Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Mid-term elections

A friend, knowing of my interest in things American, asked me today why Other Men's Flowers has had nothing to say about last week’s elections.

The reason is simply that the media—at any rate the parts that I follow—have for the past week been bursting with expert, wise, perceptive and thoughtful comment on the results, and it is not for me, a specialist in the trivial, facetious and frivolous, to add my two pennyworth.

But I must say that I have been humming a merry tune for several days now. Every week or two I participate in an online poll (they give you 50p each time!), and a recurring question is: How positive do you feel about the way things are going in the world? (answer 0 for not at all, 9 for extremely positive). My answer has usually been 2, but in future it will be 6 (not 9, because Blair is still there and we have no Congress to restrain his idiocy).


Gumby said...

I have nothing in particular to say about the U.S. political process, but I find the reactions of others revealing and fascinating.
My grandmother in her later years used to rail at the p.m. here in Canada. using vivid insults which would send anyone under the age of 12 into spasms of laughter. She had forgotten that the P.M. had been a close friend of the family when he was younger, but I don't think that, had she been in her right mind, it would have mattered.
In all likelihood, after years of following social protocol, she just wanted to be able to slam down a whiskey in public and bark, "The world's going to hell in a handbasket".
I am still curious as to the historical purpose of a handbasket, besides its most common use of transporting the ecclesiastically challenged.

Tony said...

Gumby: World Wide Words says: This is a weird one. It’s a fairly common American expression, known for much of the twentieth century. But it’s one about which almost no information exists, at least in the two dozen or so reference books I’ve consulted. William and Mary Morris, in their Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, confess to the same difficulty. A handbasket is just a basket to be carried in the hand (my thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary for that gem of definition). The Dictionary of American Regional English records to go to heaven in a handbasket rather earlier than the alternative, which doesn’t appear in print until the 1940s (Walt Quader tells me that Burton Stevenson included a citation in his Home Book of Proverbs, Maxims and Familiar Phrases from Bayard Kendrick’s The Odor of Violets, published in 1941). But DARE quotes a related expression from 1714: “A committee brought in something about Piscataqua. Govr said he would give his head in a Handbasket as soon as he would pass it”, which suggests that it, or at least phrases like it, have been around in the spoken language for a long time. For example, there’s an even older expression, to go to heaven in a wheelbarrow, recorded as early as 1629, which also meant “to go to hell”. I can only assume that the alliteration of the hs has had a lot to do with the success of the various phrases, and that perhaps handbasket suggests something easily and speedily done.

Kelly said...

To me, the phrase "Heaven in a handbasket" sounds like one of those smarmy homilies that should be illustrated with pastel-tinted kittens. I expect it was only seconds after it was first uttered that some nearby cynic was making the substitution.
As a member of the American polity, I welcome any change at this point. I have to say, however, if the Democratic and Republican national parties were put up for the Grand Prize of Stupid, I wouldn't dare to do the handicapping. Sometimes the political process feels like a nightmare picnic game, a five-legged race with an idiot tied on either side.
Tony, I enjoy your blog a great deal. I expect you have other lurkers like myself, never commenting but frequently returning for a dose of your wit, urbanity, erudition, and other such things.

Tony said...

Kelly: Yes, I bet there's many a cute birthday card with the caption Heaven in a Handbasket.
As for your kind comments on OMF, aw shucks. But I bet you say that to all the boys.
Disappointed to find your profile is unavailable; it might have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship.