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.”