“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!”

On December 7, 1941 — which President Franklin D. Roosevelt would memorably name “a date which will live in infamy” on the following day — hundreds of Japanese warplanes made a deadly surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. When the crew of the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans rushed on … Read more

Queen Elizabeth’s “Annus Horribilis” and it’s ancestor, the “Annus Mirabilis”…

On November 24, 1992, Elizabeth II gave a speech in London to mark the 40th anniversary of her Accession as Queen of England and “the Commonwealth realms.” The speech immediately became famous for her reference to the year 1992 as an “Annus Horribilis” — which means “horrible year” in Latin. “1992 is not a year … Read more

“Your eyes are full of hate, Forty-one.” … In Ben-Hur, that's good.

Screenwriter, playwright and novelist Gore Vidal is linked to two famous quotations about whipping. One is a funny quip about the old form of corporal punishment called “birching” (whipping someone with a bundle of birch tree rods):        “I’m all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.” This quote appears in many … Read more

How “God Bless America” created a musical duel between Woody Guthrie and Irving Berlin

In 1917, during World War I, American songwriter Irving Berlin was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was already a successful songwriter at that point, known for huge hits like “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911) and “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” (1915). Berlin was stationed at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. Not long … Read more

“Business as usual”

It’s not uncommon to see credible sources claim that the phrase “business as usual” was coined by Winston Churchill. For example, a glossary of World War I words and phrases on the BBC website says: “Business as Usual: Phrase coined by Churchill to suggest how British society should react to the wartime situation.” Even some … Read more

“Not fade away…”

[An updated version of a previous post. Thanks to the readers who emailed corrections to me.] On October 27, 1957, American Rockabilly and rock music pioneer Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets released their second 45 rpm single, as a follow-up to their first smash hit “Peggy Sue.” This new single featured “Oh Boy” … Read more

The day Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” made the earth move…

On October 21, 1940, Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls was first published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. It’s a classic war story about an American, Robert Jordan, who goes to Spain to fight with anti-Fascist rebels during the Spanish Civil War. Along the way, he falls in love with a rebel girl named … Read more

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.”

It’s difficult to pigeonhole Teddy Roosevelt. He was a Republican for most of his political career, including his two terms as President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. Then, in 1912, he decided the Republican Party had become too cozy with big corporate interests. So he left the GOP and founded the Progressive … Read more

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but…”

The Izaak Walton League is one of America’s oldest conservation groups. It was founded in 1922 by sport fishermen who wanted to preserve fish and wildlife habitat for future generations. The League took its name from the avid English angler Izaak Walton (1593-1683). By profession, Walton was an “ironmonger” (a dealer in iron and hardware). … Read more

“The physician can bury his mistakes…”

Many books of quotations include a famous humorous quote by the eminent American architect Frank Lloyd Wright:       “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the           architect can only advise his client to plant vines.” This quote is usually given without any context, except to say that it comes from an article in the … Read more