"Cadillac" cites

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Nov 6 07:19:49 UTC 2009

In this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, I have an "On Language"
column on the transferred usage of "Cadillac":


Here's the full info for some of the citations of interest.

* "the Cadillac of X"

1925 _Washington Post_ 18 Dec. 4/4 He [sc. Col. Sherman Moreland]
insisted that it was "ridiculous" to call the DH and JN types of
planes very dangerous. The former, which Col. Mitchell has described
as "flaming coffins," he enthusiastically described as the "Cadillacs
of the skies," which are safe to all competent fliers.

1932 _Sales Management_ Jan. 30 152/3 So you see it [sc. the Baldwin
grand piano] is the Cadillac of our line, just as our other models can
be compared to the Buick, Oldsmobile and the Chevrolet models of
General Motors.

* "Cadillac" (adj.) referring to high-cost health insurance policies:

May 4, 1964, "Deceptive or Misleading Methods in Health Insurance
Sales," Senate Subcommittee on Frauds and Misrepresentations Affecting
Elderly, Committee on Aging, Special.
Testimony of Loren A. Hicks, President, North Broward Senior Citizens
Club, Inc., and Treasurer, Florida State Council for Senior Citizens,
of Pompano Beach, Fla.:
"It costs $500 to $600 for a retired aged couple to get comprehensive
policies that will pay possibly 80 percent of their benefits which has
been described as Cadillac policies by someone previously." (p. 134)
"I have a friend in Fort Lauderale. I think he is worth a quarter of a
million dollars. He has three of those Cadillac policies. Every time
he goes to the hospital he makes money. That is what is driving
insurance rates up." (p. 138)

April 29, 1969, "Health Insurance," Senate Subcommittee on Health
Benefits and Life Insurance, Committee on Post Office and Civil
Testimony of John F. Griner, President, American Federation of
Government Employees: "I would like to point out at this point that
our plans are competitive with the Blue Cross plan, the Aetna plan,
the Government-wide plan. We do not have what we call the Cadillac
plans, such as some of the postal organizations have. They are not
only competitive at this time in benefits, they are also competitive
in rates." (p. 51)

May 17, 1974, "Competition in the Health Services Market, Part 2,"
Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly, Committee on Judiciary.
Testimony of Dr. Philip Caper, staff member, Subcommittee on Health,
Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare: "Finally, it seems to me
that there is an ethical consideration here. It is a question which
has been debated extensively and is still being debated. That is
whether as a society the provision of 'Cadillac health care' for one
person and 'Volkswagen health care' for another person is acceptable.
I'm not talking about amenities, whether somebody has French wine put
on his hospital menu, but whether discrimination based upon ability to
pay is an appropriate marketplace force in the health care industry."
(p. 1061)

The last one, along with many other useful cites, can be found on
Barry Popik's website:


--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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