August 23, 2010

Squeaky wheels get the grease (sometimes)…


“I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease.”
       Attributed to American humorist Josh Billings (1818-1885) 
       From a poem titled “The Kicker” 
       The poem “The Kicker” has been attributed to Josh Billings since at least 1910 and is cited as his in many books of quotations. However, it does not appear in Billings’ own published works. In the 1800s, the term “kicker” meant someone who was a  constant complainer. The idea that a complainer is like a squeaky wheel who stops making noise when he gets “greased” or “oiled” (i.e., is given what he’s yammering to get) may predate Billings. But many sources credit the oft-quoted, alleged Billings poem for making “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” a common saying.


“Where I work, the squeaky wheel gets replaced.”
       Sweatshirt slogan (SHOPZEUS)


“You know just because the majority thinks something is right, doesn’t make it right. So, that is up to us, the people that see the wrong, that see the injustice, that stay educated, stay informed, stay involved. And there’s an old phrase ‘the squeaky wheel, gets the oil.’ Right now, our wheels aren’t very squeaky; the other side, they’re the ones making all the racket...We just have to get up, stand up, speak out, and don’t be silent.”
       Otep Shamaya
       Heavy metal musician and liberal activist
       In an interview on, October 2, 2009


“Americans believe, ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’ (so it’s best to speak up), the Japanese say, ‘The nail that sticks out gets hammered back in’ (so it’s best to remain silent if you don’t want to be hit on the head).” 
       Deborah Tannen  
       In her book Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work (1994)


“Folks, the squeaky wheel of activist conservatism and American populism might be getting the grease (i.e., a lot of media attention) right now, but when election time comes the buzz and passion of a new movement will matter less than appealing to the widest group of voters possible with the most credible candidate possible...After all, we saw the Tea Party in another form almost two decades ago: its name was H. Ross Perot.”
       John Tantillo
       American marketing consultant and columnist for Fox News  
       Comment in a post on the Fox News website about the Florida Governor’s race, which pits Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio against former Republican turned Independent, Gov. Charlie Crist

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Recommended books about familiar sayings and idioms…

August 6, 2010

“Tyranny of the majority” vs. “tyranny of the minority.” Is one worse than the other?


“Tyranny of the Majority.” (“Tyrannie De La Majorité”)
       Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
       French historian and political pundit 
       Title of a section in Chapter XV of his book Democracy in America (1835)
       Tocqueville’s use of the phrase “Tyranny of the Majority” in his famed book about his travels in America is often credited as its origin. In fact, it had been used before. For example, it appears in one of the “Letters of Agrippa,” the American anti-federalist documents believed to be written by James Winthrop in the late 1780s. The Agrippa letter dated February 5, 1788 says: “A bill of rights...serves to secure the minority against the usurpation and tyranny of the majority.” Two decades before that, Voltaire had used the similar phrase “tyranny of the many” (“tyrannie de plusiers”) in his Philosophical Dictionary (1764).


“The tyranny of the minority is infinitely more odious and intolerable and more to be feared than that of the majority.”
       William McKinley (1843-1901)
       U.S. Congressman and 25th President of the United States,
       Comment to the House of Representatives, January 1886


“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather that of the party...that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”
       Lord Acton (1834-1902)
       British historian
       In an article in the Quarterly Review, 1879; reprinted in the posthumously published book collecting some of his writings, The History of Freedom (1907)


“There can be a tyranny of the majority or a tyranny of the minority, tyranny of the government or tyranny of the people through government. Majority and minority, governing and nongoverning, factions seek power and produce evil.”
       Manus I. Midlarsky
       Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
       In his book Handbook of War Studies III (2009)


“There has been a disturbing trend lately where the tyranny of the minority is now holding sway more and more in the halls of Washington, D.C., thwarting the will of the majority...In health care, the will of the people was thwarted; on the Arizona Immigration issue, the will of the people again was thwarted; and now the will of the people was thwarted in California, which bans same sex marriages.”
       Editorial on the conservative blog, August 5, 2010 
       Criticizing the Obama health care legislation and recent court decisions overturning the anti-immigration law in Arizona and the anti-Gay marriage law (Proposition 8) in California


“A word like ‘tyranny’ is interesting for its inevitable conjuring up of concerns about the tyranny of the majority, a misstep of democracy that judges – in their independence from the political process – are able to correct.”
       Writer Chris Geidner
       Commentary on the court decision overturning California’s Prop 8
       In the Gay & Lesbian News Magazine The Metro Weekly, August 5, 2010

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