Category: Trivia

Let’s Talk Tea

Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

In my books, when company comes to visit, they are more  likely going to be offered a cup of tea rather than a cup of coffee. I suppose this is because I’m a tea lover myself and am not much on coffee (which makes me pretty much an outlier among my south Louisiana family ? )

I enjoy experimenting with tea flavors – green, black rooibos, herbal, chais. Some of my favorites are Hartney’s Hot Spicy Cinnamon and Bigelow’s Vanilla Chai.  I also have a small collection of tea cups that I’ve collected – I’ve sprinkled images of some of them throughout this post.

* * * * * I’m a big fan of dragonflys – here are some cups that reflect that

Now for some trivia and fun facts related to tea:

  • Not only is tea delicious but it is actually good for you. One of the things contained in tea are polyphenols which are antioxidants that repair cells. Because of this, consuming tea might help our bodies fend off cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus and other maladies.
  • It is estimated that there a 1,500 different types of tea.
  • On a per capita basis, Ireland is the largest nation of tea drinkers. Great Britain comes in second
  • Approximately 85% of tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea.

* * * These cups are some of the ones I received as gifts – my friends know me well 🙂

  • The United States imports over 519 million pounds of tea annually.
  • Tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage worldwide.
  • The annual worldwide production of tea comes in at over 3 million tons.
  • Tieguanyin, an oolong tea, is the most expensive tea in the world at a cost of about  $1,500 a pound.

    * * * * * These belonged to my grandmother – I cherish them dearly

  • The United States invented both the tea bag and iced tea. Not everyone thinks the tea bag is a good thing as connoisseurs consider tea brewed from loose leaves to be richer in flavor.
  • A cup of brewed tea on average contains less than half the caffeine of the same amount of coffee.
  • The Twining family opened their teashop, the Golden Lyon, in 1717. That shop is still open today.

    * * * * *I like to collect mugs from places I’ve visited – here are some of my faves

  • If a scene calls for an actor to drink whisky, they usually substitute watered-down tea, which has the same look as whisky.
  • The action of tea leaves uncurling as hot water is poured over them is called “the agony of the leaves”.
  • Loose tea stays good for about two years if you keep it away from moisture and light. Tea bags, however, are only good for about six months before they begin losing their flavor.

    * * * * * And of course, as a Winnie The Pooh fan, I couldn’t pass these up

  • Black, oolong, green, and white tea all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference comes in how the leaves are treated after they are harvested.
    For black tea, the leaves are left to ferment until they turn black, then dried and packaged.
    Oolong tea follows a similar process to black tea, but each individual stage in the process is not as long.
    Green tea isn’t put through a fermentation process, rather it is either steamed or pan fried.
    White tea is the least processed of the four. It is made from younger leaves that are usually only left to sun dry briefly before being prepared for packaging.

    * * * * * And finally, here are two of my favorite writer-related mugs

  • Herbal “teas” are technically not teas at all, but rather, something called a tisane.
  • Guinness World Records associated with tea (as of 2016)
    Largest Tea Bag – 551 pounds, 9.8 feet wide by 13 feet high.
    Largest Tea Cup – 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide
    Most Cups of Tea Made in One Hour – 1848 (made by a team of 12 individuals)

And finally, my favorite tea quote:
You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C.S.Lewis

So, are you a tea drinker? Do you have a favorite flavor? And did any of the above bits of trivia surprise you?

 

Updated: June 4, 2018 — 12:37 am

Where’s The (Hamburger) Beef

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

A while back I did a bit of research to see if it was possible for my 1892 heroine to serve a hamburger at her restaurant.  When I discovered that May, among other things, is National Hamburger Month (I love my National Observances Calendar!) I thought this would be the perfect time to share some of the history and trivia I discovered during my research.

First off, there have been meat patties, in various forms, for thousands of years.  But to get to the origin of what we now think of as the all-American hamburger is more difficult than you might think. During my research I came across a number of different claims for how that wonderful sandwich came about.

One of the earliest claims goes to Canton, Ohio natives Frank and Charles Menches.  They were food vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair. According to the story, when the Menches ran out of their usual fare of pork sausage, out of desperation they substituted ground beef seasoned with coffee and brown sugar as well as other seasonings. The new fare proved to be a hit and they dubbed it the hamburger after the fair’s location in Hamburg, Ohio.

Another claim states the inventor was Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas.  It is said he first put a cooked ground beef patty between slices of bread in the late 1880s to accommodate customers who wanted something hearty but portable. According to locals, his claim is well documented. As the story goes, he eventually took his offering to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair where it was a big hit.

Yet another theory proposes that it was the creation of a German cook by the name of Otto Kuasw out of Hamburg, Germany. He created a popular sandwich for sailors that was comprised of a beef patty fried in butter, topped with a fried egg, and served between two buns. The story goes that the sailors who travelled between Hamburg and New York, would request a Hamburg style beef sandwich when dining in American restaurants.

Those claims, however, are disputed by proponents of Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut.  Their story is that Lassen created the burger in 1900. The descendants of Lassen consider it a matter of family pride, and they have the Library of Congress backing up their claim.

There are many other very passionate claims about the hamburger’s origins, and to tell the truth, it was likely invented independently across the country by quite a number of individuals. One thing is true – several food vendors sold them during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and from there it quickly spread across the country.

So the question that prompted my research, could my heroine serve hamburgers at her restaurant – was both yes and no. She wouldn’t be able to serve something called a hamburger, but she could serve a sandwich that has a main component of a beef patty

And here’s a bit of hamburger trivia for you:

  • During World War I, because of the food’s tie to the German city of Hamburg, the U.S. Government tried to change its name to the more patriotic-sounding Liberty Sandwiches.
  • White Castle, founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, holds the record for being the oldest hamburger chain. Their first burger sold for a nickel.
  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, burger first came into use as an abbreviated form of hamburger in 1939
  • According to an AP report, in 2003 PETA (an animal rights group) offered officials of Hamburg , NY, $15,000 to change the name of their town to Veggieburg. They declined.
  • In 2012, cooks at the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton, Minnesota prepared what was then the largest burger on record.  It weighed in at just over a ton and then was topped with 52.5 pounds of tomatoes, 50 pounds of lettuce, 19 pounds of pickles, 60 pounds of onions, 40 pounds of cheese and 16.5 pounds of bacon.
    In July of 2017 that record was broken when 6 men in Pilsting Germany created a burger that weighed in at a little over 2,566 pounds.
  • 50 BILLION burgers are consumed in the United States each year.  If that quantity was laid end to end, they would circle the earth over 32 times!

  • The average American eats a hamburger 3 times a week.
  • Of all sandwiches sold globally, 60% are hamburgers.
  • McDonald’s sells 75+ burgers every SECOND.

As for me, my favorite burger is one that is grilled to medium well, topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon and bbq sauce and serve on a toasted sesame seed bun.

So tell me, did any of the above facts surprise you? And do you have a favorite way to have your burger prepared?

 

Updated: May 6, 2018 — 11:27 pm

Mark Twain – Things you may not know

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

According to my This Day In History calendar, today is the 159th anniversary of the day Mark Twain received his steamboat pilot’s license. So in honor of that event I thought I’d offer up some trivia and favorite quotes from the author and humorist.

As most everyone knows, Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but did you know that as an infant, he wasn’t expected to live? He was born two months prematurely and was sickly and frail. It wasn’t until he was seven that his health turned around. He was the sixth of seven children.

His formal education ended when he was eleven. That was the year his father died and he left school to take a job as an apprentice printer at a local newspaper.

Before settling on Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens tried out several other pseudonyms, among them were Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, W. Epaminondas Adrastus Blab, Sergeant Fathom, and Rambler.

In addition to his other talents, Mark Twain was an inventor. He held 3 patents all total. He invented a garment fastener strap that he intended for use on vests and shirts. It never hit it off for that intended purpose, but it became the forerunner for bra straps that are still in use today. He also invented a trivia game. But his most successful invention (financially) was for a scrapbook with self-adhesive pages.

Mark Twain had a strong fondness for cats and wanted to have them around him at all times.

He based Huckleberry Finn on a real person. It was a boy he knew while growing up in Hannibal, MO. The boy was four years older than Clemens, and he described him as “ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had.”

In addition to numerous articles, essays and short stories, Mark Twain wrote a total of 28 books, four of which were published posthumously.

Clemens was born right after Halley’s Comet made its 1835 appearance. In 1909 he was quoted as saying “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.”  Strangely, as he predicted, he passed away of a heart attack on April 21, 1910 the day after Halley’s Comet made its closest pass to Earth. He was 74 years old.

 

 

There are tons of great quotes attributed to Mark Twain. I’m going to focus here on some of the ones that have to do with books, reading and writing:

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

‘Classic’ – a book which people praise and don’t read.

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

Books are for people who wish they were somewhere else.

High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.

A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.

When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them?then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart.

Every person is a book, each year a chapter.

The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.

One should never use exclamation points in writing. It is like laughing at your own joke.

And one of my favorites:

Choosing not to read is like closing an open door to paradise.

So do you have a favorite Mark Twain book, bit of trivia or quote? Did any of the above surprise you?

Updated: April 7, 2018 — 3:57 pm

A Brief History of Bookmobiles

Hi folks, Winnie Griggs here.
Lately I’ve noticed several photos of early bookmobiles circulating on Facebook and it got me to wondering about the history of these literary vehicles. So of course I had to dive in and do a bit of research. Here is a little taste of what I discovered.

  • Bookmobiles have been around since the 1850s. It was during this period that the Perambulating Library made its appearance in the UK.
  • The US was a bit slower to implement this service. In 1893 Melvil Dewey led the effort to implement something called Travelling Collections. By 1899 there were 2500 of these travelling collections across the country.
  • In 1903 Wisconsin began using wagons to deliver books to schools.
  • It wasn’t until 1905 that the first US library, The Washington County Free Library, specifically designed a wagon to be used as a bookmobile. This effort was headed by Mary Titcomb who patterned it after the service in the UK.  The wagon was driven by the library janitor, Joshua Thomas.
  • 1912  saw the introduction of the first motorized vehicles, allowing the libraries to greatly expand their range of service.
  • The term bookmobile was first used in January of 1929.
  • The use of vehicles was greatly curtailed during the Great Depression, but that did not shut down the system. For example, women used pack horses in Kentucky, and in Mississippi a librarian used a house boat to provide mobile library services.
  • During the following years the number of bookmobiles in the country fluctuated as factors like wartime, the cost of fuel, and economic upswings and downturns impacted finances and materials.
  • The Everett County Public Library’s bookmobile (called Pegasus after the mythological flying horse) was purchased in 1924, making it the first bookmobile in Washington State. It was retired in 1950, then restored in the 1990s, making it the oldest still-operational bookmobile.
  • The state with the most bookmobiles is Kentucky.

Fun facts from around the world:

  • Zimbabwe utilizes a donkey-draw bookmobile that, in addition to providing books, also provides some technology services.
  • Kenya has the Camel Library Service with a collection of over 7000 books
  • Thailand has elephant-drawn libraries
  • Some coastal communities in Norway have their library needs met by itinerant ships

z z z z z

As for me, I have very fond memories of bookmobiles. The first elementary school I attended didn’t have a library so the bookmobile came by every other week. It was always a treat to step inside and see so many books in one place. And since I have always LOVED books and reading, it was even more magical to pick out one to take home with me.

What about you? Do you have any personal experience with a bookmobile?And what information in the post above did you find most surprising?

Crossword Puzzle Fun Facts

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I hope you all had a very joyous Christmas and a fun-filled New Year’s celebration.

Last year I took a break from writing western historicals to pen a contemporary short story. It is titled A Crossword Puzzle Christmas and is part of the Christmas Roses anthology.  As the title of the story hints, my heroine is a crossword puzzle enthusiast. Which got me to wondering about the origins of the crossword puzzle itself. So of course I immediately dug in and did some research on the subject and here are a few tidbits I found.

  • Crossword puzzles are a relatively new pastime. The first one was published on 12/21/1913 in the New York World newspaper. The creator of this first puzzle was a journalist by the name of Arthur Wynne who hailed from Liverpool.  You can see a reproduction of his original puzzle below.

  • Arthur came up with the idea for these puzzles when he was trying to think up a new kind of game for the newspaper’s Christmas edition. He adapted it from a popular children’s game called ‘word squares’, transforming it into something more challenging for an adult readership.
  • The original puzzle was well received, so much so that Arthur created new puzzles for the next two Sunday editions. In fact, when the New York World tried to drop the feature, readers complained so strenuously that the owners of the paper decided to make it a permanent part of the puzzle page.
  • Arthur Wynne originally dubbed his puzzle a Word-Cross puzzle. However, several weeks after the puzzles debut, typesetters accidentally transposed the title and printed it as Cross-Word.  For whatever reason, the name stuck.
  • Though readers loved the puzzles, newspaper editors had the opposite reaction. The puzzles were difficult to print and they were prone to typographical errors. It was such a problem that no other newspaper wanted anything to do with them. As a result, for the next decade the only newspaper to carry the popular crossword puzzle was the New York World.

  • Believe it or not, the crossword puzzle was responsible for launching publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster. Popular lore has it that Richard Simon’s Aunt Wixie wondered aloud to him whether there was a book of these puzzles that she could purchase for her daughter. Simon, who was trying to break into publishing with his friend M. Lincoln Schuester, latched onto the idea as a way to kick start his business. The pair approached the New York World’s crossword puzzle editors and reached an agreement with them. For $25 each, they purchased the rights to publish the best puzzles in a book.  They then sunk all their money into printing The Cross Word Puzzle Book.  By year end they had sold more than 300,000 books and Simon & Schuester had become a major force in the publishing industry.
  • As you can see from the puzzle above, the grid was originally diamond shaped. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the puzzles began to take the block form we’re familiar with today.
  • It was also in the 1920s that crossword puzzles really took off in America. The puzzle craze inspired a Broadway plat titled Games of 1925 and a hit song called Crossword Mama, You Puzzle Me (don’t you just love it!).
  • Despite their 20th century origin, crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread of word games in the world today.

There you have it – a brief history of the Crossword Puzzle.

So which of these tidbits surprise you the most? And how do you feel about crossword puzzles –  do you love them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Are there other types of puzzles you prefer?

And since this is my first post of the new year, I thought I’d celebrate by doing a giveaway.  Everyone who leaves a comment on today’s post before noon on Tuesday will be entered into a drawing – the winner will have their choice of any book in my backlist

 

 

Updated: January 7, 2018 — 9:56 pm

Elevators – History and Trivia

Hi all, Winnie Griggs here. In December, my book Once Upon A Texas Christmas will release. The story features a hero and heroine who have been asked to team up (much to the hero’s chagrin) to renovate an old hotel building. One of the things I wanted them to include as part of the renovation was an elevator. And this, of course, led me down a rabbit hole of research into what elevators were like during this period of time. So today I thought I’d share a little bit of what I learned.

First some history:

  • While the concept of lifting heavy objects is older than the pyramids themselves, it was in 236 BC that Archimedes, a Greek mathematician, invented the first elevator that was based on ropes, wrenches and weights. His concepts became the foundation for all elevators going forward.
  • One of my favorite and unexpected bits of elevator trivia – In 1203 the Abby of Mont St Michel installed a treadmill powered hoisting elevator. Most sources say prisoners were employed to man the treadmill. But at least one source noted that monkeys were employed as well. Whether true or not, isn’t it fun to imagine what that would have looked like?
  • It was in 1743 that one of the first elevators designed specifically for human passengers, a counterweight lift, was installed in King Louis XV’s villa at Versailles, France.
  • In 1852, while working in a New York bedstead factory, Elisha Otis saw a problem he needed to fix. Workers there were reluctant to use the hoists that were required to lift the heavy equipment to the upper floors. They were afraid the cable would break and crash to the ground causing serious injury or worse. Elisha rose to the challenge and he designed and created the first elevator safety braking device. It was this invention that revolutionized elevator design and paved the way for commercial passenger elevators.

    Elisha Otis

  • In 1854 Elisha Otis introduced another safety device, an elevator cabin that featured a self-locking door gear, designed to protect occupants from falling out of the elevator. 32 years later inventor Alexander Miles patented an automatic door system for the elevator.
  • Elisha Otis died from diphtheria in 1861, he was only 49. But his two sons took over the company, turning it into an international giant. Over the next several years they installed elevators in such prestigious buildings as the Eiffel Tower, the Washington Monument and the 60 story Woolworth Building which was the world’s tallest building at the time. The Otis Elevator Company is still the world’s largest vertical transportation manufacturer today (it includes escalators as well as elevators).

Trivia and fun facts:

  • There are currently over 700,000 elevators in the US. But as of 2008, Italy holds the record for the country with the most elevators installed – approximately 850,000.
  • Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. And they are 20 times safer than escalators.
  • The reason most elevators have mirrors is to make them seem larger in order to help people who suffer from claustrophobia.
  • Music was first introduced in elevators in the 1920s. It was hoped that this would calm folks who might be anxious about riding in elevators for the first time.
  • Betty Oliver was an elevator operator in the Empire State Building who was on duty on July 28, 1945 when a plane crashed into the building. She was injured and when rescuers subsequently tried to lower her the elevator cable broke, plummeting her 75 stories down. Miraculously she survived the fall. She still holds the record for being the longest elevator fall survivor.
  • Over the course of three days, elevators carry the equivalent of the world’s total population.

So there’s a quick overview of some of the info I gathered in my research.  What do you think? Did any of the info surprise you? Do you have any fun stories of your own to share related to elevators?

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for an advanced copy of my December release, Once Upon A Texas Christmas.

ONCE UPON A TEXAS CHRISTMAS

Partners for the Holidays 

Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…

Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?

Preorder Link

 

Updated: October 10, 2017 — 2:45 pm

Free State of Van Zandt and Belinda Blurb

 

I love research and love to walk-the-walk when it comes to research.  As my friends know, if I could do what I’d really love  it’d be researching and outlining novels, while someone else writes the book.  I came across two interesting tidbits that I want to share with you all.

                                                                                 The Free State of Van Zandt

Van Zandt County in east Texas was once known as the Free State of Van Zandt, an independent state once in conflict with the United States.  Following the Civil War, federal troops were stationed in many Texas towns. Fed up with martial law, the citizens of Van Zandt voted to secede not just from Texas, but from the United States as well.  The government wasn’t going to stand for any shenanigans, so United States Army soldiers led by General Sheridan were sent to put down the uprising.

Fortunately, the Van Zandt army had celebrated their new freedom a little too heartily and the drunks were rounded up without too much hassle.  Later, many of the men escaped custody. Seceding from the U.S. was no longer in the cards, though the resolution made by the county to separate from Texas and the U.S. was never formally withdrawn.

Where did the word “blurb” come from?

This second little tidbit is for the writers out there, and we have plenty of readers who are also writers!  I found it so interesting and had not heard of this before.

Ever wonder where we got the term “blurb” to indicate a short summary or promotional piece accompanying a creative work?  At a trade association dinner in 1907, author Gelett Burgess presented attendees with a limited edition of one of his books.  It was customary to have a brief summary included on the front of the dust jacket of such books, along with a picture of an attractive woman.  Notice I said woman, not author!  Burgess followed this custom — with a twist. On the front of his book was an image of a woman with her hand held to her mouth, as if shouting. The caption for this image was “Belinda Blurb, in the act of blurbing,” and bold letters at the top of the dust jacket declared, “Yes, this is a Blurb!”  The name stuck.

I found this tidbit about the time, Kensington sent me the back blurb on my newest Kasota Springs Romance story Out of a Texas Night,  so I thought I’d share the tidbit with you all.

For an autographed copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, referred to in  the Publisher’s Weekly review, or any one of the six anthologies by Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, the late DeWanna Pace and myself, give me your thoughts on Van Zandt County, Texas, withdrawing not just from Texas but the United States.

How many of you have ever heard of “Belinda Blurb”?

                                 Everything’s bigger in Texas…including love.

A deputy sheriff in Houston, Avery Humphrey is ready for some hometown comfort when she heads back to Kasota Springs, but one kiss from Brody VanZant is enough to make her trade “soothing” for “sizzling.” When it turns out hot, hard-headed Brody is another Bonita County deputy, sizzling gets complicated, especially after Avery is made the interim sheriff. Brody knows romancing the boss isn’t on the duty roster, but to him it’s a state of emergency to prove to Avery that he’s the partner she needs—in her life and in her bed—and he’s ready to give her as many kisses as there are stars in the Texas sky to convince her.

Praise for Phyliss Miranda

“Outlaw Savannah Parker finds hope for justice—and redemption—in the arms of Texas Ranger Ethan Kimble in Miranda’s ‘Texas Flame,’ which deftly weaves layers of secrets into a narrative that keeps readers guessing.”

Publishers Weekly

Updated: May 29, 2017 — 9:32 pm

Wild West Words: Temper, Temper

Kathleen Rice Adams: Classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.

Fighting — over insults, over ideals (as in war), or just for fun — has been a popular pastime since the first person drew the first breath. There’s a reason the American West was called “wild”: Folks on the frontier seemed ready to throw a punch or unshuck a weapon with the slightest provocation, at least if popular myth is anywhere near the truth.

Nineteenth-century words and phrases relating to fighting, things that could provoke a fight, and means of stopping a fight are below. If you’re of a mind, also check out words for women, insults, outlaw vocabulary, food terms, and gambling.

"Smoke of a .45," Charles M. Russell, 1908

“Smoke of a .45,” Charles M. Russell, 1908

At outs with: no longer on friendly terms with; from about 1826. Became “on the outs with” around 1900.

Bantam: small, aggressive person; first documented in 1837. Extension of the 1749 name for a a breed of chicken discovered on Bantam, a Dutch colony in Java. As a lightweight class in boxing, use is attested from 1884. “Banty” is a dialectical corruption of the word.

Beat the living daylights out of: thrash, punish, chastise. Americanism; arose 1880s based on the late-18th Century threat to “let daylight into” a foe. The original phrase meant intent to kill by sword, knife, bullet, or other deadly weapon, but as the force of law began to catch up with the U.S.’s western frontier, the phrase was softened to lessen the perceived risk of hanging for murder should the target of the threat be found dead.

Below the belt: unfair; arose 1889 from boxing.

Bulldozer: person who intimidates by violence. Arose during 1876 U.S. presidential election, along with related “bulldose,” meaning “a severe beating” (literally, “dose fit for a bull”). Both were slang associated with aggressive intimidation of Negro voters in the North and the former Confederate states. Bulldozer acquired its current meaning, “ground-clearing tractor,” in the 1930s based on the image of bulls shoving one another around during dominance displays.

Call [someone] out: challenge, especially to a duel or fight. Arose c. 1823.

Cold shoulder: icy reception; deliberate coldness or disregard; a snub. Arose mid-1850s, evidently as a sarcastic reference to the European elite setting out hot feasts for their guests while the poor were able to afford only a cold shoulder of mutton (not a well-regarded meal). Sir Walter Scott is credited with creating the figurative sense c. 1816 by using “cold shoulder of mutton” to convey a deliberate intention to be rid of an unwanted guest. Americans, as usual, clipped the phrase.

Come off the rimrock: back away from a discussion that has turned unfriendly. Attested from the 1860s in the American West.

"Busted," Charles M. Russell, c. 1920

“Busted,” Charles M. Russell, c. 1920

Comeupance/comeuppance: Get what’s coming to you. 1859, presumably rooted in the phrase “come up,” meaning present oneself for judgment or trial.

Crotchety: irritable, contrary, grouchy. Arose c. 1825 from late-14th Century French crotchet, literally a small hook. In English, crotchet came to mean a perverse, capricious or eccentric notion c. 1800.

Dander: ire, irritation, temper, strong emotion. Entered American English c. 1831: “Don’t get your dander up.” Exact origin unclear, but may have been based on the slightly older (1825) shortening of dandruff (loose flakes of skin; mid-1500s), Spanish redundar (to overflow), or West Indies dunder (fermentation of sugar).

Dustup/dust-up: fight; brawl. Arose c. 1897; Americanism. Most likely a colorful reference to brawlers raising dust as they duked it out, but also may have roots in the late-16th Century usage of dust to mean confusion or disturbance. In the 1680s, to “dust [someone’s] coat” meant to deliver a sound thrashing.

Faceoff/face-off: disagreement (often silent, using only eye contact) that might turn physical. Arose c. 1893 as an extension of the boxing term that first appeared in 1867.

Face the music: Arose 1850 in U.S. congressional debates, probably as a reference to actors facing the orchestra pit—which sat between the audience and the stage—when delivering particularly dramatic lines or soliloquies.

Fired up: angry; arose c. 1824 in the American West. The meaning “throw someone out of a place”—a saloon, for example—arose c. 1871, probably from a play on the two meanings of “discharge”: “to dismiss from a position” and “to fire a gun, the latter of which dates to the 1520s.

Fistiana: anecdotes about pugilists; boxing lore. From 1839.

"Not a Chinaman's Chance," Charles M. Russell, 1894

“Not a Chinaman’s Chance,” Charles M. Russell, 1894

Get in [one’s] hair: persistently annoy, vex, or irk. First appeared in print in the Oregon Statesman in 1851, though the expression undoubtedly is older. Etymologists speculate the phrase originally may have compared an irritating person to head lice.

Gunfight/gun-fight: combat with handguns. American English c. 1889; combination of “gun” and “fight.”

Hold your horses: settle down; take it easy; be patient. Original usage was literal: During harness races at American county fairs, horses picked up on their drivers’ nerves, often resulting in a false start. Consequently, announcers frequently admonished participants to “hold your horses.” First appearance in print: New Orleans Times Picayune, 1844.

Hot air: unsubstantiated statements; empty, exaggerated or pretentious talk; boasting. Probably from observation of a flaccid balloon puffing up and rising as it fills with heated air. Colloquialism; may have arisen as early as 1835-40 but was in common use during the latter half of the 19th Century.

Humps and grumps: surly remarks; a fit of ill humor. Arose c. 1844 from the adjective “grumpy” (c. 1778), which most likely arose as an extension of “grum,” meaning morose or surly (also possibly related to Danish grum, meaning cruel). By 1900, the “humps and” had dropped off and “grump” had become a common term for a disagreeable person. (In this case the adjective appears to have given rise to the noun, instead of vice-versa as was more common.)

Keep your shirt on: be patient; calm down. The Americanism arose c. 1904 from prizefighting. Because organized boxing was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 1920s—not because of the violence, but because gambling and organized crime quickly attached to the sport—pugilists waited to remove their shirts and engage until they were reasonably certain a police raid would not be forthcoming. Men fighting fully clothed was considered a spontaneous brawl; men fighting half-naked indicated forethought.

Knock-down drag-out: violent fight. Arose c. 1859 in the U.S.

Knockout/knock-out: as pertains to general fighting, arose 1887 from the phrase “knock out,” meaning “to stun by a blow for a 10-count,” in boxing. Slang meaning “attractive person” is from 1892. To knock oneself out, meaning “make a great effort,” is from 1936.

"Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead," Charles M. Russell, 1916

“Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead,” Charles M. Russell, 1916

Lather: state of agitation. Arose c. 1839 from the 1650s application of the Old English word for “soap suds” to the violent sweating of horses under stress.

Lock horns: Arose 1839 in the American West from observation of the way cattle butted heads during dominance displays.

Manhandle: to handle roughly. First recorded use 1865, from the earlier nautical meaning “to move by force of men” (instead of using tackle or levers). The nautical connotation arose from the mid-15th Century meaning “to wield a tool”; the 1865 connotation seems more closely related to the late-15th Century common usage meaning “to attack an enemy.”

Mexican standoff: stalemate; impasse. First documented use 1891, though the expression may be older. “Stand-off,” meaning draw or tie, arose c. 1843. Though some sources claim “Mexican standoff” is Australian in origin, a more likely source is Texas, where Mexican bandidos routinely crossed the border for nefarious purposes. Originally, the idiom referred to three mutual enemies facing each other with drawn weapons. If A shot B, C would shoot A, thereby winning the conflict. Everyone wanted to be C, so nobody fired—leaving the dispute unresolved.

Pull in your horns: calm down; back away from a fight. Mid-1800s among cowboys in the American West as a reference to cattle battling with their horns.

Pull up: check a course of action. First recorded use 1808 as a figurative reference to pulling on the reins to stop a horse.

Rough/rough up: beat up or jostle violently; first documented use 1868.

Roundhouse: blow delivered by the fist with a wide sweep of the arm. Arose latter half of the 19th Century from the 1856 use of roundhouse to describe the circular shed with a turntable at the center for repositioning locomotives.

Scrap: fight. First attested 1846, possibly as a variant of scrape, which came to mean “abrasive encounter” or “scheme, villainy, vile intention” in the 1670s.

Scrappy: inclined to fight. First documented appearance 1895, from scrap.

Sockdolager: a heavy, finishing blow; a conclusive argument. First documented appearance 1830 from the 1700s “sock,” meaning “to beat, hit hard, pitch into.” Sockdolager is assumed to have arisen from the conflation of “sock” and “doxology,” meaning finality. The word shifted meaning to “something exceptional” in 1838. “Sockdologising” (confronting with a forceful argument) likely was one of the the last words Abraham Lincoln heard. During the performance of Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, assassin John Wilkes Booth—an actor who had performed in the play—waited for the humorous line “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.” Amid the laughter that erupted from the audience, Booth fired the fatal shot.

Smack: hit with an open palm; slap. Attested from 1823; presumed to be imitative of the sound of flesh meeting flesh with force.

Spat: petty quarrel. Arose c. 1804 as American slang. Of unknown origin, but perhaps from the notion of “spitting” words.

"Buccaroos," Charles M. Russell, 1902

“Buccaroos,” Charles M. Russell, 1902

Wild and woolly: untamed; rowdy. Americanism first documented in 1855 in The Protestant Episcopal Church Quarterly Review and Register (“wild and woolly-haired Negrillo”). In the post-Civil War years, as dime novels and newspaper accounts popularized sensational tales about Indians, outlaws, lawmen, land and gold rushes, etc. in the new territories, the alliterative phrase “wild and woolly West” became a popular way for Easterners to describe the entire region west of the Mississippi River.

Winded: tired; out of breath; rendered temporarily breathless. Arose c. 1802 as a boxing term used in reference to the effect of a punch in the stomach.

Yank: sudden blow; cuff. American English from 1818. (Also short for “Yankee” during and after the Civil War.)

 

The Beatles – In My Life

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I had a different topic in mind for today’s post, one that had more of a western-themed flavor. But I saw an online calendar entry that had me pushing that topic aside for another day. Because today marks the 47th anniversary of the day the Beatles officially broke up.  That’s right, on April 10, 1970 Paul McCartney gave an interview in which he confirmed that the band would no longer be performing together.

That little footnote on my calendar brought up a whole slew of memories for me. The Beatles were a big part of my teen years (and yes, I’m dating myself). I still remember watching that now famous 1964 Ed Sullivan show where they made their US debut and how different and exciting they seemed. Their music filled my high school years. My friends and I debated who was the coolest band member (I was firmly in the Paul camp). I remember the ‘is Paul dead’ debate and slumber parties where we tried to play the albums backwards to hear secret messages (we never heard any).

I still own a number of the early albums (yes, on vinyl). My favorite Beatles Album has always been Rubber Soul (as you can see from the picture below, it saw a lot of use in its time with me). One of my favorite songs on that album is In My Life.  And of course they were the group that recorded Paperback Writer, a song that spoke to me in a whole different way.

So, in honor of the day, I thought I’d present a few items of trivia concerning the Fab Four:

  • The Beatles accomplished a number of eye-opening milestones with their chart topping music
    • They spent a total of 1278 weeks on the Billboard chart
    • They spent 175 weeks at number one on the charts
    • As of 2012 they sold over 2 Billion albums and sold over 585,000 of these on iTunes
    • They are the only band to twice knock themselves out of the top spot on the charts
    • As of 2013 the Beatles held the record for the most number one spots on the Hot 100 charts (I couldn’t find stats for later years)
    • In April of 1964 the Beatles claimed the top 5 positions on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, as well as seven additional spots for a total of 12. This amazing record still stands.
    • They still hold the record for having more number one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other band
  • The Beatles are generally acknowledged to be the most photographed subject of the 1960s
  • As a group, the Beatles have been named to the list of the twentieth century’s most influential people
  • Frank Sinatra once declared the Beatles song Something to be the greatest love song ever written.
  • None of the four band members could read music.
  • In what is widely considered to be one of the hugest mistakes in all of the music industry history, in 1962 Decca records declined to sign the Beatles for their label because “groups of guitars are on the way out”.

So tell me, are you a fan of the Beatles? Do you have a favorite among their many fabulous songs? Do you have a story of how they impacted you in some large or small way?  I’d love to hear all about it.

 

Updated: April 10, 2017 — 12:58 pm

Wild West Words: It’s a Gamble

Kathleen Rice Adams: classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love

Gambling has been a popular way to fill empty time almost as long as people have existed. Many modern words related to gambling saw their genesis in the 1300s. “Pasteboards,” slang for playing cards, arose in the 1540s because the cards were made of layers of paper pasted together. Roulette, in the gambling sense, originated in about 1725. Terms like “game of chance” (1920), “snake eyes” (1930), and Lady Luck (1935), on the other hand, didn’t arrive until the early 20th Century.

Gamblers, c. 1900. Artist unknown.

Gamblers, c. 1900. Artist unknown.

The following words and phrases, most of them slang appropriations of previously mundane words and phrases, sneaked into the language during the 1800s.

Ante: opening bet; American English poker slang. Noun form arose 1838; verb, 1846. Both are based, appropriately, on the Latin ante, meaning before.

Baccarat: As a card game, arose 1848. Variant spelling of the French word for the same game, baccara, which is of unknown origin.

Bank: to put money on. American colloquial usage arose c. 1884, based on the 1833 meaning “to deposit in a bank.”

Bankroll: roll of bank notes. American slang from 1887 as a conflation of “bank” and “roll,” the latter of which gained the slang meaning “quantity of paper money” in 1846.

Beginner’s luck: explanation for wins by the inexperienced. American slang c. 1897.

Big deal: in poker, a game-changing turn of the cards. Arose mid-19th century. The sarcastic phrase meaning “So what?” is American English from 1965.

Bilk: a cheat or to cheat. Although the 1651 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as a cribbage term meaning to spoil an opponent’s score by playing unusable cards, in the western U.S. after the Civil War, calling someone a bilk was about the worst insult one man could bestow upon another. “[T]he most degrading epithet that one can apply to another is to pronounce him ‘a bilk.’ No Western man of pluck will fail to resent such concentrated vituperation.” (A.K. McClure, Three Thousand Miles Through the Rocky Mountains, 1869)

Blackleg: gambler or swindler. Popular in the American West 1835-1870.

Bottom dollar: the last of one’s money; from 1882.

Bluff: the noun meaning subterfuge in cards dates to 1839 in the U.S., perhaps from the Dutch bluffen (to brag or boast) or verbluffin (to baffle or mislead). Bluff as an alternative name for poker is American slang from 1844. The verb bluffing, meaning misleading in poker, arose c. 1845; later generalized to misleading in any context.

 

"Gambling Down Below," illustration from the Mark Twain story of the same name, 1883

“Gambling Down Below,” illustration from the Mark Twain story of the same name, 1883

Card sharp: shortened form of the American slang term card-sharper, which entered the lexicon in 1859.

Chip: counter used in a game of chance. Americanism; first recorded in print 1840. “When the chips are down” is from the 1940s as a reference to the pile of poker chips on the table after all bets are made.

Cleaned out: left penniless by losses; arose c. 1812.

Craps: game of chance employing dice. American English from the Louisiana French craps (“play a dangerous game”), based on an 18th-century Continental French corruption of the British “crabs,” which was slang for the lowest dice throw: two or three.

Crap out: a losing throw of two, three, or twelve in the dice game of craps. American slang, 1835-1845. Called “seven-out” when the player threw a seven instead of making his “point.”

Dead-man’s hand: a poker hand including two aces, two eights, and any other card. Yes, it really is based on the hand Wild Bill Hickock held at the moment of his 1876 assassination by Jack McCall.

Dough: money. From 1851.

Down on [one’s] luck: at a low point financially or personally. From 1832; possibly borrowed from gambling. “Be in luck” first appeared in print in 1900 but may be older; “push [one’s] luck” first appeared in 1911.

Draw a blank: come up with nothing. The image is from lotteries, c. 1825.

Face card: jack, queen, or king; c. 1826. Also called “court cards” because of the royal images.

Four-flusher: a cheater or sneak. Arose 1896 from the earlier verb four-flush (origin uncertain), meaning to bluff a flush while holding only four cards in the same suit.

Full house: poker term for three of a kind and a pair. 1887 American version of the 1850s British term “full hand.”

Gamble: a risky venture. Arose as slang in 1823. By 1879, the act of gambling. Apparently a remnant of the dialectical Middle English gamel (1590s), “to play games.” The B may have been added due to confusion with “gambol.”

Gouge: to cheat, swindle, or extort. Verb form attested 1880, probably from the 1560s gouge, meaning to cut with the tool of the same name.

Grand slam: in suit-based card games, to win a series of games; 1814. First use as a bridge term 1892.

 

"The Gaming Table," Thomas Rowlandson, 1801

“The Gaming Table,” Thomas Rowlandson, 1801

Have a card up [one’s] sleeve: originally, the poker term was literal. Poker players would hide a winning card under their sleeve cuff and exchange it for a losing card the sly. Arose c. 1898.

High-roller: extravagant spender. American slang by 1873, probably originally as a reference to throwing dice.

Jackpot/jack-pot: big prize. From 1881, a series of antes that results when no player has an opening hand consisting of two jacks or better. The slot machine sense arose 1932; slang for a big win in any situation from about 1944.

Joker: non-royal face card in a poker deck, 1868. Probably a reference to the generic British slang use of the word to mean any man, fellow, or chap. Black Joke, a card game in which all face cards were called jokers, is mentioned in Hoyle’s 1857 edition of Games.

Kitty: pool of money in a card game. Arose 1887 from 1833 “kit,” meaning a collection of necessary supplies, with a possible contribution from the 1825 British slang “kit,” meaning prison or jail.

Lucky break/lucky strike: in billiards, at least one ball landing in a pocket after the opening collision of cue ball with the rack. Attested from 1884. Earlier meaning “fortunate failure” arose 1872. Lucky Strike as the name for a brand of pre-rolled cigarettes, 1872.

Monte: a particular card game, so called because of the heap of cards left after the deal. The game arose 1824, with the name probably borrowed from monte, Spanish for mountain. The game was especially popular during the California gold rush. Three-card version arose in Mexico in 1877.

Pass the buck: American slang, originally literal, 1865. A bone-handled knife, or “buck,” was laid on the table in front of the dealer to keep track during poker games. As the game progressed, the deal passed from player to player around the table, and so did the knife. Figurative sense “shift responsibility” first recorded in print 1912.

Penny-ante: insignificant; American slang. Originally an 1855 poker term for small stakes.

Play the trump card: slang for an unexpected winning move; from 1886. Originally “play the Orange card,” which meant “appeal to Northern Irish Protestant sentiment for political advantage.”

Poker: a particular card game that arose in America in 1834. Origin of the term is unknown, but perhaps from the German pochen, “to brag,” which itself arose from a slang corruption of the verb spelled the same way which meant “to knock or rap.” May also be related to French poque, a card game similar to poker, though that is undocumented.

Poker face: expressionless by intent. 1874 slang from a poker tactic disguising a bluff.

 

"Monte in the Mines," J.D.Borthwick, 1851

“Monte in the Mines,” J.D.Borthwick, 1851

Risky: dangerous. Arose 1825 from “risk,” which itself was a 1728 anglicized version of the 1660s French risqué. “Risk-taker” is from 1894.

Showdown/show-down: lay down a poker hand face-up. From 1873; American slang. Figurative “final confrontation” arose 1904.

Stack the deck: cheat by unfairly arranging the cards in a deck before the deal. First recorded 1825.

Straight: a poker hand containing any sequential run of cards from different suits; arose 1841 from 1640s use of the term to mean “level.” By 1864, “straight” became slang for the straight part of a horse-racing track.

Straightaway: the flat, straight home stretch of a horse-racing track; 1839.

Stud poker: a form of poker in which the first card is dealt face-down and the others face-up. From 1864; antecedents unknown. The related term “hole card,” meaning the card dealt face-down, is an Americanism from 1905.

Swindle: cheat out of money. American English colloquialism from 1826.

Take a chance/take chances: do something with an uncertain outcome. From the 1815 usage meaning “participate in a lottery.” The related “take a risk” is first documented 1826, but may be older.

Tinhorn: of no value, but flashy. By 1857, from the earlier use referring to low-class gamblers who used a tin can to shake dice.

 

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