Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Siging Events

Borders Books will be hosting two events for my book Colorado Springs, Colorado on the following dates. Please feel free to visit either store and I will personalize your copy.

Borders Book Store
1710 Briargate Boulevard, #209

Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Telephone: 719.266.1600
Saturday, November 22nd from 2-4 PM.

Borders Book Store
2120 Southgate Road

Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906
Telephone: 719-632-0956.
Saturday, December 6th from 1-3 PM.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lady Bountiful and other origins

Lady Bountiful - A generous woman.
This expression is not always used in a complimentary fashion. For example, when an individual offers unsolicited advice the recipient might well respond with, “Who does she think she is…Lady Bountiful.” The original “Lady Bountiful” was a character in the comedy The Beaux Stratagem (1707) who gave away half her money to charitable causes.

America - Named after an Italian navigator.
Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) was a merchant and explorer who at one time worked for a company that outfitted ocean-going ships. He was also a navigator who explored the northeastern coast of America in 1497-99. In 1507, an article was published giving details of Vespucci’s adventures to the New World, but just before his death, Vespucci disputed this account. However, he did claim that he had traveled to the New World on three occasions and wrote journals and penned maps of the area to substantiate his claim. To this day, some scholars still dispute whether Vespucci’s accounts are accurate, but in any event, we get our name (America) from Vespucci Amerigo – Americus, the Latin form of Amerigo.

The Bartlett Pear - An American staple.
The Bartlett pear, sometimes called the Williams Pear, was brought to the United States from England at the end of the 18th century. It was named after Enoch Bartlett (1779-1860) who purchased a pear orchard from Captain Thomas Brewer. After acquiring the orchard, Bartlett set about propagating the pears until he was satisfied with the juicy, fleshy pear. From then on, the fruit was given the name Bartlett Pear.

The Douglas Fir Tree - Second only in height to the Sequoia.
In the early 1800s, David Douglas, a Scottish botanist traveled across Canada on foot and ventured south to California. He was amazed at the huge redwood and sequoia trees but also at the large fir trees he found in abundance. It is said that Douglas used an unusual method to collect some seeds from the gigantic firs; he used his gun to shoot cones to the ground. The shots alerted the native Indians, who pursued Douglas, but his mission had been accomplished, he had his precious seeds. During his lifetime, Douglas collected over 200 species of plants and seeds that were unknown in Europe. Unfortunately, he did not have a happy end. In 1834, he was gored to death by a wild bullock in Hawaii.

The Paul Jones Dance - Changing partners.
Perhaps the origin of this expression began when Paul Jones, a Scot, arrived in America and decided to change sides and support the War of Independence. Jones eventually became an American naval commander and fought many successful battles on the high seas against the British. By the way, the Paul Jones Dance involves many turns, passes and crisscrossing of partners.

Putting on the dog - To put on a show.
This phrase first appeared in print in 1871 in a book by L.H. Bagg called, Four Years at Yale. Bagg’s definition of the phrase is still a good one: “To put on the dog is to make a flashy display, to cut a swell.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

Typically of American Origin

Bowie knife - A formidable weapon
The knife is named after James Bowie (1799-1836) an adventurer and American soldier but it is believed that either his father or brother actually designed the Bowie knife. Due to his exploits, James became a hero to many as he defended his land and beliefs. In later years he became a colonel in the Texan army and fought against Mexico. In 1836, James Bowie and his companion Davy Crockett helped fend off thousands of Mexican soldiers at the Battle of the Alamo. They, together with almost 200 Texan soldiers held the Mexican army at bay for 13 days, but finally the Texan army succumbed and was killed. Bowie, who had been ill for some days and had taken to his bed before the final onslaught by the Mexican army was killed in his bed.

Bury the hatchet -
A gesture of peace
We often use this term to describe putting old scores behind us and starting anew which is not too far from the original meaning. The origin of the term comes to us from American Indians who made peace with the settlers. In 1690, Samuel Sewall wrote “Meeting with the Sachem (Indian chiefs), they came to an agreement and buried two axes in the ground, which ceremony to them is more significant and binding than all the Articles of Peace, the hatchet being the principal weapon.”

The Stetson -
A hat designed with cowboys in mind
After travelling across America in the late 1800s and watching cowboys on the range, hat maker John Batterson Stetson decided to design a hat specifically with a cowboy’s needs in mind. When he returned home, he designed a special hat with a large brim to keep out the sun. The hat became very popular with the cowboys and soon the “Stetson” was mass-produced.

Uncle Sam -
A catch-all of terms
As usual, there are several claims to the authenticity of this phrase. Some believe that it began with a meat packer named Samuel Wilson who lived in Troy, New York. Wilson was nicknamed Uncle Sam by his employees because of the initials US that was stamped on the company’s shipping cases. The expression Uncle Sam perhaps took hold during the war of 1812 to counteract the British John Bull symbol. It was not until more than 60 years later that Harper’s magazine portrayed Uncle Sam in the striped suit and top hat image that we are accustomed to seeing today.

The Sequoia -
The largest tree in the world
A Hungarian botanist Stephen Ladislaus Endlicher named the massive trees after the American Indian Sequoya (c.1770-1843). Sequoya could see the value of the European’s customs, especially the written word. He decided the Cherokee nation should have a written language all it’s own and so devised 86 characters that described the sounds used by the Cherokee Indians. His work took him almost 12 years to complete, but his language was quickly learned and accepted by other Cherokees. Later, a newspaper was published using the Cherokee language that he developed.