going to hell

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Oct 15 18:05:14 UTC 2013

Two thoughts:

1)  Linguistic --

"... 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'

[By the way, this must come from the records of the Governor's
Council of the Provincial government of Massachusetts,* and the
"Govr" would be Joseph Dudley, who -- as the popularly despised
cohort of Edmund Andros and Edward Randolph in the earlier days of
the Dominion of New England -- found himself often contending with an
antagonistic Assembly.  Dudley may be associating himself with the
also-despised Charles I.]

This hints to me the executioner's apparatus.  Was a decapitation
collected and transported away in a handbasket?  Might that be the
source of "going to Hell in a"?  Where executed seditionists and
heretics would be going?

" The executioner then came forward with a large axe, and at two
strokes severed the head from the body. The head, having been
received in a basket prepared for the purpose, was afterwards, in the
usual form, held up by the executioner, who pronounced, 'This is the
head of a Traitor!' "  _The Gentleman's Magazine_, 1794, p. 953, col.
1.  GBooks.

Two instances of the use of a basket -- for "Heads and Quarters" --
in _The Dying Speeches and Behavior of the Several State Prisoners
that have been Executed the last 300 years_ (1720), pp. 290 and 316.  GBooks.

* The committee would be coming from the Assembly, the lower house,
to the Governor's Council, the upper house, over which the governor sat.

2)  Spoiler alert: the following is political --

"Unconcerned that the nation is going to hell in a hen basket, the
tired old men of the Republican Party are circling the wagons in a
last-ditch effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. "

The writer was probably thinking, the Republicans have put all their
eggs into one hen basket, by attacking the Affordable Care Act.


At 10/15/2013 11:41 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>on my blog:
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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