Billion here, billion there (1975);
hpst at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Apr 15 15:08:33 UTC 2004
The phrase might have passed unnoticed had it not been Everett Dirksen who
intoned it in that wonderful bass voice which was his trademark.
My father once took me to a Republican Fourth of July picnic back in the
1950s on the ground that once in my life I should see an old time orator in
This brings up a question.
To what degree does a phrase depend on the ability of the orator to deliver
it? Would this have not have been as widely quoted had anyone other than
Everett Dirksen said it?
This, of course, brings up three other problems: Would it have ever become
common currency had Dirksen never become a US Senator whose speeches were
covered by the press because he was so colorful?; Did other of his signature
quotes become common currency?; Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Most of you probably are too young to remember one of his signature
campaigns in which almost annually he attempted to have the marigold
declared the national flower.
Here for your information is a description of his campaign.
He had the jowls of a St. Bernard, the watery eyes of a bloodhound, and the
white hair of an unkempt poodle. Yet, when Everett Dirksen spoke, his voice
was music to the American ear. Affectionately called the Silver Throated
Socrates and the Grand Old King of the Senate, Dirksen was a masterful
speaker and politician. His thirty-five years on Capitol Hill spanned six
presidential administrations and he is regarded by many as the outstanding
statesman of the century. Throughout his long career, Senator Dirksen was
shamelessly sentimental. He was one of the few politicians who allowed his
eyes to mist when he spoke of his beloved country and the flag he served.
Annually, he beseeched the Senate to name the Marigold as the nation's
official flower. "It is as sprightly as the daffodil, as delicate as the
carnation . . ." he would say as he lauded his favorite blossom. The
persistence of his efforts earned him the nickname Mr. Marigold. Though it
was Senator Dirksen's fate to spend most of his Congressional years as a
member of the minority party, he had greater impact on the legislation of
those years than any other member of his party. On his death, Everett
Dirksen's body lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda. On that occasion,
President Nixon spoke for the entire nation, "We shall always remember
Everett Dirksen in the terms he used to describe his beloved marigolds:
hardy, vivid . . . and uniquely American."
----- Original Message -----
From: "Alan Baragona" <abaragona at SPRYNET.COM>
To: <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, April 14, 2004 7:15 PM
Subject: Re: Billion here, billion there (1975);
> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Alan Baragona <abaragona at SPRYNET.COM>
> Subject: Re: Billion here, billion there (1975);
> In fact, I clearly remember seeing and hearing Everett Dirkson saying that
> on television. I can picture it--he's sitting in a chair on a bare set
> talking to someone, possibly William F. Buckley--how far back did his show
> go?--and I believe he was quoting himself ("As I've said before . . .").
> Whether he ever said it in print, I don't know, but if he said it on the
> Senate floor, it would be in the Congressional Record.
> Alan Baragona (yeah, I'm old)
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