Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cornering the Market

¡Hola! Everybody...
Well, the Arod controversy notwithstanding, baseball’s spring training is about to start! That's a good thing... I would like to point out that all this commotion about athletes cheating isn’t anything new. Athletes have been looking for an edge since time immemorial. In the 50s it was amphetamines, for example. And as for drug abuse, Babe Ruth was very likely a drunk (and womanizer); Mickey Mantle was
definitely a drunk, as was Don Newcombe and countless others. Yankee great, Whitey Ford, would doctor the baseball to gain an advantage. If they had played during this era, they would be embroiled in the same nastiness (maybe even worse).

Back in the day, reporters knew that Mickey and the Babe were less than perfect, but there was an unspoken rule back then to keep things under wraps. The point being that we shouldn’t be teaching our children to adopt role models whose only qualifications are athletic ability.

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-=[ Cornering the Market ]=-

“These ‘new’ whitemen were called scramblers because they would rush on board a Slaveship before it docks and brave the filthy stench... ”

-- Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados

Not that long ago, I over heard two of my colleagues describing a bigoted real estate player as a “cracker.” My colleagues were white, raised in the northeast, progressive-thinking, activists -- two people I hold in high esteem. Anybody that knows me even for a little while knows that I’m not exactly “politically correct.” I transgress at least once a day.

I am also a lover of words and love to explore word and phrase origins. Having traveled extensively in the South, I was aware of the word’s origin. Well, at least as it was explained to me by a genuine “cracker.” He said that the word cracker came from the sound of the whip used to beat slaves. When I informed my colleagues, they were horrified! They never used the word again. Of course, now I go out of my way to say “cracker” in their presence at least once a month.

Language is a powerful thing and many of our everyday words and phrases come from ignoble origins. Take “handicap,” for example. Handicap comes from the phrase “hand in cap” used to describe those who begged for money. Not a nice way to describe the physically challenged...

Better yet, let’s take the common phrase, “cornering the market.” To corner the market is a good thing, right? It means dominating and economically exploiting a market. Not bad, right? Well the phrase has its origin from the behavior of “Scramblers.” Scramblers would rush on board a slave ship before it even docked. They would wade through the filth and death stench of these slave ships so they could get their pick of the healthiest looking captives. They would separate their picks from the rest and have them placed in a corner of the deck. Hence the origin of the capitalist term “to corner the market.”



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