January 20, 2022

Origins of the term “brinkmanship” (aka “brinksmanship”)...

I recently noticed a headline for an Associated Press story about North Korea that was interesting from a word and quotation history perspective. It said:

     “North Korean missile tests signal return to brinkmanship.”

The term brinkmanship was coined in 1956 during the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. was facing a potential nuclear war with two other Communist powers, the Soviet Union and Red China.

It’s often spelled as brinksmanship, with an s. That spelling reflects previous terms it was based on, such as the very old word sportsmanship and more recent word gamesmanship.

The latter was popularized in the late 1940s and early 1950s by British author Stephen Potter’s humorous, best-selling book The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship: Or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating.

Potter didn’t coin the word gamesmanship. It was first recorded in Ian Coster’s autobiographical book Friends in Aspic, published in 1939.

Coster said he heard his friend Francis Meynell use it to describe sports behavior that involved “the art of winning games by cunning against opponents with superior skill.”

However, Potter’s Gamesmanship book made the term widely known and spawned other “-manship” terms.

Potter himself helped encourage that trend by writing follow-up books like Lifemanship in 1950 and One-Upmanship in 1952.

The word brinkmanship was inspired by controversy over a quotation that became both famous and infamous.

The quote appeared in an article about lawyer, politician, and statesman John Foster Dulles in the January 16, 1956 issue of Life magazine.

Since 1953, Dulles had been serving as U.S. Secretary of State under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. During that time, he’d dealt with a number of international political crises.

One of America’s fundamental Cold War polices was to try to prevent Communism from spreading to countries in Southeast Asia, South America and elsewhere. President Eisenhower memorably outlined that concern in a press conference on April 7, 1954.

As noted in a previous post on This Day in Quotes, Eisenhower described the threat of creeping Communism as the “falling domino principle,” soon described in the press as “the domino principle” or “the domino effect.”

Concern about the spread of Communism led to the Korean War in 1950, various other armed conflicts (eventually including the Vietnam War), and an arms race that made the risk of nuclear war a gloomy, omnipresent concern for decades.

An end to the Korean War was negotiated in 1953, the year Eisenhower became president. But during the next few years, the Eisenhower administration faced decisions about how to deal with other threats that arose through actions by the Soviet Union, Red China, and their political allies.

Those included a potential resumption of war with Red China in Korea and another potential war if Red China tried to invade Taiwan.

Eisenhower and his point man on international politics, Secretary of State Dulles, took a hard line on these and other issues involving Communist regimes.

They made it clear, publicly and through diplomatic channels, that America was willing to use what Dulles described in a speech on January 12, 1954 as massive retaliatory power” — which clearly implied the possibility of nuclear war — to stop actions by Red China, the Soviet Union, or other actors who crossed certain political lines in the sand. (That quote by Dulles soon embedded the term “massive retaliation” into our language.)

The article about Dulles in the January 16, 1956 issue of Life discussed those and other tense situations Dulles had dealt with. It included an extensive interview with him about the tough approach he and Eisenhower took.

The article is titled “HOW DULLES AVERTED WAR.” (Ironically, the cover of that issue features a photograph of actress Anita Ekberg, on the set of the film War and Peace.)

One of the quotes by Dulles in the article launched another new Cold War term. Speaking of the recent saber-rattling over Korea and Taiwan, he said:

“You have to take chances for peace, just as you must take chances in war. Some say that we were brought to the verge of war. Of course we were brought to the verge of war. The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art. If you cannot master it, you inevitably get into war. If you try to run away from it, if you are scared to go to the brink, you are lost.”

That quote, with its use of the concept of going to “the brink” of atomic Armageddon as a strategy, generated considerable criticism, especially from political opponents of the Eisenhower regime.

The most notable attack came from Adlai Stevenson II. He was a prominent Democratic politician who served as Governor of Illinois and made several unsuccessful attempts to be elected President of the United States prior to his death in 1965.

In 1956, the Democratic Party tapped Stevenson as their presidential candidate to run against Eisenhower. In a speech at Hartford, Connecticut on February 25, 1956, Stevenson said:

“We hear the Secretary of State boasting of his brinkmanship—the art of bringing us to the edge of the abyss.”

That line was widely quoted in news stories and embedded the term brinkmanship into our language. Stevenson is generally credited with coining the word. It was clearly based on the then widespread use of the term gamesmanship and variations on it.

Around the same time as Stevenson’s speech, the great political cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block, commonly known as “Herblock,” drew a cartoon that reflected his view of the brinkmanship strategy.

It shows Dulles pushing Uncle Sam toward the edge of a cliff labeled as "THE BRINK," as he says “DON’T BE AFRAID — I CAN ALWAYS PULL YOU BACK.”

If you’re interested in Cold War history, you can read a scan of the complete Life magazine issue with the article about John Foster Dulles via Google Books (here). The text is also posted in the Internet Archive (here).

As someone who was a kid in the 1950s and practiced “duck and cover” drills at school in preparation for a possible nuclear attack, I found it fascinating.

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January 13, 2022

“J’Accuse!” (“I Accuse!”)

J'Accuse quote, Emile Zola, Alfred DreyfusOn January 13, 1898, the front page of the French newspaper L’Aurore featured a scathing letter about the “Dreyfus Affair” written by popular author Émile Zola and addressed to the President of the French Republic, Félix Faure.

The letter was published under huge headlines that said:

                              Par ÉMILE ZOLA

In English:

               I Accuse...!
                              By ÉMILE ZOLA

In the letter, Zola accused the French government and top military officials of anti-Semitism and of conspiring to unjustly frame, convict and imprison Alfred Dreyfus.

Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French Army who was convicted of treason in 1894, for allegedly passing military secrets to the Germans.

The young officer had steadfastly proclaimed he was innocent and, by 1898, clear evidence had surfaced showing he was.

The debate over Dreyfus split French society into warring cultural factions for years, in ways similar to those that have divided liberals and conservatives in America during the Trump era.

Indeed, the Dreyfus Affair involved social and political issues that would still resonate today: racial intolerance, a secret conspiracy by military and government officials, the unlawful conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man, and an example of how protests by outraged activists and revelations in the media can rock the establishment and help lead to justice and cultural changes.

However, the most widely-known legacy of the Dreyfus Affair is Zola’s quote “J’Accuse!” (usually cited without the ellipsis in the actual headline).

It is still invoked in both French and English in public attacks on injustices, lies and malfeasance committed by people in power — though few people today know much, if anything, about the events that inspired it.

The affair started when a French spy found a letter indicating that some French military officer was passing information about French artillery parts to the Germans.

The traitor was a high-ranking officer on the General Staff, Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. But Esterhazy used phony evidence to put the blame on his subordinate, Dreyfus, who was conveniently of low rank and Jewish.

At the time, anti-Semitism was rampant among the mostly-Catholic French military leaders and public.

Dreyfus had his supporters, but the flimsy case against him was accepted by the military court and most citizens. There was some inconvenient evidence suggesting that Esterhazy was the likely traitor. However, it was generally dismissed as what would now be called “fake news.”

Dreyfus was convicted in December 1894 and sentenced to life in prison on Devil’s Island off of French Guiana. Before being sent there, he was publicly shamed and degraded in a ceremony in Paris on January 5, 1895.

The insignia was torn from his uniform. His sword was broken. He was then paraded past a crowd that shouted things like, “Death to Judas!” and “Death to the Jew.”

During 1896, as Dreyfus suffered through a hellish incarceration on Devil’s Island, a new chief of French military intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart, found more evidence showing that Esterhazy was the real traitor.

Picquart’s superiors responded by sending him to a post in Tunisia and trying to keep the information he uncovered secret.

The shaming of Alfred Dreyfus TDIQHowever, reports of the military’s coverup were leaked to the press and eventually Esterhazy was put on trial in a closed court martial.

Despite the evidence, he found not guilty. This added to the outrage of Dreyfus supporters, which included Émile Zola and many of France’s other leading intellectuals and liberal activists, such as Georges Clemenceau, a long-serving member of the French National Assembly and publisher of the L’Aurore newspaper.

Zola expressed his own outrage in his “J’Accuse...!” letter. In it, he reviewed the facts surrounding the Dreyfus Affair and pointedly named specific military and public officials who were complicit in railroading Dreyfus and letting Esterhazy skate.

Zola used his quickly-famous headline words in front of a series of sentences near the end of the letter, writing:

“Mr. President…

I accuse Major Du Paty de Clam as the diabolic workman of the miscarriage of justice, without knowing, I have wanted to believe it, and of then defending his harmful work, for three years, by the guiltiest and most absurd of machinations.

I accuse General Mercier of being an accomplice, if by weakness of spirit, in one of greatest iniquities of the century.

I accuse General Billot of having held in his hands the unquestionable evidence of Dreyfus's innocence and of suppressing it, guilty of this crime that injures humanity and justice, with a political aim and to save the compromised Chie of High Command.

I accuse General De Boisdeffre and General Gonse as accomplices of the same crime, one undoubtedly by clerical passion, the other perhaps by this spirit of body which makes offices of the war an infallible archsaint.

I accuse General De Pellieux and commander Ravary of performing a rogue investigation, by which I mean an investigation of the most monstrous partiality, of which we have, in the report of the second, an imperishable monument of naive audacity…

Finally, I accuse the first council of war [i.e., the first military court that convicted Dreyfus] of violating the law by condemning a defendant with unrevealed evidence, and I accuse the second council of war of covering up this illegality, by order, by committing in his turn the legal crime of knowingly discharging the culprit." [Meaning Major Esterhazy].

Clemenceau published the letter on the front page of L’Aurore on January 13, 1898.

As Zola hoped, it fueled increasing pressure to free Dreyfus. It was also a brave act of political activism. He was, in effect, taking on the French military and political establishment and he knew he would be targeted by them for revenge.

Almost immediately, Zola was charged with “criminal libel.” On February 23, 1898, he was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. Zola refused to serve his jail time and fled to England.

But his “J’Accuse!” letter marked a major turning point in the Dreyfus Affair.

During the summer of 1899, the French military held another trial for Dreyfus and, despite the questionable evidence, found him guilty again. However, public sentiment had started to turn against them in France and around the world.

Anti-French demonstrations sprang up in twenty foreign capitals. Editorials in scores of newspapers in other countries decried the unfair treatment of Dreyfus.

Prior to the end of the second Dreyfus trial, President Faure died. On September 19, the new French President, Émile Loubet, gave Dreyfus a pardon. To save face for the French army brass, Loubet let Dreyfus’ conviction stand.

Thus, even though Dreyfus was allowed to return to France, he was still technically a convicted criminal and lived with relatives under “house arrest.”

Finally, on July 12, 1906, the French Supreme Court declared Dreyfus innocent of treason. He was readmitted to the army and promoted to the rank of major.

Dreyfus served throughout World War I, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was awarded the Legion of Honor.

He died in Paris at age 75 on July 12, 1935 — exactly 29 years after he was officially exonerated.

Like Dreyfus, Zola returned to France in 1899. He had lived long enough to see President Faure’s right wing government fall and to see the success of his efforts to secure the freedom of Alfred Dreyfus. But he died tragically before seeing the final vindication of his heroic public stand on the Dreyfus Affair. In 1902, he was asphyxiated in his bedroom by carbon dioxide gas caused by a blocked stove flue.

George Clemenceau lived to see his support for Dreyfus and many of his other political views vindicated. He became one of France’s most important political figures, serving as Prime Minister from 1906 to 1909 and again from 1917 to 1920. He died in 1929 at age 88.

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January 07, 2022

“We don’t need no stinking badges” — origins, uses & variations…


“Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” 
       Alfonso Bedoya, as the Mexican bandit “Gold Hat”
       In the classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was released in the U.S. on January 7, 1948               
       Contrary to what many people think, the famous quote about “stinking badges” in the movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is not “We don’t need no stinking badges!” That’s a comic paraphrase of the words spoken in the film.
       The movie’s famous lines are from a tense scene in which three American gold prospectors, played by Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt, are confronted by a group of heavily-armed Mexicans in a remote area of Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. The character who is the leader of the Mexicans, called “Gold Hat” in the credits, is played by Alfonso Bedoya.
       He tells the prospectors: “We are federales. You know, the mounted police.”
       Bogart says skeptically: “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

       Bedoya sneeringly responds
: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!” 
In the 1927 book by B. Traven that inspired the film, Gold Hat’s answer is: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabron and ching’ tu madre.”
       You can read more background about the famed “no badges” line in another TDIQ post at this link.


“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”
Mickey Dolenz 
       In a 1967 episode of The Monkees TV show (Season 2, Episode 1)
       “We don’t need no stinking badges!” was made world famous when it was used in the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles. But that was not the first use.
      In the Monkees episode
“It’s A Nice Place To Visit,” originally aired on September 11, 1967, Mickey and two of his Monkees bandmates, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, dress up as Mexican bandits to save their singer Davy Jones from a “real” Mexican bandit. Before they leave to find Davy, Michael Nesmith says: “Wait a minute, don’t you think maybe we oughtta take something out with us, like a club card or some badges?”
      Mickey replies with a heavy Mexican accent: “Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!”


“Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” 
Rick Garcia, playing a Mexican bandit 
       In the movie Blazing Saddles, which was released in the U.S. on February 7, 1974
       This is the use that popularized those famed words and made it common for people to say “we don’t need no stinking [whatever]” as a joking comment about almost anything. The lines come in a scene in which the corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr, played by Harvey Korman, gives a sheriff’s badge to one of his Mexican bandit henchmen, played by Rick Garcia. Hedley says: “Be ready to attack Rock Ridge at noon tomorrow. Here’s your badge.”

       Garcia throws the badge away and sneers
: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”


“Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers.”  
Trinidad Silva, playing TV show host Raul Hernandez
       In the 1989 “Weird Al” Yankovic movie UHF 
       The character Raul Hernandez is the host of a low-budget show about animals called “Raul’s Wild Kingdom” in this gonzo movie.
During one scene, a truck pulls up outside his house to deliver some new animals. The driver reads Raul a list of the animals in the shipment — which include three badgers.
       Bogart says skeptically: Raul responds with an homage to the Monkees/Blazing Saddles quote by saying: “Badgers? Badgers? We don’t need no stinking badgers.”


       In a cartoon about Noah and the ark by Alex Barker, on his
Cake or Death site

Lucinda Williams DUST album

“I don’t have catering, I don’t have limousines. I’ve got Buick 6! I don’t need no stinking limo!”
Lucinda Williams
       American rock, blues and country music singer and songwriter 
       A funny comment she made in
a January 2017 interview about her latest concert tour. Her backup band includes three musicians who play together under the name “Buick 6.” They are bass player David Sutton, drummer Butch Norton and guitarist Stuart Mathis.

We Don t Need No Stinkin Leashes tshirt

“We Don’t Need No Stinkin Leashes!”
      The slogan
on a T-shirt I bought on Amazon, which features an image of dog dressed like Alfonso Bedoya’s Mexican bandit “Gold Hat” in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

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Related reading, viewing and stinkin’ fashionwear…


January 03, 2022

Dr. Mardy Grothe’s new GreatOpeningLines.com website

On January 1, 2022,
Dr. Mardy Grothe launched an amazing new online quotation website — GreatOpeningLines.com.

As Grothe explains on the site’s home page, GreatOpeningLines.com is “the first website devoted exclusively to the celebration of great opening lines in world literature.”

It’s already the world’s largest online database of literary history’s greatest opening words, and Grothe will be adding to it steadily in the months ahead.

For quote buffs like me, this is big news.

It’s the latest addition to the works of a man who is one of the great living quotations mavens, and it’s already generated praise from some of those other experts.

One of them is the editor of the monumental New Yale Book of Quotations, Fred Shapiro, whose annual list of notable quotes of the year is reprinted by thousands of newspapers and websites each December.

Shapiro said this about Grothe’s new site:

“Mardy Grothe’s books and websites are the wonders of the quotation world. Time and time again he has produced resources that are both addictively fascinating and highly educational. GreatOpeningLines.com is another tour de force by the master. Grothe has a genius for selecting the best opening lines and enhancing them with wonderful commentary.”

The books Shapiro mentioned are what first brought Grothe to my own attention.

His books are unique, hugely entertaining collections of quotations that fit certain topics or themes. They’re available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions and include:

  • Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You: Chiasmus and a World of Quotations
  • Oxymoronica: Paradoxical Wit & Wisdom From History's Greatest Wordsmiths
  • Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits and Wordsmiths
  • I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes
  • Ifferisms: An Anthology of Aphorisms That Begin with the Word “IF”
  • Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget, and
  • Metaphors Be with You: An A to Z Dictionary of History's Greatest Metaphorical Quotations
  • Deconstructing Trump: The Trump Phenomenon Through the Lens of Quotation History

Grothe also helped pioneer the realm of online quotation resources when, over ten years ago, he created one of the most significant online databases of famous words: Dr. Mardy's Dictionary of Metaphorical Quotations, called the DMDMQ, for short.

That amazing resource includes nearly 50,000 quotations, organized into more than 2,500 categories. It’s the largest, most comprehensive and most rigorously researched online database of metaphorical quotations in the world.

If you like to browse quotes, there are many days and weeks’ worth of browsing for you on the DMDMQ. It’s also a great source for research, since the quotes are organized alphabetically by key word and there’s a search tool that makes it easy to find quotes or people.

Equally important to quotation buffs like me is the fact that Grothe’s books and the DMDMQ provide specific sources for the quotes. Not just the names of the people who said the words, but citations that tell what book, article, news story or other source the quotations first appeared it. In an era when there are all too many phony quotations floating around the internet, source citations are important. They ensure that the quotes are real and allow for follow-up research.

Source citations are also provided for the quotations featured on Grothe’s GreatOpeningLines.com site. It already includes nearly 1,300 of the best opening lines from novels, non-fiction books, articles and essays and is steadily growing. Each entry includes the writer’s name and the source of the lines.

The entries are organized under 25 genres. In addition to providing the names and source citations, many entries are followed by interesting commentary about their context and meaning.

For example, here’s the entry for a famous opening line by Jane Austen, in the Sex, Love, Marriage, & Family category, with the commentary:

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

          - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

Described by English writer and editor Robert McCrum as “The archetypal First Line for an archetypal tale,“ these opening words have achieved legendary status, appearing near the top of almost every Top Ten list ever compiled. In How to Read Literature (2013), British scholar Terry Eagleton described this line as “One of the most renowned opening sentences in English literature” and “a small masterpiece of irony.“ Eagleton went on to add: “The irony does not exactly leap off the page. It lies in the difference between what is said—that everyone agrees that rich men need wives—and what is plainly meant, which is that this assumption is mostly to be found among unmarried women in search of a well-heeled husband.” In the novel, the narrator continued: “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighborhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Naturally, GreatOpeningLines.com includes many widely-known opening lines, like that one by Austen. But what makes the website even more fun and fascinating to me is that Grothe includes many that — while not necessarily famous — are thought-provoking examples of well-crafted lines that demonstrate the art of grabbing a reader’s attention and making them want to read on.

I also like that Grothe doesn’t limit his choices to highbrow literature. He also includes examples from the realms of pop culture.

For example, in the Crime/Detective & Suspense/Thrillers category, Grothe includes several opening lines from novels written by the great crime and mystery novelist Mickey Spillane. Spillane who created, among other things, the Private Detective character Mike Hammer, was one of the grandmasters of that genre and I’m a big fan of his work. Among the opening lines by Spillane that Grothe incudes is one of my faves:

“The guy was dead as hell. He lay on the floor in his pajamas with his brains scattered all over the rug and my gun in his hand.”

     - Mickey Spillane, Vengeance is Mine (1950)

Grothe notes in a comment that those words have been cited as one of the “25 of the Best Opening Lines in Crime Fiction” by Greg Levin, who is himself an award-winning crime novelist.

If you enjoy reading quotations or reading in general, Grothe’s GreatOpeningLines.com will provide many hours of browsing enjoyment. If you’re a writer, the quotations it features amount to a master class in writing what are often the most important lines in any book or story.

In a nutshell, I love Dr. Mardy Grothe’s new GreatOpeningLines.com website and highly recommend it. It’s an amazing new contribution to the literary world — endlessly fascinating, deeply thought-provoking, and, for the aspiring writer, highly inspirational.

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