Fox-trot
Posted: 17 December 2008 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Wikipedia attributes the name to Harry Fox.

.............. a vaudeville dancer and comedian, most famous for giving his name to the Fox Trot dance. His steps were recorded by dance instructor F. L. Clendenen in his 1914 book Dance Mad as “The Fox Trot, as danced by Mr. Fox”.

Confusingly enough though, the wiki on the dance itself, while repeating the Fox attribution, adds:

“Get Together; Fox trot”, however, had been published in 1905

Turning to OED for guidance I find no mention of Mr Fox at all.

fox-trot, n.

1. A pace with short steps, as in changing from trotting to walking.

1872 F. M. A. ROE Army Lett. (1909) 70 He has a fox trot, which is wonderfully easy. 1888 Century Mag. Oct. XXXVI. 897 She heard a horse approaching at a *fox-trot. 1894 R. KIPLING Day’s Work (1898) 58 Would you consider a fox-trot, an’ single-foot, an’ rack, an’ pace, an’ amble, distinctions not worth distinguishin’? 1946 M. C. SELF Horseman’s Encycl. 134 Fox trot, a slow, shuffling trot, the fox-trot is one of the gaits permitted in a five-gaited saddler as a ‘slow-gait’.

2. A modern dance, of American origin, consisting chiefly of alternating measures of long and short steps; also, a piece of music suitable as an accompaniment for the fox-trot.

1915 Truth 17 Mar. 1/5 A new dance, the ‘Fox-trot’, a relation of..‘Ragtime’. 1915 Victor Record Catal. May, Dance records… Fox trots. 1917 S. B. LEACOCK Frenzied Fiction (1919) v. 70 The others were dancing the fox-trot to the victrola on the piazza. 1919 G. D’EGVILLE How & what to Dance (1922) 55 The Fox-Trot is a dance of many steps, and to the casual observer everybody seems to have different ones. 1919 E. SCOTT All about Latest Dances 68 The true basis of the American Fox-Trot is an alternation of four slow and four or eight quick movements, depending on the step chosen. 1923 A.B.C. of Dancing 84 The foxtrot is not a dance in the sense that the waltz and polka are dances because it has no distinctive rhythm and no characteristic step or figure. 1928 Melody Maker Feb. 127/1 You have just heard a fox-trot, ‘I call her honey because she sticks to me’. 1946 R. CAPELL Simiomata II. 48 Kirou remembers Macaskie singing foxtrots.

No etymology is given, the implication being (or so I assume) that the dance’s name is simply a development of meaning 1, which had reference to the animal. The 1905 cite in Wikipedia would seem to support this, although OED’s 1915 cite ("A new dance ...") fits well with the Harry Fox story.

Are we then talking of two dances here, both called The Foxtrot, an earlier one evidenced by the 1905 quote and referring to a fox, and a later one, which Harry Fox introduced and to which he pinned his name? Are there any solid cites for foxtrot meaning a dance prior to 1914? (That 1905 wiki quote is unattributed and as such of little worth.)

Confused, Tunbridge Wells *

* From Encyclopedia of Britain:

Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells (was the) hypothetical signature for any indignant anonymous letter to a newspaper, suggesting blimpish outrage. It is not known when or where the joke began, but it is not popular in Tunbridge Wells.
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Posted: 20 December 2008 07:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The 1905 cite is in error.  It’s actually 1915.

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Posted: 21 December 2008 01:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you, Sam.

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Posted: 21 December 2008 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A 1914-or-so origin for the foxtrot certainly looks to be confirmed by the earliest references in The Times (of London) to the dance, the first being Wednesday, April 14, 1915 pg. 11:

Push and Go!” at the Hippodrome

A new review entitled Push and Go! is to be produced shortly at the London Hippodrome, the cast includes Miss Shirley Kellogg, Mr Harry Tate, Miss Violet Loraine, Mr Michael Sherbrooke, Mr Gerald Kirby and Mr Arthur Swanston, who will do the “Fox trot”.

( note those “novelty quotes") and the second suggesting the modernity of the dance, from Monday, May 24, 1915, reviewing a revival of a musical comedy from nine years earlier:

“The Dairymaids” at The Aldwych ... Miss Clara Beck, the dairymaid-in-chief ... acts sings and dances with immense spirit. The “fox-trot” in which she indulges is one of the efforts to bring the piece up to date.

.

(On “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”, incidentally, although the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says “Probably derived from a 1978 BBC radio BBC radio program called Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”, this site says the phrase came from a character on the Frank Muir/Denis Norden-scripted BBC radio series Take It from Here who first appeared in November 1953 ...

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Posted: 21 December 2008 03:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Zythophile - 21 December 2008 01:38 PM


(On “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”, incidentally, although the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says “Probably derived from a 1978 BBC radio BBC radio program called Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”, this site says the phrase came from a character on the Frank Muir/Denis Norden-scripted BBC radio series Take It from Here who first appeared in November 1953 ...

I’m surprised by that entry in the Oxford Dic. of Phrase and Fable. I can certainly recall this phrase from the 60s.

This site (although giving no authority) takes it back even further.

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells was the nom de plume of a prolific writer of letters to the “Thunderer” - the London Times - during the first half of the 20th century. His alias became almost as widely known as the title of the Fleet Street newspaper itself, and was synonymous with diatribe. He delivered scathing attacks on organisations and individuals that came to his ultra-critical attention.
He was self opinionated and convinced of his own infallibility. He was the quintessential Englishman.  But what marks him out in particular is that, despite being regularly published, he was never identified, and his real name remains a mystery to this day. He was simply “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”.

Popular opinion was that he was a retired Colonel of the Indian Army who had subsequently held high office in the Civil Service, hence the fact that the Times editor agreed to allow him anonymity. He was of course, the ideal candidate for retirement in Tunbridge Wells That he is by now long gone to his final resting place is without doubt. But his spirit lives on.

On second thoughts, that site may well be a spoof. A ‘retired Colonel of the Indian Army’ sounds just too Blimpish to be true.

Another version.

However, according to former newspaperman Frank Chapman, the outraged letter writer from the genteel spa town began life in the 1950s. The editor of the former Tunbridge Wells Advertiser, concerned at a lack of readers’ letters, told his staff to write some. One simply signed his ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – and the rest is history.

[ Edited: 21 December 2008 03:12 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 21 December 2008 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I fear you’re right to be dubious about the “Colonel writing in THe Times” story, Aldi: the expression “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells” first appears in the paper only on January 3 1964.

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Posted: 22 December 2008 12:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The site noted by Zythophile, and the Wikipedia entry on “Take It From Here”, make a convincing case for “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells” having been a character thought up by Dennis Norden and Frank Muir. Besides that highly entertaining comedy show of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s (Jimmy Edwards, remarking on Dick Bentley’s knowledge of French: “Dick thinks moi aussi means “I am an Australian"), those two brilliant wordsmiths were the perpetrators of the wittiest, most intelligent series of radio programs I’ve ever heard anywhere: the BBC’s “My Word” (sample ad lib: Q: What is a polypod? A: A polypod is a laxative for a parrot).

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Posted: 22 December 2008 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Norden and Muir were pearls beyond price. I recall a book they wrote consisting of shaggy dog stories each ending in the most outrageous and audacious of puns. And I believe it was one of them who came up with that most glorious line from Carry on Cleo, “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!”

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