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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Expressions of the past, the Ford Model "T"

(Ford Museum)
The June, 2010 AARP Bulletin has a list of some interesting expressions from the past. These expressions were once applied universally to our lifestyles and the technology of the time but have become a bit out of date. For those of a certain age, you will understand them. For the younger crowd, maybe not. Either way I’ll give a short explanation on each.

Asleep at the switch. I still hear this occasionally as a description of someone who is not giving full attention to something. However, it originated from the days when railroads had humans doing a lot of work that is automated now. If a guy didn’t change the tracks for a train going to Chicago and it wound up in Cleveland, he definitely was asleep at the switch.

That and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Yes, there was a time when coffee was a nickel a cup. I saw a sign in a diner when I was a kid that read "cup of coffee, glass of water, and a toothpick: 7 cents." Throw a nickel on the counter at Starbucks and see what you get.

Came in over the transom. Does anyone remember transoms? They were those windows above the door that many old hotels had to allow for better ventilation.

Put through the wringer. If someone had difficulty or was working too hard, they may say they were put through the wringer. The wringer was used to squeeze the water out of washed clothes. Wringers were replaced long ago by the spin cycle in modern washing machines.

Best thing since sliced bread. Sliced bread was quite an invention at one time and anything that was also newly invented could be referred to being the best thing since sliced bread.

Film at 11. That was the tease for TV news in the days long before live reporting.

Beam me up Scotty. "Star Trek" technology from the 60s and an expression you may still hear occasionally.

Let’s get cranking. Popular in the days when cars had cranks to start them, no ignition switches and starters then.

Dial her up. This comes from the days when if you called a girl you liked, it would be on a rotary dial phone. No push buttons in those days.

Here is one of my favorites not on the AARP list. In the great crime film from 1931 "The Public Enemy", James Cagney is a wise guy crook driving a new stick shift fancy roadster. The stick shift (or synchromesh transmission) was a new item at that time and when a valet goes to park Cagney’s car, he grinds the gears. Cagney shouts, "Hey, stupid, be careful! That things got gears. That ain’t no Ford!"

Cagney was referring to the Model T Fords of that era which, as he said, didn’t have gears.

The Model "T" Ford was one of the most successful cars in history. Millions were sold from the early 20th century until 1928 when they were replaced by the Model "A" which had a 3 speed stick shift. A lot of customers didn't like the "A" and Ford had to dismantle many of the old "T's" to create a demand. Cagney was right, they didn't have gears, just three floor pedals. Above is a 1926 Model "T" tudor. (Ford Museum)

To read other blog comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic.


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Jim McAllister said...
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