A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Category Archives: First mention

First mention: “sanctity of marriage”

First mention in the New York Times of the expression “sanctity of marriage.”

We cannot be silent on those laws of your country which, in direct contravention of God’s own law, ‘instituted in the time of man’s innocency,’ deny, in effect, to the slave the sanctity of marriage, with all its joys, rights and obligations.

New York Times, December 15, 1852, Page 1.

This is contra a claim in “Traditional Marriage Perverts the Tradition of Marriage,” that the phrase was invented in 2004. I notice that a commenter also notes a book by this title in 1896.

(This is just a counter to this particular claim, not the overall argument presented there).

First mention: “Clean and sober”

In one of the “Mad Men” discussions, someone asks if it was anachronistic to describe Freddy Rumsen as “clean and sober” in 1963 (from here, I think.)

The first clear use of this expression in the New York Times archives is from August 28, 1892, which has the embedded note in an article about a murder trial:

DEAR MISS CLOVER: WIll you meet me outside the Canterbury at 7:30 to-night? DO you remember the night I bought your boots? You were too drunk to speak to me. If you come clean and sober, please bring this paper and evenelope with you. (Neill held for murder; The death of Matilda Clover described by a witness; New York Times, August 28, 1892).

Someone else found hundreds of references in Google Books. So it’s ok to say Freddy was clean and sober; I hope he stays that way.

Update: going back to find original discussion which got me thinking.

First mention: first use of "Ms" in print

There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill. Every one has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts. When an author puts on the title page of a book Marion Smith, it is not even possible to be certain of the sex of the writer, and it is decidedly awkward for a reviewer to repeat the name in full over and over again. It would be a convenience if explanatory titles were added to the signature, but it seems to be regarded as “bad form.” Signatures to letters also cause no end of trouble to correspondents. The “Miss” or “Mrs” sometimes added in brackets are but an awkward makeshift, and often it is taken for granted that the recipient of the letter will remember the proper style of the writer, when, as a matter of fact he does nothing of the sort. Now, clearly, what is needed is a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expression any view as to their domestic situation, and what could be simpler, or more logical than the retention of what the two doubtful terms have in common. The abbreviation “Ms” is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as “Miss,” which would be a close parallel to the practice, long universal, in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis’ does duty for Miss and Mrs alike.

Springfield (Mass.) Sunday Republican, November 10, 1901. Via Ben Zimmer.

Update: Ben Zimmer wrote to note that, in the last sentence, a word I could not decipher was “oral.”

First mention: Sacred Harp

Besides what must be a playful reference to a fake invention, the “Sacred Harp of Eloquence,” and a brief mention in a letter to the editor, the first mention of the Sacred Harp in the New York Times comes in a review of Eleanor de al Vergne Risley’s “The Road to Wildcat: A Tale of Southern Mountaineering,” a memoir of her travels; the reviewer says she went to the ‘Appalachian foothills of Alabama and then went on to the mountain country.” The anonymous reviewer writes:

The only pleasureable activities of the hill people, one gathers from Mrs. Risley’s pages, are singing and dancing. And one is not sure how far the word “pleasurable” may properly apply in respect to the “sings.” These community affairs, at which between one and two thousand persons may assemble, are virtually confined to religious singing, and are undertaken in the hope of “sanctifying” the neighborhood. Sometimes these “sings” lead to disputes which are, no doubt, important to the primitive people gathered together, however amusing they may seem to the classist Eastern snob sophisticated. Mrs. Risley gives the views of the president of the singing society on one of the points at issue.

The president informed me (she writes) that a dispute rages between the followers of the “Sacred Harp” book and another called, I think, “Christian Harmony.” The bone of contention was alto. The president himself did not hold with alto. But, as six counties were represented at the Sing, he was for compromise, and used both books. He told me that in a Sacred Harp Sing only four notes were permitted–mi, fay, sic, sol and la; that the four-note system originated at Pentecost where the Disciples just naturally burst into song; and that for his part he did not believe that there was an alto present.

And “The Road to Wildcat” is filled with just such humanly effective scenes as this of the singing meeting. Incidentally, it might be added that the swaying and crooning and bellowing would go on all night, and the sing might even last for days. Along with the rationalizing on religion in England in the eighteeth century there was also this emotional side; the followers of John Wesley started the revivialistic idea.

Well! What to make of that? Did the president really think the shapes were given at Pentecost (seems unlikely)? Did the singings go on overnight (also seems unlikely)? Did they ‘sway’ (also unlikely)? Did a singing really have over 1,000 people?

First mention: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

First mention: 1905 for Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

Mrs. Valentine Hall has sent out invitations for the wedding of her grand-daughter, Miss Eleanor Roosevelt, to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The ceremony will take place at 4 o’clock, March 14, at 8 East Seventy-sixth Street, the residence of Mr. and Mrs Henry Parish Jr., with whom Miss Roosevelt makes her home.

Eleanor and Franklin were fifth cousins, once removed, according to Wikipedia. The first mention of Eleanor was in 1894, in an obituary for her father, Elliott.

First mention: Thanksgiving

To-day, has been set apart by the State and City authorities as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the mercies which have marked the closing year. It will, according to custom, be generally observed. We have all had abundant occasions for gratitude to God for blessings received at His hands. It is well to make public recognition of His goodness, and public acknowledgement of our dependencies upon Him for life and breath and all things.

1851 article in the New York Times (no author given), noting the ‘generally observed’ holiday, which would become a nationally observed with Lincoln’s 1863 proclamation.

First mention: T.S. Eliot

First mention of T.S. Eliot in the New York Times:

T.S. Eliot of St. Louis, a student in the Summer school of Magedeburg University, arrived in London today with a number of students from Freiburg and other German universities which have been closed on account of the war.

“The German officials,” said Mr. Eliot, “showed the students much consideration and helped us in every way, but traffic was interrupted by the military operations and there were few trains. Consequently foreigners are getting out of Germany slowly.”

August 27, 1914 “German Universities Shut”

First mention: Harriet Beecher Stowe

First mention of Harriet Beecher Stowe in the New York Times:

Harriet Beecher Stowe, wife of Professor Stowe, of Bowdoin College, and the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” has received $4,000, as her share of the sales already made of that book. She receives 10 cents on each copy sold, and a Bangor paper says she has been offered $10,000 for the copyright of the book. This is an extraordinary case of good luck or success in authorship in this country.

May 14, 1852 (Untitled article)