[Ads-l] metaphorical "litmus test" (1912)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 25 09:43:19 EDT 2017


Here's a comical litmus paper simile in 1924.

Date: April 5, 1924
Newspaper: Harrisburg Telegraph
Newspaper Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Article: Pithy Paragraphs: He Must Be Yellow
Quote Page 14, Column 2,

[Begin excerpt]
First Student: "See that chap coming out of the Lab.—that's Brown, our
chemistry professor—he likes the girls 'but he's so bashful he acts
like litmus paper."

Second Student: "How's that?" First Student: "Why, when he's with a
girl he turns pink and when he's alone he gets blue."—BRADFORD M.
FAGER.
[End excerpt]

Garson


On Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 10:21 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> My working theory (as I suggested in the WSJ column) is that "litmus test"
> only took off as a metaphor when actual litmus tests became widely used by
> farmers checking their soil for acidity. That apparently happened around
> the turn of the 20th century.
>
>
> On Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 9:26 PM, Joel Berson <berson at att.net> wrote:
>
>> Since "litmus paper" goes back to 1803, there's more work to be done.
>>
>> Joel
>>
>>
>>       From: ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
>>  To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>>  Sent: Friday, March 24, 2017 4:47 PM
>>  Subject: Re: [ADS-L] metaphorical "litmus test" (1912)
>>
>> Excellent column, Ben. Great citations Ben and Bill. Here is a
>> metaphorical "litmus paper test" in 1896.
>>
>> Date: March 16, 1896
>> Newspaper: The Pittsburgh Press
>> Newspaper Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
>>
>> https://www.newspapers.com/image/141573137/?terms=litmus
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> The alleged investigation will not stand
>> the litmus paper test of public opinion.
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>> Garson
>>
>> On Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 4:05 PM, MULLINS, WILLIAM D (Bill) CIV USARMY
>> RDECOM AMRDEC (US) <william.d.mullins18.civ at mail.mil> wrote:
>> > Slightly earlier:
>> > _Cleveland [OH] Leader_ 4 Sep 1904, p 11 col 4
>> >
>> > "The people ring true; the incidents stand the litmus test of our own
>> experiences."
>> > [from a book review]
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>> Behalf Of Ben Zimmer
>> >> Sent: Friday, March 24, 2017 11:22 AM
>> >> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>> >> Subject: metaphorical "litmus test" (1912)
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> My latest Wall St. Journal column is on the phrase "litmus test" and
>> how it has become a political metaphor.
>> >>
>> >> https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-litmus-became-a-test-for-
>> court-nominee-gorsuch-1490365660
>> >>
>> >> If paywalled, you can Google the headline or follow a social media link
>> like this one:
>> >>
>> >> https://twitter.com/bgzimmer/status/845289601451413504
>> >>
>> >> OED2 has the figurative sense from 1957, folded into the cites for
>> "litmus." Here are some examples starting in 1912.
>> >>
>> >> "Still Palming Off Platitudes," Times Dispatch (Richmond, Va.), Feb.
>> >> 22, 1912, p. 4, col. 1
>> >> The tenure of a judge and the life of the people affected by his
>> decision is infinitesimal when subjected to the litmus test of time.
>> >> https://www.newspapers.com/image/146645259/
>> >> http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85038615/1912-02-
>> 22/ed-1/seq-4/
>> >>
>> >> "National Politics," Des Moines Register, Feb. 12, 1913, p. 6, col. 6
>> "Conservation is the litmus test of progressivism. Where do you stand on
>> >> conservation?" was my next question [of Pennsylvania Senator Boies
>> Penrose].
>> >> https://www.newspapers.com/image/128838776/
>> >>
>> >> "A Penrose-Dimmick Mixture," Chester (Pa.) Times, Feb. 28, 1914, p. 12,
>> col. 3 A special dispatch from Scranton to the North American
>> >> shows the J.
>> >> Benj. Dimmick's candidacy is being put to the litmus test and reveals
>> the presence of Penrose alkalies... The litmus test applied to the
>> >> Dimmick regime shows alcohol.
>> >> https://www.newspapers.com/image/5325232/
>> >>
>> >> Elbert Hubbard, "Negative Advertising," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May
>> 31, 1914, p. 10, col. 5 Any man who thinks that he is necessary to the
>> >> perpetuity of an industry would do well to take a look at himself in a
>> mirror and make sure that his purity of purpose will stand the litmus
>> >> test.
>> >> https://www.newspapers.com/image/85469771/
>> >>
>> >> "Publicity," Women's Wear, Apr 9, 1915, p. 24, col. 4 Ad Club's Vice of
>> Being Too Virtuous. -- In an article on the editorial page of the New
>> >> York American, Elbert Hubbard said in part [...] "Advertise as you
>> wish, but do not get dogmatic and apply the litmus test to your neighbor."
>> >>
>> >> similar quote in "The Vices of Virtue," The Philistine, June 1915, pp.
>> 5-6
>> >> https://books.google.com/books?id=yrs0AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA6
>> >>
>> >> "Little Theater Called Hope of Dramatic Art," Christian Science
>> Monitor, June 6, 1916, p. 10, col. 1 [Prof. Albert Hatton Gilmer of Tufts
>> >> College, in an address before the Drama League of America at its recent
>> national convention in St.
>> >> Louis:] "The drama must stand the litmus test of actor and audience."
>> >>
>> >>
>>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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