Technology and the chronology of expressions

  • #1
Stephen Tashi
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Can the chronological occurrence of expressions be roughly matched to the chronology of technology?

For example, some expressions such as "red as a beet" make sense in the context of early technology - you need adequate agriculture to make beets a common food item. Other expressions such as "dead as door nail" assume a (perhaps) later technology - the technology for forging nails. If I say "Ned short circuited our plans", I'm alluding to the technology of electricity, which comes after the technology of forging nails.
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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Groucho Marx: "You know you haven't stopped talking since I came here? You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle"

Today, nobody knows what a phonograph or a phonograph needle is.
Vaccination remains to be seen.
 
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  • #3
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Can the chronological occurrence of expressions be roughly matched to the chronology of technology?
Well, the matching would be very rough. For example, the "Valley girl" phrase "Gag me with a spoon!" couldn't occur before the invention of that implement for food consumption. :oldbiggrin:
 
  • #4
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I doubt that anyone would understand the term "vaporware" before the rise of Microsoft Windows.
 
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  • #5
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I doubt that anyone would understand the term "vaporware" before the rise of Microsoft Windows.
Or the term "window" in the context of computers.
 
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  • #6
symbolipoint
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Very clever:
Groucho Marx: "You know you haven't stopped talking since I came here? You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle"

Today, nobody knows what a phonograph or a phonograph needle is.
Vaccination remains to be seen.
Stephen Tashi is right.

Many or I would say most of us know about phonographs and the phonograph needle.
 
  • #7
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Can the chronological occurrence of expressions be roughly matched to the chronology of technology?
Yes, I think so.

You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle...
Guess every language (and maybe: every country) has some kind of collection about phrases and their origins. Linguistics just loves these kind of lists about old stuff.

I've found just two related phrases in a short internet search: "The Whole 9 Yards" and "put a sock in it". Sure there are lot more but already, these are hard to understand without the (historical) context.

Ps.: well, according to some further search the origin of the first one may predate the later 'technological' adjustments, but still... It'll do as an example: also, an example for recycling :wink:
 
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  • #8
256bits
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I am sure most people don't understand the technology behind this one, except that it must be something about how cold it is, probably really cold.

It is cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey
 
  • #9
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I am sure most people don't understand the technology behind this one, except that it must be something about how cold it is, probably really cold.

It is cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey
there are competing ideas on the origin of that one, what's yours?
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50
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And I have never heard that outside of internet origins of phrases threads.
 
  • #11
256bits
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A girlfriend ( English ) used to say the phrase in winter.
I don't remember if she knew what a brass monkey was.
 
  • #12
256bits
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there are competing ideas on the origin of that one, what's yours?
I know only one, the cannon balls in cold weather would fall on the brass monkey ( holding tray ).
Others??
 
  • #13
pbuk
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And I have never heard that outside of internet origins of phrases threads.
The phrase "brass monkey weather" in particular (as well as, less commonly, its longer source) has been used in England by people I know since the 1960s.

I know only one, the cannon balls in cold weather would fall on the brass monkey ( holding tray ).
There are three obvious problems with that explanation:
  • The term 'brass monkey', or even just 'monkey' has never been used to describe something for holding cannon balls
  • Cannon balls are not stored in such a way that they can easily fall, for obvious reasons
  • Since this is PhysicsForums you should consider the difference between the coefficient of thermal expansion of iron and of brass in comparison to the manufacturing tolerance of cannon balls
 
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  • #14
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another origin story has to do with the "Kelvin spheres" on a marine binnacle. I don't know if that one makes any more sense than the cannon ball tray.

Personally I think it's just a made up phrase based on how cold metal feels when it is... cold. So a brass monkey is just a cold piece of metal and the balls are just... the balls.

Do you see a monkey? Maybe, but it's a stretch.

binnacle.jpg
 
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