The origins of “V for Victory!”

Almost everyone is familiar with the phrase “V for Victory” and the two-fingered V-for-victory hand gesture popularized by Winston Churchill during World War II. But few people today are aware of their origin. The use of “V” as a symbolic message of defiant resistance to tyranny was first proposed by Victor de Laveleye, a member of … Read more

The 1941 New Yorker cartoon that created the expression “Back to the old drawing board!”

Drawing boards have been used by engineers and architects for more than two centuries. But the saying “back to the old drawing board” is more recent and can actually be traced to a specific source and date. It was coined by the American artist Peter Arno in a cartoon first published in the March 1, … Read more

The story behind “Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer”

The idiomatic expression “on a wing and a prayer” is a now widely used to describe doing something under extremely difficult or disadvantageous circumstances and hoping that sheer luck, determination and/or God will allow its success. During World War II, when the phrase first became part of the English language, it had a literal application. It … Read more

Blood, sweat and tears — and toil…

Almost everything most people know about the origin of the phrase “blood, sweat and tears” is wrong. Some people think Winston Churchill coined it in the famous speech he gave to the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940. But, in fact, Churchill didn’t coin the phrase. Nor did he say it in that … Read more

“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

“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

“The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem” (“Endlösung der Judenfrage”)

“The Final Solution” is one of the most chilling phrases associated with Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. It’s a euphemism for genocide. “The Final Solution” was immortalized by a memo sent on July 31, 1941 by Hermann Göring (often spelled Goering in English), head of the Gestapo, to Nazi SS General Reinhard Heydrich. The memo … Read more

The American Christmas classic by a Russian-born Jewish songwriter that ended the Vietnam War…

I like odd facts and there are a number of them about the song “White Christmas.” First off, this American Christmas classic was written by the Russian-born Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin (who also wrote the classic American anthem “God Bless America”). Berlin’s original name was Israel Baline. His family emigrated to America in 1893 to … Read more

SEPTEMBER 1 – We must love one another or (and?) die, Daisy!

One of the most famous poems written by W.H. Auden is “September 1, 1939.” It has the famous line: “We must love one another or die.” At least that was the line until Auden decided he hated it and essentially tried to erase it – unsuccessfully – from the public’s mind. Auden wrote the poem … Read more