President Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech

One of the famous quotations linked to the date June 26th is a line President John F. Kennedy spoke in German on June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Kennedy used the line twice that day in a historic speech in West Berlin, which was then separated from Communist-controlled East Berlin by the Berlin Wall. … Read more

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 … Read more

The origins of the “The Domino Effect”…

Contrary to what many sites on the Internet say, President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not coin the famous Cold War term “the Domino Effect.”  He did use the phrase “falling domino principle” in a famous press conference on April 7, 1954. Journalists at the time dubbed this “The Domino Theory,” which later came to be … Read more

The origins of the Cold War term “hot line” and the mythical “red phones”…

Many books and websites note that the famed “hot line” communication link between the Pentagon and the Kremlin was established on August 30, 1963. Press reports about this new tool, intended to provide a possible way to avoid a nuclear war between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), soon cemented … Read more

“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall…”

When Columbia Records released the first, self-titled album by Bob Dylan in 1962 it went largely unnoticed by the general public. Only about 5,000 copies were sold at the time. But Columbia music producer John Hammond, who signed Dylan to the label, had faith in the young folk singer. He ignored the jibes of other … Read more

On this date, Ronald Reagan gave his famous “evil empire” speech—but he didn’t coin the phrase…

If you’re like me, you’re a tired of hearing about Donald Trump and Russia. However, as I was editing this post today on March 8, 2017, I couldn’t help being struck by the fact that Trump’s political hero, President Ronald Reagan, had a very different view of Russia than “The Donald.” It was on March … Read more

“We will bury you!” (Or something like that.)

On November 18, 1956, Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev, the head of the Soviet Union, attended a party at the Polish Embassy in Moscow. At that event, he made some boasting comments about the competition between Communism and “capitalist states” like the US. One of those comments included what would become Khrushchev’s most famous (and infamous) … Read more

“I coulda been a contender!”

When On the Waterfront was first released to American movie theaters on July 28, 1954, the film’s director, Elia Kazan, was worried about how well it would do on opening day. Actors Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb gave the film plenty of star power. And, the script … Read more

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

On April 19, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur made a high-profile “farewell address” to a joint meeting of both houses of Congress. Eight days earlier, he’d been fired as the top commander of the American forces in the Korean War by President Harry Truman, essentially for having the gall to publicly criticize Truman’s denial of his … Read more