Why Do We Say “Jump on the Bandwagon”?

In sports, a lot can be determined by one’s jump. Players are measured by how high they can jump, while fans are measured by where they jump.

If your team loses a few games in a row, do you give up on them? If they start off the season on a winning streak, do you suddenly go looking for your old shirt packed away deep in the bottom drawer?

Fans are constantly jumping on or off the bandwagon. Why do we say that? Where does that phrase come from?

Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

Why Do We Say “Jump on the Bandwagon”?

According to Phrases.org.uk, we have the circus to thank for the word bandwagon.

Circus owner Phineas T. Barnum coined the word in the USA in the mid 19th century. He used it as the name of the wagon that carried the circus band from one city to another.  The term dates back to 1855 his his autobiography The Life of P.T. Barnum, Written by Himself, 1855:

“At Vicksburg we sold all our land conveyances excepting four horses and the ‘band wagon’.”

Barnum, however, is not credited with the phrase “jump on the bandwagon.” Although he is a big reason why it came into existence. He made the circus so attractive that as the bandwagon rolled through town, huge crowds would back the streets.

In the late 19th century, politicians, always looking to attract a crowd, stole a page out of Barnum’s book and started using bandwagons when campaigning for office.

By the 1890s, people began using the phrase “jump on the band wagon” to show ones alliance. Teddy Roosevelt made such a reference to the practice in his Letters, 1899 (published 1951):

“When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the band wagon.”

The Worst Time To Ask For Something

The other day I turned on to the freeway and I saw a hitchhiker holding a sign asking for a ride. It took less than one mental snapshot to know that, not only was I not going to pick him up, but he would be waiting there all day long. 

How did I know he wouldn’t receive a ride, you ask?

Did he look deranged? No, he was well kept and wasn’t holding a human head or doing anything that screamed, “villain from the Saw movie franchise”. 

Was he unclear on where he wanted to go? No. His sign was very clear. It was simple and said “I-10 E” in big letters. Signifying that he wanted to go to the I-10 freeway going east. He even put a fun smiley face in the 0. 

Was he asking for too much? No, the location he needed to go was less that 5 miles from where I entered the freeway. Not too much to ask at all. 

So how did I know he wouldn’t get a ride?

Because he was set up halfway down the freeway’s on ramp. He wasn’t right on the corner where he could actually get in the car of someone willing to pick him up. He was standing on the side of the road almost all the way to the entrance of the freeway. 

Even if his mother was driving by and saw him, it would be too late for her to give him a ride

Which reminds me of a very important aspect of asking for something. Timing

In the past I have written that studies show that one of the biggest reasons people give, is because they were asked. But as my hitchhiker friend illustrates, we need to know when to ask. To put it more clearly, we can’t ask for something when it is too late. 

Children who ask for a list of toys on December 26th will get laughed at by their parents. A man who asks his high school crush out on a date when she is married with 3 kids is going to be shot down. And a hitchhiker who asks for a ride when doing so would cause a 10 car pile up is going to get left in the dust. 

Timing is a critical part of asking for something. 

Because I am a freeway-half-full kinda guy I like to think that I just caught this man at the wrong time. Maybe he was working his way up the on ramp and just stopped to catch his breath. Maybe he was trying to improve his positioning and eventually he set up his smiley face sign at the corner. 

For his sake I hope that’s the case. Because where I saw him, he had everything going for him but one vital detail. Timing.

Just The Beginning

I once wrote that I am the Peyton Manning of making decisions. Not because I am a record setting, future Hall of Famer, but because of how long it takes to get things in motion. Like Manning who switched plays at the line of scrimmage, just barely beating the play-clock, I constantly change my mind and take way too much time to make even the smallest of choices.

I kinda don’t know why I do that. I recognize, I am prone to over thinking, but I also recognize that 9 times out of 10, the outcome of the decision morphs so much that is doesn’t even resemble the many scenarios that I previewed in my head. Just another reminder that I am bad at predicting the future (which I’ve also written about).

I guess I just figure that the decision is the most important thing.

Maybe I am wrong.

Maybe the decision (while important) is not the end credits. Maybe it is the opening scene.

Sometimes making a decision feels like we are breaking through that tape at finish line and confetti is floating all around us. But that is not the case. Deciding just starts the race.

Or as Paulo Coelho puts it in his great book, The Alchemist…

making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

Maybe I do not need to run through every scenario before making a decision. I can’t accurately predict what is going to happen, anyway. Maybe I am better off limiting the paralysis by analysis and just choosing. And then spend my brain power adjusting to the many places the decision may take me.

What do you think?

April Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of April:

Questions I Asked –

What Is A Tar Heel?It is, in fact, something besides the team that crushed my dreams.

Why Do We Say “Pull Your Leg”? – There are many theories. Which one is correct?

Things We Learned –

What I Would Have Told Gonzaga and UNC On The Eve Of The NCAA Championship – If I were their coach, I would have told them to write for ten minutes about their feelings and concerns regarding the game. Here’s why.

What I Would Have Told Gonzaga After The Championship Game -Keep shooting. Here’s why.

What North Carolina Would Tell Gonzaga – If I had to guess what advice UNC would give to Gonzaga, I would suspect that they would tell the Bulldogs to find meaning in this obstacle. Here’s why that works.

How To Develop Original Ideas – Would you like to learn research-backed strategies for generating—and recognizing—your most promising original ideas? Well, I have something for you.

What Advice Kobe Bryant Has For Us – Check it out. It is quite helpful.

Fun With Numbers –

5 More Strange But True Facts – Did you know you are more likely to die from a coconut than from a shark. — I can’t wait for Discovery Channel’s Coconut Week.

5 Good Things – Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up? Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life – This great Inc. article looks at a Harvard study that has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations for over 75 years. Thanks to multiple generations of researchers, the study has one power conclusion…

5 Things We Can Learn From A TV Remote – The great thing about learning is that it is not confined to certain times or locations. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

10 Lines From Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life  – Here are some great quotes from a roundup of 30 famous writers and entertainers responding in short essays to their favorite Snoopy “at the typewriter” strip.

A Little Advice From Kobe Bryant

If you have Oprah’s number, you should probably give her a call. And you should probably tell her about your favorite children’s book character, Maury C. Moose.

But that isn’t the only reason you should call her.

Last night, Kobe Bryant was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon talking about the animate movie he made about retiring from the NBA. Jimmy was impressed by the help Kobe had on the film – Glen Keane, from the Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and Aladdin is the animator & John Williams of ET and Star Wars fame did the score.

When asked how he got those industry legends, Kobe said he just cold called them. He said he does stuff like that all the time. He’s called Oprah just to talk.

When Jimmy laughed at this, Kobe had some good advice:

If you want to learn something, the best way to learn is to reach out and ask.”

Let’s forget about the fact that the people who will take Kobe’s calls are way different from the people who will take our calls. I wouldn’t even know how to get the first digit of Oprah’s number, let alone the next 6.

The important thing is not that we should try to call the guy who does the music for Star Wars. The message we can take from Kobe, is that if we want to learn something, we should reach out to someone who is currently doing that thing and ask.

Here’s the entire video:

The Street Sweeper

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.'”  – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Top 10 Lines From Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life

The last two months, I have highlighted the top 10 lines from two great books about writing (here & here). With so many wonderful writing books to read, I figure I will keep these top 10 lists coming.

This month’s top 10 comes from Snoopy’s Guide To The Writing Life, a roundup of 30 famous writers and entertainers responding in short essays to their favorite Snoopy “at the typewriter” strip.

Here are what I found to be the book’s top 10 lines:

#10 –

Snoopy, try this when you sit down to the typewriter: Just say to yourself, ‘What if?’ It all begins with ‘What if?'” – Clive Cussler

#9 –

The rules for writing a best-seller are simple: Take an idea you really, really like. Develop it until it is brilliant. Rewrite it for a year or two, until every word shines. The bite your nails, hold your breath, and pray like mad.” – Sidney Sheldon

#8 –

Search your heart and soul for what you have to contribute. Remember, your book must help someone with something.” – Cherie Carter-Scott

#7 –

If the characters and narrative are strong enough, they will hold our interest without any background.” – John Leggett

#6 –

Humor, as Charles Schulz, proved every day, doesn’t have to be of the slapstick variety; his humor came from the small funny things of life.” – Frances Weaver

#5 –

Most of us learn to write well by writing badly for a long, long time.” – Sue Grafton

#4 –

You need not be famous to write something worth remembering, worth preserving, worth publishing.” – Charles Champlin

#3 –

The most important advice I would suggest to beginning writers: Try to leave out the parts readers skip.” – Elmore Leonard

#2 –

An editor can always correct your spelling and fix your grammar, but only you can tell your story.” – Fannie Flagg

#1 –

Some know fame and others anonymity, but my father believed there were no shortcuts to be had in the life of the dedicated artist.” – Monte Schulz

Why Do We Say “Pull Your Leg”?

Last month, when I wrote about 5 things we can learn from spellcheck, I said the following:

Spellcheck helps me get the rest of the way, but I still need to do most of the leg work.”

That got me wondering about the origin of that phrase, “leg work.” So, I added it to my list of Wonder Why Wednesday questions. But there was one problem.

No one seems to know where that phrase came from. The best I could do was find that it dates back to the 1890s. No other information was uncovered during a quick Google search.

However, my search led me to another interesting phrase involving legs. And although the history of this phrase is also a little fuzzy, there is enough information to make it the topic of today’s Wonder Why Wednesday.

Why Do We Say “Pulling Your Leg”?

When we “pull someone’s leg” we kid, trick or tease them. Perhaps we are playing a joke, or trying to fool them. Are we actually physically pulling their leg?

No, but maybe we used to.

According to Phrases.org.uk, one popular theory as to how this phrase came about is because in Victorian London, thieves used to pull at people’s legs to trip them. The thought is that once the person was on the ground, they would then be easy to rob.

Although it is a popular theory, there is no evidence to support it. Which leads us to another origin theory, which deals with hangings in 1780s England. Some believe that people were hired to hang on to the victim’s legs to weigh them down and give them a quicker death. Pulling on their legs would create extra weight and speed up the execution.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of this phrase being used during this time period. Plus, the act doesn’t really fit with meaning of the phrase. Speeding up an execution is hardly a joke or trick.

Even the fact of when the phrase first appeared seems to be inconsistent. Some believe the first time it is found in print is in The diary of James Gallatin, secretary to Albert Gallatin, a great peace maker, 1813-1827, recording an incident that was said to have taken place in 1821:

Mr. Adams is not a man of great force or intelligence, but his own opinion of himself is immense. I really think father, in a covert way, pulls his leg. I know he thinks little of his talents and less of his manners.

However, the diary, which was published in 1914 from notes Gallatin claimed to have been given to him by his grandfather, is now generally accepted to be a fake and the contents invented by Gallatin.

The actual origin of the phrase is closer to 1880 with the earliest example that coming from the Ohio newspaper The Newark Daily Advocate, February, 1883:

It is now the correct thing to say that a man who has been telling you preposterous lies has been “pulling your leg.”

5 Things We Can Learn From A TV Remote

The great thing about learning is that it is not confined to certain times or locations. Learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

I like to highlight this fact by, once a month, looking at things we encounter on a daily basis and seeing what important lesson we can from them.

In today’s installment of “Five Things We Can Learn From Everyday Objects” we are going to talk about an object we always want to have at our fingertips…an object that conveys power and control…an object that is the source of many fights…the television remote control.

5 Things We Can Learn From A TV Remote

1. We Have To Press The Right Buttons

TV remote controls are pretty awesome. With the simple click of a button we can pause a show, watch two shows at once, or change channels. So much power with so little work. But there is a catch. We can’t just point the remote at the screen and press any button. We have to press the right buttons. One wrong button and we could be watching MSNBC when we meant to watch Fox News. It may not seem like much, but the right buttons make a big difference.

It is said that a good coach or great boss knows how to press the right buttons for their team. They know when to yell vs. when to console. They know when to pull back and when to push ahead. This knowledge can make or break the success of a team. The same is important on our individual projects. Knowing what buttons to press, and when, can be the difference between going in reverse or moving forward.

2. We Need Power

Don’t you just hate when the batteries in the TV remote go dead? It always happens at the worst time and there are no other batteries in sight. Without power, our remote is useless and we are left with a button-filled paperweight.

When we do not have power, we are useless. I’m not talking about power as in muscles or command of a room. I’m talking about sleep. Recharging our batteries. I once I sat in a meeting where one woman slept the entire time. Not only was she useless during the meeting, but I’m guessing she was useless for the rest of the week because she missed what was covered in the meeting. She was basically a button-less paperweight.

3. We Have Power When We Have Control

The person who controls the remote controls the TV. They decide what is watched and watch is skipped over. Many fights have been fought over who decides what to watch. Ultimately, the holder of the remote decides.

Now that I have shared the earth shattering news that we need to get some sleep, let’s talk about the other type of power we need. We need control. When we are in control, we are way more efficient. We control our diet and we lose weight. We control a room and people listen. We control our bowels and we do not need diapers. Control is very important.

4. It Helps To Know Where We Are Turning

For my TV, I know that channel 206 is ESPN. When I want to watch ESPN, I know exactly what to do…press 206. If I didn’t know what channel ESPN was, I would have a very difficult time getting there. I may eventually find it, but it would take many more steps.

In life, it helps to know where we are turning. It also helps to know what we are looking for. Just like looking for sports on ESPN, looking for a career change or a new diet is a heck of a lot more difficult if we do not know where to turn.

5. We Can Do It From Here

The reason the phrase “turn the channel” exists is because we used to have to get up and physically turn a knob to change channel. Imagine having to get out of your comfy recliner, stumble over to the TV and use our hands. Sounds awful, right? Thankfully those times are long gone. Now we can change the channel from the other room if needed. God Bless America.

Thanks to fancy inventions and amazing technology we can do a lot from where we are. We can work with people from all over the world from our comfy recliner. We can go to school in our pajamas (I guess we could always do that, just now we don’t get funny looks). The world is more connected than ever and gone is the excuse “I would change, but I don’t want to move.”

1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it. Here’s the latest…

This 75-Year Harvard Study Found the 1 Secret to Leading a Fulfilling Life By Melanie Curtin.

This great Inc. article looks at a Harvard study that has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations for over 75 years. Thanks to multiple generations of researchers, the study has one power conclusion…

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” said Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

Our happiness isn’t driven by our mansions, our muscles or our moolah. As Curtin puts it, “the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is, basically, love.”

Check out the rest of the article here and see why it is not just the number of friend you have and why having someone to rely on helps your nervous system relax.