"like Grant took Richmond"

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Sep 22 19:49:18 UTC 1999

I did not look up "Grant took Richmond" (which is at least as old as me),
but I bet dollars to doughnuts the phrase you heard is one of those
delightful blends:

It went through him (or her) like salts through a widow-woman


He whipped (beat, took) us like Grant took Richmond.

When you ain't got the vernacular, you should either lay off or be prepared
to be the instigator of the next generation's vernacular.

dInIs (in whom both these phrases are intact from boyhood, unlike the
"whom" he just typed)

 >        This past weekend one of NYC's local pro football teams was whipped
>50 to 21.  The NYTimes quoted the coach as saying afterwards "they
>went right through us like Grant took Richmond". . . .  (NYTimes,
>September 21, 1999, p. D4, col. 2)  This is an old and familiar
>phrase to me, having heard it often from my father in the 1950s,
>though he would phrase it more consistently, eg., "he took him like
>Grant took Richmond."  Presumably this expression dates to when the
>Civil War was still a living memory -- it's hard to believe that it
>was coined by some history buff and taken up by a generation that
>wouldn't have understood the allusion.  Still, I don't find
>it in The Making of America.  The other source I checked was the RLIN
>cooperative library catalog, which showed a screenplay from 1949:
>Miss Grant Takes Richmond, by Nat Perrin and Frank Tashlin.  Is it
>possible that it originates with some piece of mid-20th century
>popular culture?  I would expect Gone with the Wind to have given us
>*"like Sherman took Atlanta".
>        Any thoughts?
>        My apologies to our southern correspondents if this awakens painful

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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