars) and the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. In 1947, in consequence of an antitrust verdict, a consortium of railroads bought the Pullman Company from Pullman Incorporated, and from then on railroads owned and operated Pullman-made sleeping cars themselves. Pullman-Standard continued in the manufacture of sleeping cars and other passenger and freight railroad cars until 1980.

Friday, August 19, 2011

In the limelight, and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, 1931 pg 116

"Although the brother is sort of in the limelight, isn't he."
Limelight (also known as calcium light) is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide), which can be heated to 2572 °C before melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be “in the limelight.” The actual lights are called limes, a term which has been transferred to electrical equivalents.

"I'll make you a hot toddy."
A hot toddy is a mixed drink, usually including alcohol, that is served hot. Hot toddies (such as mulled cider) are traditionally drunk before going to bed, or in wet or cold weather. They were believed to help cure the cold and flu.

It has been suggested that the name comes from the toddy drink in India,[2] produced by fermenting the sap of palm trees. The term could have been introduced into Scotland by a member of the British East India Company.[3]

An alternative explanation is given in Allan Ramsay's 1721 poem The Morning Interview, which describes a tea party in which it is said that

"All the rich requisites are brought from far: the table from Japan, the tea from China, the sugar from Amazonia, or the West Indies, but that
'Scotia does no such costly tribute bring,
Only some kettles full of Todian spring.'"
To this passage, Ramsay has appended the note:

"The Todian spring, i.e. Tod's Well, which supplies Edinburgh with water."
Tod's Well, on the side of Arthur's Seat, supplied Edinburgh, and since whisky derives its name from water (the Scots Gaelic term uisge beatha ), it could be that "Toddy" was a facetious name for whisky.

"Eye for an eye, and all that."
The phrase, "an eye for an eye", (ayin tachat ayin, literally 'an eye under an eye'), is a quotation from several passages of the Hebrew Bible in which a person who has injured the eye of another is instructed to pay compensation. It defined and restricted the extent of retribution in the laws of the Torah.

The English word talion means a punishment identical to the offense, from the Latin talio. The principle of "an eye for an eye" is often referred to using the Latin phrase lex talionis, the law of talion.

"Good godfreys mighty," Asey said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Congregational church and more

"Congregational church," said Asey. "That's the only one you can hear from this place."
Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.

Many Congregational churches claim their descent from a family of Protestant denominations formed on a theory of union published by the theologian Robert Browne in 1592. These arose from the Nonconformist religious movement during the Puritan reformation of the Church of England. In Great Britain, the early congregationalists were called separatists or independents to distinguish them from the similarly Calvinistic Presbyterians. Some congregationalists in Britain still call themselves Independent.

Congregational churches were widely established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, later New England. The model of Congregational churches was carried by migrating settlers from New England into New York and the Old Northwest regions that now includes Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. With their insistence on independent local bodies, they became important in many social reform movements, including Abolitionism and women's suffrage. Modern congregationalism in the U.S. is split into three bodies: the United Church of Christ, which most local Congregational churches affiliate with; the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches; and the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, an evangelical group.

"She was a lousy driver-we didn't talk much of any; why she even nicked a couple of fenders goin' through the main street here, she was so punk."
The term "Punk" has changed over the years. Punk is an archaic term for prostitute, as used by Shakespeare. In the 1930s, to be punk was to be careless, or upset or tired, in the 1950s "punk" came to mean teenagers who broke the law.

"I'm kind of afraid your escutcheon is going to suffer a blot or two."
In heraldry, an escutcheon is a shield which forms the main or focal element in an achievement of arms. The word is used in two related senses.

Firstly, as the shield on which a coat of arms is displayed. Escutcheon shapes are derived from actual shields used by knights in combat, and thus have varied and developed by region and by era. As this shape has been regarded as a war-like device appropriate to men only, British ladies customarily bear their arms upon a lozenge, or diamond-shape, while clergymen and ladies in continental Europe bear theirs on a cartouche, or oval.

To put a blot on the escutcheon means to dishonor it.

"That's the gospel truth."
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the Good News message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, the term is also used to refer to the Apocryphal gospels, the Non-canonical gospels, the Jewish gospels and the Gnostic gospels.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And a little child shall lead them, and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, 1931pg 111

"An a little child shall lead them," Asey murmured.
This is a quote from the Bible, Isaiah 11:6:
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Typically said when someone who isn't expected to know anything, makes a good suggsetion that embarrasses all those present who should have known better.

"A truthful man's as rare as a white crow."
White crows are albinos, and albino animals are rarely seen because they typically don't live very long, lacking protective coloring and also usually driven away from their protective family because they are different.

"Even if he had lied like a trooper..."
LIKE A TROOPER means with great energy, enthusiasm, or display, or just doing things to the extreme (like the early British soldiers supposedly did). And people have using the simile and attributing many things to being ‘done like a trooper’ since at least the 18th century including ‘swear like a trooper, ‘lie like a trooper, ‘eat like a trooper,’ ‘laugh like a trooper,’ and ‘die like a trooper.’ But, as mentioned above, some people may be referring to the characteristics of a hardworking actor (which technically should probably be spelled ‘trouper’ in this instance.

"He lied like the old Harry."
"The old Harry" is slang for the Devil.

"That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Modern usage: something that you say when you have given an explanation about yourself which is not completely true, as for example, I'm not fat, I've just got big bones. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!"

But in the past, it was said seriously, by individuals who would answer a question from the police, or a lawyer, and then be asked the same question again and again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bird in hand and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, 1931. pg 105
"Oh, we'll take him long 'v us. Bird in hand, you know. Like the lady in the Bible, whither we goest, he will go and whither he goest, we'll be there too."

1. This proverb refers back to mediaeval falconry where a bird in the hand (the falcon) was a valuable asset and certainly worth more than two in the bush (the prey).

The first citation of the expression in print in its currently used form is found in John Ray's A Hand-book of Proverbs, 1670, which he lists it as:

A [also 'one'] bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

By how much the phrase predates Ray's publishing isn't clear, as variants of it were known for centuries before 1670. The earliest English version of the proverb is from the Bible and was translated into English in Wycliffe's version in 1382, although Latin texts have it from the 13th century:

Ecclesiastes IX - A living dog is better than a dead lion.

Alternatives that explicitly mention birds in hand come later. The earliest of those is in Hugh Rhodes' The Boke of Nurture or Schoole of Good Maners, circa 1530:

"A byrd in hand - is worth ten flye at large."

2. "Whither thou goest is from the Bible, Ruth 1:16
King James Bible
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God

He emerged from the doctor's looking like a figure from the Spirit of '76.
Archibald MacNeal Willard (August 22, 1836–October 11, 1918) was an American painter who was born and raised in Bedford, Ohio.[1]

Willard joined the 86th Ohio Infantry in 1863 and fought in the American Civil War. During this time he painted several scenes from the war, and forged a friendship with photographer James F. Ryder. Willard painted The Spirit of '76 in Wellington, Ohio after he saw a parade pass through the town square.[2]

Willard's most famous work is The Spirit of '76 (previously known as Yankee Doodle) which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition. The original is displayed in Abbot Hall (Marblehead, Massachusetts) as Williard painted several variations of the now-famous scene. Another original variation of the work by Williard hangs in the United States Department of State. Of note, he used his father as the model for the middle character of the painting. Willard painted three murals in the main hall of the Fayette County, Ohio courthouse in Washington Court House, Ohio: "The Spirit of Electricity", "The Spirit of Telegraphy", and "The Spirit of the Mail".

"What's on the docket now?"
Also called trial docket. a list of cases in court for trial, or the names of the parties who have cases pending.

"That pin I'm holding in my hand. Not two other pins in Chicago."
In most of her books, Taylor has one of her characters say something similir to the above. It follows the same general formula. "Yes, this that I am holding in my hand, not two other this's in (some other state). It must therefore have been a common response to someone trying to disavow knowledge of something, but I can't find an exact reference to it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Infant Joy and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, pg 101

I was inventing a new candy to be called Infant Joy after the child in the poem who had no name but was three days old...
The poem is by William Blake (1757-1827) and Taylor has it wrong - the child was 2 days old.
'I have no name;
I am but two days old.'
What shall I call thee?
'I happy am,
Joy is my name.'
Sweet joy befall thee!

Pretty joy!
Sweet joy, but two days old.
Sweet Joy I call thee:
Thou dost smile,
I sing the while;
Sweet joy befall thee!

"You hicks is muley."
Muley is of course to be mulish, stubborn. A mule, however, is generally not as stubborn as a donkey, but will not let itself be put in harms way by its rider (unlike a horse.)
A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse.[1] Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes. Of the two F1 hybrids between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a hinny (the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey). All male mules and most female mules are infertile.

The size of a mule and work to which it is put depends largely on the breeding of the mule's dam. Mules can be lightweight, medium weight, or even, when produced from draught horse mares, of moderately heavy weight.[2]

An aficionado of the mule claims that they are "more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term is a "by-form" of the personal name Richard (like Dick) and Hob (like Bob) for Robert. Although the English word "hick" is of recent vintage, distinctions between urban and rural dwellers are ancient.

According to a popular etymology derives from the nickname "Old Hickory" for Andrew Jackson, one of the first Presidents of the United States to come from rural hard-scrabble roots. This nickname suggested that Jackson was tough and enduring like an old Hickory tree. Jackson was particularly admired by the residents of remote and mountainous areas of the United States, people who would come to be known as "hicks."

Though not a term explicitly denoting lower class, some argue that the term degrades impoverished rural people and that "hicks" continue as one of the few groups that can be ridiculed and stereotyped with impunity. In "The Redneck Manifesto," Jim Goad argues that this stereotype has largely served to blind the general population to the economic exploitation of rural areas, specifically in Appalachia, the South, and parts of the Midwest.

"The little pitcher done went once too often to the well."
This proverb has been in use since the 14th century, in practically every country/language.
The pitcher doth not go so often to the well, but it comes home broken at last.
- Proverb
The pitcher goes often to the well and gets broken at last.
- Proverb, (French)
The pitcher goes so long to the well that it breaks at last.
- Proverb, (Dutch)
The pitcher goes so often to the well that it is broken at last.
- Proverb
The pitcher goes so often to the well, that it gets broken at last.
- Proverb, (German)
The pitcher goes so often to the well, that it leaves its handle or its mouth.
- Proverb, (Spanish)
The pitcher that goes often to the fountain leaves there either its handle or its spout.
- Proverb, (Italian)
The pitcher that goes often to the well leaves either its handle or its spout there.
- Proverb, (Portuguese, Spanish)
The pitcher that goes too often to the well is broken at last.
- Proverb, (English)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mad as a hatter and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, Phoebe Atwood Taylor, 1931
pg 99

"Mad as a hatter. What do we do now?"
"Mad as a hatter" is a colloquial phrase, used as early as 1829, used in conversation to refer to a crazy person. In 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt, which was used in the manufacturing of hats common of the time. People who worked in these hat factories were exposed daily to trace amounts of the metal, which accumulated within their bodies over time, causing some workers to develop dementia caused by mercury poisoning. Thus the phrase "Mad as a Hatter" became popular as a way to refer to someone who was perceived as insane.

"If Kurth should turn up, tell him some cock-and-bull story."
the phrase comes from old folk tales that featured magical animals. The early 17th century French term 'coq-a-l'âne' was glossed in Randle Cotgrave's A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, 1611 as meaning:

An incoherent story, passing from one subject to another.

The literal translation of 'du coq à l'âne' is 'from rooster to jackass', which nicely fits the meaning of the term. This was later taken up in Scots as "cockalayne", again with the same meaning. The first citation of 'cock and bull' stories in English is from Robert Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621:

"Some mens whole delight is to talk of a Cock and Bull over a pot."

This reference to 'a cock' and 'a bull', which is duplicated in all the early 17th and 18th century citations of the phrase, lends support to the view that the stories were about cocks and bulls, i.e. fanciful tales.

"I repeated Mr. Milton's poem about those also serving who only stood and waited."
John Milton (9 December 1608 – 8 November 1674) was an English poet, polemicist, and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England. He is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost.

He was a scholarly man of letters, a polemical writer, and an official serving under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval in England, and his poetry and prose reflect deep convictions and deal with contemporary issues, such as his treatise condemning licensing, Areopagitica. As well as English, he wrote in Latin and Italian, and had an international reputation during his lifetime. After his death, Milton's critical reception oscillated, a state of affairs that continued through the centuries.

At an early stage he became the subject of partisan biographies, such as that of John Toland from the nonconformist perspective, and a hostile account by Anthony à Wood. Samuel Johnson wrote unfavourably of his politics as those of "an acrimonious and surly republican"; but praised Paradise Lost "a poem which, considered with respect to design may claim the first place, and with respect to performance, the second, among the productions of the human mind".

William Hayley's 1796 biography called him the "greatest English author". He remains generally regarded "as one of the preeminent writers in the English language and as a thinker of world importance.

On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."