November 22, 2011

“The shot heard round the world.”


THE ORIGINAL THING HEARD ROUND THE WORLD:

“The shot heard round the world.”
      
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
       American poet, essayist and lecturer
       This famous line is from Emerson’s poem
“Hymn Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument.” It comes at the end of the first verse:
             
“By the rude bridge that arched the flood, 
              Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, 
              Here once the embattled farmers stood 
              And fired the shot heard round the world.”

       Emerson wrote the poem in 1836 for a ceremony to celebrate the completion of a monument to the American “Minutemen” who fought at
the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. These skirmishes between rebellious Americans and British troops on April 19, 1775 are generally regarded as the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
       That morning, some 700 British Army regulars were marching through Lexington toward Concord to confiscate an illegal weapons arsenal stored there by the Massachusetts militia. When the “Redcoats” got to Lexington, their way was blocked by about 80 local militiamen. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the Americans to disperse, which they actually began to do. Then, suddenly, someone fired a shot. Nobody knew who it was. But, when it rang out, both sides started firing at each other and the American Revolution was underway. 
      
At the official dedication of the Concord Monument on July 4, 1837, Emerson’s poem was sung to the tune of a hymn called “The Old Hundredth,” a.k.a. “The Old 100th” or “The Old Hundred.” (Hence the use of the word “hymn” in the title.) His memorable phrase “the shot heard round the world” created a phrase formula that has since been used to refer to various other things that generate wide attention or notoriety. For example…


THE CELEBRITY “NEWS” VARIATION:

“The divorce heard round the world.”
      
Perez Hilton
       American celebrity news blogger and “television personality”
      
Hilton’s description of “reality star” Kim Kardashian’s divorce from NBA player Kris Humphries, ten weeks after their offensively lavish, apparently made-for-TV wedding brought joy to the hearts of millions of celebrity-obsessed people — and to the pocketbooks of TV shows and tabloid magazines and websites that cover such stuff.


A RECENT POLITICAL VARIATION:

“The brain fart heard round the world.”
       Jon Stewart
       American comedian and host of The Daily Show
       Stewart’s description
(on The Daily Show) of Rick Perry’s “oops moment” during the November 9, 2011 Republican presidential candidate debate, when Perry said he would abolish three federal agencies if elected but was unable to name all three. Some commentators called it “the oops moment heard round the world.”


AN OLDER POLITICAL VARIATION:

“The blooper heard round the world.”
       TIME magazine, October 18, 1976
       TIME’s description of the major gaffe by President Gerald Ford during the October 6, 1976 presidential debate with Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter, when Ford claimed “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” In fact, the Soviet Union clearly dominated a number of countries in Eastern Europe at the time, including East Germany, Yugoslavia, Rumania and Poland. The remark made Ford seem clueless about international politics. He later admitted he’d misspoken. Carter won the election.

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