The Power of Pineapples

Ah, the humble pineapple — a wonderful tropical fruit that’s tasty in fruit salads and smoothies. But when it comes to pineapple, there’s more than meets the eye. There’s history and meaning behind it that you might not expect.

The fruit comes from South America. Christopher Columbus, who encountered the pineapple on the journey to the New World, brought the fruit back to Spain. The voyagers named it piña because it looked like a pine cone.

Show your friendly personality with this lovely pineapple charm: currently 25% off on our eBay page!

Show your friendly personality with this lovely pineapple charm: currently 25% off on our eBay page!

In the Caribbean, a pineapple placed by a village entrance represented hospitality. Seeing a pineapple at an entrance meant you were welcome to come in.

Captains used to put pineapples (symbols of their exotic travels) out on railings when they returned home as a sign that they were currently at home.

European hothouses grew pineapples for those who had developed a taste for them. Emperor Charles V of Spain wasn’t a fan of the fruit, but the public had different tastes, and the 18th century saw pineapples become a popular delicacy.

Vintage Jiffy-Jell advertisement using the tradition of a pineapple as a centerpiece.

Vintage Jiffy-Jell advertisement using the traditional pineapple centerpiece.

Colonial America families put pineapples out on the table when visitors came. Guest rooms often had pineapples carved into the bedposts, once again as signs of hospitality.

It’s not uncommon to see pineapples used in architecture and decoration from way back when. As a welcoming symbol, the pineapple is also said to mean good luck & prosperity in a home.

old pineapple ad001

Of course, one can’t talk about pineapples without mentioning Hawaii. It was only in the year 1901 that the pineapple became a recognizable Hawaiian symbol; that was the year that Jim Dole founded his Hawaiian Pineapple Company. Thanks to his expert hand at business, twenty years later the pineapple became Hawaii’s biggest industry. And until recently, Hawaii was the biggest canner of pineapples in the world.

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Vintage Hawaii pineapple harvesting postcard.

When it comes to current fashion, pineapples are having their moment in the sun. The summer may almost be over, but hospitality and friendliness are always in style.


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Why We “Face the Music”

If you refuse to accept any unpleasant consequences of your actions, you may be told to “face the music,” whether you like it or not.

The origin of this idiom is a little blurry. How do you come to “face” something you can’t see?

One theory suggests that the phrase has a military history. When disgraced soldiers were kicked out of their regiment, drummers would allegedly play them out through their final march. Other references say that these soldiers had to sit on their horses backwards, forcing them to face and hear the drums, therefore “facing the music”.

This is not the only theory however, and it’s far from being historically proven.

Another story claims an origin with music in church. The organ often sat in the balcony in the back of a church; this was before electric blowers made the billows louder. So to better hear the music, the congregation turned around to face the music to hear it better.

Perhaps the Victor-Victrola record player, as described by this vintage advertisement, will help you literally face the music.

Perhaps the Victor-Victrola record player, as described by this vintage advertisement, will help you literally face the music.

Yet another tale suggests the phrase comes from theater, where a new, nervous performer would have to face the judging eyes of the audience and the orchestra pit despite any apprehensions.

Let’s turn to more solid evidence. The first printed appearances come from New Hampshire. The New-Hampshire Statesman and State Journal August 2 1834 edition contains this line: “Will the editor of the Courier explain this black affair. We want no equivocation – ‘face the music’ this time.”

The National Era has an excerpt of dialogue with an abolitionist senator, Mr. Hale: “Mr. FOOTE – As the Senator from New Hampshire is an aspirant himself, what does he think a candidate ought to do? Mr. HALE – (with promptitude and humor) Why, stand up and face the music.”

1850 brought an explosion of “face the music” usage (perhaps accounting for a great number of people with guilty consciences) and it was brought into regular use.

So what we do know is that “face the music” came into common use mid-1800s. As for the true origin of the phrase, well, that may never be fully proved.

Where Does the Phrase “Backseat Driver” Come From?

Where does the idiom “backseat driver” come from?

The phrase itself today means to give unwanted or critical advice from the sidelines, usually giving directions from the back of a car to a driver.

The literal backseat drivers from the days of yore may have had something to do with this saying. Firemen used to use long “articulated ladder trucks” with both front and back steering to help the truck turn with control.

However, there’s no known negative association with driving in the back of these trucks.file000715699119

According to this source, one of the first known appearances of the phrase occurred in 1914 in the Daily Kennebec Journal:

“When New York pitcher Vernon Gomez retires as a smokeballer he wants to become a smoke eater. Here he gets a tryout as a back-seat driver on a hook and ladder truck at St. Petersburg…”

That also has a more literal meaning, but here’s a line from 1921 explaining the meaning we’re more familiar with today:

“A back-seat driver is the pest who sits on the rear cushions of a motor car and tells the driver what to do. He issues a lot of instructions, gives a lot of advice, offers no end of criticism. And doesn’t do a bit of work.”

Harsh, but that’s the way it is.

The idiom “armchair quarterback” has a similar meaning, referring to a sports fan who shouts advice at a sports player from the sidelines or in front of the TV during a game.

Of course, those newfangled “robot cars” will someday eliminate any need for a backseat driver, as this 1950s magazine article explains:

Why Are Meals Square?

“A square meal a day” keeps the doctor away. Or so they should say.

We’re told that our meals should be square and then we’ll be the epitome of health.

But why “square”? Why not “rectangular” or “heart-shaped”?

The jury’s out on this one. The phrase probably comes from the use of “square” as meaning “fair and square”, or honest and straightforward. Who doesn’t want an honest, satisfying meal?

One of the earliest appearances of the phrase was in a U.S. newspaper in 1856:

“We can promise all who patronize us that they can always get a hearty welcome and ‘square meal’ at the ‘Hope and Neptune. Oyster, chicken and game suppers prepared at short notice.”


More literally square than figuratively square: the fifties TV dinner.

The rumors surrounding the term are more entertaining than its actual origin.

  • One such tale suggests that sailors used to eat off of square plates. The plates weren’t often filled all the way, but sometimes they would receive a large enough meal to fill the whole plate, making it a literal square meal. The Royal Navy did in fact serve meals on square plates, but the much later appearance of the phrase makes it unlikely that the Navy was the origin.
  • Another tale of medieval Britain suggests a square dinner plate with a bowl carved out in the middle to hold a serving of stew. Travelers would take this square with them in case they ran into some friendly neighborhood stew-cookers.
  • Yet another story suggests that the rigid way soldiers sat in the U.S. Military during meals formed a square shape, making a visit to the mess hall a square meal.

None of these tales are likely true, since “square meal” only showed up mid-19th century. But they make for good stories.

An 1865 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine wrote about a mining town and said, “Says the proprieter of a small shanty, in letters that send a thrill of astonishment through your brain: ‘LOOK HERE! For fifty cents you CAN GET A GOOD SQUARE MEAL at the HOWLING WILDERNESS SALOON!”

The writer needed to explain that this meant a “substantial repast” of sustenance. Clearly “square meal” needed a little time to become familiar.


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