July 27, 2015

As American as apple pie, cherry pie – and violence...


Apple trees are not native to America. They originated in Central Asia and were grown in Asia and Europe long before European colonists brought them to North America.

However, as explained in a post by the eminent word and phrase expert Barry Popik on his site, American-grown apples and American-style apple pies eventually became renowned for having a special sweetness and flavor.       

That led to the term “American apple pie,” which was used to distinguish American-style apple pies from pies made in other countries.

By the 1920s, the phrase “as American as apple pie” was floating around. By the 1940s it had become a common idiomatic expression.

There’s no famous quotation or date to cite for the origin of “as American as apple pie.” The exact origin is unknown.

But there is a notorious variation that’s linked to the date July 27.

On July 27, 1967, the black activist H. Rap Brown gave a rancorous speech at a press conference in Washington, D.C. that is widely cited as the origin of his well-known quote:

     “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”

In a way, it was the origin. However, that seven-word aphorism is the shortened, popularized version of what Brown said in his speech.

What he actually said that day was:

     “I say violence is necessary. Violence is a part of America’s culture. It is as American as cherry pie. Americans taught the black people to be violent. We will use that violence to rid ourselves of oppression if necessary. We will be free, by any means necessary.”

Ironically, at the time, Brown was Director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

His fiery remarks at the July 27 press conference were, in part, a reaction to an announcement President Lyndon Johnson made that day.

Johnson announced that he was creating a special government commission formally titled “The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders.” It later came to be popularly known as The Kerner Commission, after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois.

Johnson asked the 11-member Commission to determine the causes of the violent race riots that had swept through major American cities during the past few years, most recently in Newark and Detroit, and to recommend ways to stop such riots from happening in the future.

Brown decided to respond to this news by holding a press conference at SNCC’s Washington headquarters.

He scoffed at the idea that the causes of the riots were a mystery. “Rebellions are caused by conditions,” he said.

Then he made his famous comments about violence being necessary and as American as cherry pie and topped that off by adding: “If you give me a gun and tell me to shoot my enemy, I might just shoot Lady Bird.” (Referring to President Johnson’s wife, Claudia, whose popular nickname was “Lady Bird.”)
 
Brown went on to call President Johnson a “white honky cracker” and “a mad wild dog” and said that if America’s cities didn’t “come around” they “should be burned down.”

None of his comments that day gained the lasting notoriety of his cherry pie aphorism.

It’s not clear why he chose cherry pie instead of apple pie. But in his controversial 1969 autobiography Die Nigger Die!, Brown helped popularize his version of the saying by using it in the pithier form that’s often mistakenly attributed to his July 27, 1967 speech.

In the book, Brown wrote (using a lower case “a” for America, to show his disdain):

     “This country was born on violence. Violence is as american as cherry pie. Black people have always been violent, but our violence has always been directed toward each other. If nonviolence is to be practiced, then it should be practiced in our community and end there. Violence is a necessary part of revolutionary struggle.”

As I write this, the President of the United States is a black man who is serving his second term in office.

H. Rap Brown (who changed his name to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin while in prison for armed robbery in the 1970s) is now serving a life sentence in prison for murder.

He was convicted of killing African-American police officer Ricky Kinchen in 2000, during a shootout in Georgia that occurred when Kinchen tried to serve a warrant on him.

On July 19, 2013, President Barack Obama held a press conference at the White House to express his views on a Florida jury’s recent decision to acquit George Zimmerman of murder for shooting and killing the young black teenager Trayvon Martin.

The President acknowledged that race relations in America are better than they were when he was Trayvon’s age.

But he noted that racism in America clearly has not been eliminated.

More recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and elsewhere have seemed to give further credence to that view.

And, the continuing occurrence of gun-related homicides in the United states, affecting people of all races, seem to validate the view that violence is indeed still as American as cherry — or apple — pie.

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July 22, 2015

“Kill them all and let God sort them out.”


In 1209, Pope Innocent III decided it was time to crack down on followers of a religious sect that had become popular in Southern France.

Originally called Albigensians, they came to be more widely known as the Cathars.

Cathars were Christians. But they rejected the authority of the Pope and other key aspects of Catholicism, so they were deemed heretics by the Catholic Church.

This apparently didn’t matter much to most people living in the French town of Beziers.

Catholics and Cathars had lived there together for many years in relative harmony.

On July 22, 1209, they were celebrating the annual Feast of Mary Magdalene together, a religious holiday observed by various Christian religions.

Suddenly, the festivities were cut short when an army of “Crusaders” sent by Pope Innocent III  showed up outside the walls of the town.

The military leader of the army was Simon de Montfort, a French nobleman highly motivated by the Pope’s promise that he could keep the land of any heretics he killed.

The Crusaders were accompanied by an official representative of the Pope, a French Cistercian monk named Arnaud Amalric (also variously referred to as Arnald Amalric and Arnauld-Amaury).

De Montfort demanded that the leaders of Beziers turn over the town’s Cathar heretics to him. They refused. The Crusaders attacked.

According to accounts written decades later, as the attack began, a soldier asked Amalric how they would be able to tell which Beziers townspeople were Catholics and which were Cathars.

Amalric supposedly answered (in French):

       “Kill them all. God will recognize his own.”

Some sources give the alleged quote as “Kill them all, for the Lord knows his own” or as “Kill them all. The Lord knows his own.”

It eventually came to be most commonly paraphrased as:

       “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Scholars have debated whether Almaric actually said anything like those words.

But there’s no question that they reflect what happened that day.

De Montfort’s army killed virtually every man, woman and child in the town — estimated to be as many as 20,000 people — and burned Beziers to the ground.

The Beziers Massacre was just one of the first of many atrocities that occurred during the Albigensian Crusades.

Over the next four decades, roughly a million more people were killed during those bloody religious conflicts.

Amalric’s infamous quotation was updated during the Vietnam War, when the saying “Kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out” became popular among American Special Forces troops.

That “witticism” was put on unofficial Special Forces military patches, pins and t-shirts that are now sold as “collectibles” on eBay.

More recently, American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan updated the saying again in the form: “Kill ‘em all. Let Allah sort ‘em out.”

T-shirts and bumper stickers using this newer variation are sold on various Internet sites.

It’s disconcerting that anyone can blithely talk about killing innocent people and letting them be “sorted out” later.

But as they used to say in ‘Nam — there it is.

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July 16, 2015

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”


On July 16, 1964, at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater uttered his most remembered quotation in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination:

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” he said. “And…moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Those words quickly became both famous and infamous.

They resonated in a positive way with Conservative Republicans, who were beginning their long domination of the Republican Party.

Democrats, including the Democratic candidate, incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, pounced on them as proof that Goldwater was a dangerous war-mongering extremist who might be crazy enough to start a nuclear war. (A characterization masterfully capitalized on in the Johnson campaign’s notorious “Daisy ad.”)

It’s true that Goldwater believed America needed a strong military and should use it aggressively it to fight the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

But this view wasn’t really all that different from the position of most high-profile Democrats in the 1960s, including President John F. Kennedy and his Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who became president in November 1963 after Kennedy was assassinated.

Nonetheless, the Democrats’ portrayal of Goldwater as an extremist nut was effective and helped Johnson win a landslide victory in the November 1964 presidential election.

In the decades since then, Goldwater’s famous quote has also been misused to try to justify extreme positions or actions that bear little or no relation to what Goldwater actually believed or would have condoned.

For example, when the “Obamacare” health insurance legislation was approved by Congress, a protester hurled a brick through the office window of the Monroe County Democratic Committee headquarters in Rochester, New York. A note attached to the brick said “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Barry Goldwater had strong libertarian views and was generally against big government.

But he would never have supported vandalism in the name of politics or liked having his words associated with it.

This seems clear not only from Goldwater’s political record, but also from the words he spoke right after the famous quote in his 1964 acceptance speech.

Here’s what he said in that key part of the address:

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

Why, the beauty of the very system we Republicans are pledged to restore and revitalize — the beauty of this Federal system of ours — is in its reconciliation of diversity with unity.

We must not see malice in honest differences of opinion, and no matter how great, so long as they are not inconsistent with the pledges we have given to each other in and through our Constitution.

Our Republican cause is not to level out the world or make its people conform in computer regimented sameness. Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world.

Ours is a very human cause for very humane goals.”

In this era of increasingly uncivil discourse, the sentences that come after Goldwater’s famous quotation are also worth remembering. 

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July 07, 2015

The day Leo Durocher said “Nice guys finish last.” (Or something like that.)


The famous sports quote “Nice guys finish last” has long been attributed to legendary baseball player and manager Leo Durocher. But for decades there has been a debate about whether he actually said it.

Most sources agree that the basis for the attribution comes from remarks “Leo the Lip” made on July 6, 1946, when he was managing the Brooklyn Dodgers.

That day, he was dissing the New York Giants and their manager Mel Ott to some reporters, during batting practice at the old “Polo Grounds” stadium. One of the reporters was sportscaster Red Barber. Another was Frank Graham, sportswriter for The New York Journal-American.

Graham’s column, published the following day, used the headline “Leo Doesn’t Like Nice Guys.” It also noted what Durocher said about “nice guys” — which does not include the famous quote.

Graham reported that Red Barber had asked Durocher “Why don’t you be a nice guy for a change?”

According to Graham, Durocher replied:

“Nice guys! Look over there. Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any of the other Giants? Why, they’re the nicest guys in the world! And where are they? In seventh place! Nice guys! I’m not a nice guy – and I’m in first place.” After pacing up and down the visitors’ dugout, the Dodger manager waved a hand toward the Giants’ dugout and repeated, “The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”

In his excellent book The Quote Verifier, quotation expert Ralph Keyes says: “When Graham’s original column was reprinted in Baseball Digest that fall, Durocher’s reference to nice guys finishing in ‘seventh place’ had been changed to ‘last place.’…Before long Leo’s credo was bumper-stickered into ‘Nice guys finish last.’”

Over the years, some books of quotations have given Durocher credit for the “bumper sticker” version of the famed quote, while others cite it as “attributed” or as a paraphrase of what he said.

Durocher himself helped confuse the facts. Initially, he denied saying “Nice guys finish last.” But after it became famous, he embraced it. He even used it as the title of his autobiography (first published in 1975). And, in that, he gave a possibly revisionist version of what he said on July 6, 1946, which differs from what sportswriter Graham originally reported.

Here’s Durocher’s recollection from his book:

[T]he Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugouts...I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker, Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thompson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last...Give me some scratching, diving hungry ballplayers who came to kill you...That’s the kind of guy I want playing for me.”

So, was Durocher’s version correct or was Graham’s? I don’t know, but I’ll add a couple of other pieces to the puzzle, based on my own recent Internet searches of newspaper archives.

In an article published on August 12, 1946 in the Uniontown, Pennsylvania Morning Herald, sports editor Jimmy Gismondi wrote that Dodgers fans “back up their manager [Durocher] when he leaps from his dugout to scream at an ump. ‘Nice guys don’t win pennants,’ the Dodger fans say. And sometimes we think they’re right. How’s Mel Ott doing these days?”

I also found an Associated Press article dated August 13, 1946, written by AP Sports Editor Frank Eck. In it, he said: “Brooklyn fans like their baseball rough. They remember when their heroes were second division duds six straight years in the thirties. But now they have a rough and tumble group to cheer and they love Durocher for saying: ‘Nice guys don’t win pennants.’”

So those articles clearly suggest that “Nice guys don’t win pennants” was a saying commonly used by Durocher and Dodgers fans at the time.

Then I found two news stories from 1948 commenting on a recent article Leo Durocher had written. Durocher’s article was published in the April 1948 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The title of the article was “Nice Guys Finish Last.”

Was that title chosen by Durocher based on a quote he coined — or was it created by an editor at Cosmopolitan, who may be the real coiner of the line that Durocher later claimed as his?

I don’t know the answer to that either. If you do, please shoot me an email or post a comment on the Famous Quotations Facebook page. You’ll be clearing up a longstanding quotation mystery.

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June 28, 2015

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”


The word “chiffon” started out as a French term for a rag or small piece of cloth. Several centuries ago, fabric and clothing manufacturers adopted it as the name of a light, airy fabric.

This led to the use of “chiffon” as a generic or brand name for a number of other consumer products, ranging from cake and toilet paper to margarine, as a way of emphasizing their “fluffiness.”

Chiffon margarine was first manufactured in the 1950s by the Texas-based corporation Anderson, Clayton and Company (ACCO).

ACCO had sold cotton and cotton products since the early 1900s. In 1952, the company created a food division to find uses for hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Two years later, ACCO began selling products made with this oil, including Seven Seas salad dressing and Chiffon margarine.

Chiffon was one of the first soft, tub-style margarine products. But by the 1960s there were many brands of soft margarines and, to the dismay of ACCO executives, Chiffon lacked notable name recognition among consumers.

That changed in the 1970s, when the company began airing TV commercials for Chiffon that included a memorable character and a slogan that became a pop culture catchphrase:

      “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

These classic Chiffon ads featured the talented Hollywood character actress Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature.

The video at right is a typical example.

In this early Chiffon commercial (possibly the first), Mother Nature is given some Chiffon to taste.

She likes it and identifies it as “my delicious butter.”

The narrator then tells her: “That’s Chiffon margarine, not butter…Chiffon’s so delicious it fooled even you, Mother Nature.”

Perturbed at being tricked, Mother Nature responds with her signature line: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

She underscores her displeasure by creating a flash of lightning and a loud peal of thunder.

A series of Chiffon ads using the tagline made it a widely known and significantly boosted sales of Chiffon.

Er, naturally, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” was trademarked by ACCO. According to the papers filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it was first used in commerce on June 28, 1972.

Based on old newspaper clips I found online, I think Chiffon ads with Dietrich as Mother Nature may actually have started airing in 1971 in some media markets, possibly for test-marketing purposes. However, June 28th is the official anniversary of the famed line.

It continued to be used in Chiffon ads throughout the 1970s and was finally retired in the ‘80s.

In the 1990s, ACCO sold Chiffon to Kraft. Kraft sold it to ConAgra a few years later. Shortly after that, production of Chiffon was discontinued.

However, the now proverbial phrase “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” lives on as a humorous saying that’s still heard today.

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