Date: Fri, 5 Sep 1997 22:20:12 -0400 From: Charles & Mary Boewe Subject: Re: Katie redux On Fri, 5 Sep 1997 14:06:22 -0400 Orin Hargraves writes: >I have the task of defining "Katie bar the door." Would someone be >kind enough to supply a synopsis of the recent discussion of it? Sadly I >don't find it in any of my sources or saved messages. > >With thanks, > > >Orin Hargraves I was going to suggest that you consult the ADS-L online archive, but when I went there to check I found all the links dead. I post this now, in part with the hope of finding out what happend to the archive. It happens that I initiated the Katie thread, but I am not sure when--I think it was last October. It also happens that I bought a new computer about that time and did take the precaution of archiving on a floppy texts (but without dates) of things I thought I might want to reference someday. Here follows what I saved of Katie--not the whole thread, I think, but that part of it which seemed significant to me at the time. Charles Boewe _______________________________________________________ When confronted by a calamity, either natural or man-made, my late father (1898-1985) was likely to remark, "It will be Katie bar the door!" I had supposed the expression was common to his generation and might be limited to the Middle West. However, recently on his ABC news program, Ted Koppel also declared that if certain things came about it would be "Katie, bar the door." My questions are: Who was Katie? and Why did she bar the door? Charles Boewe __________________________________________________________ From: Cynthia Bernstein : The following explanation is offered by Frederic G. Cassidy (Chief Editor, Dictionary of American Regional English), in an article entitled "DARE: Some Etymological Puzzles," forthcoming in early 1997, _Language Variety in the South Revisited_, edited by Cynthia Bernstein, Thomas Nunnally, and Robin Sabino, University of Alabama Press. My final example is an expression that had a considerable vogue in sports broadcasting early in 1991: Katie, bar the door! There is no question of the meaning: it is a signal of alarm, accurately translated as `All hell is about to break loose'. We have appealed for help in NADS (the newsletter of the American Dialect Society), and in American Notes and Queries but without much response. It seems pretty clearly to refer to the old story of the assassination in 1437 of King James the First of Scotland. The King was in an outbuilding, unarmed, accompanied only by the Queen and her ladies among whom was Katherine Douglas. When the attack came, someone shouted, "Katie, bar the door!" But the murderers had removed the bar, so Katie Douglas thrust her arm through the staples and held on. The men were too strong for her, her arm was broken, and though the King defended himself, he was killed. However, the heroic deed won Katie the nickname of Barlass, the lass who barred the door, and her praise was sung throughout Scotland. Now, the etymological question. How did this phrase come to be used in the United States in the late twentieth century? My best guess at present, based on no hard evidence but, I think, a reasonable surmise, is that Katie bar the door was a line, perhaps the refrain, of a popular song or ballad composed at the time of James' murder, that it was brought to America by Scottish immigrants, as so many ballads were, and that it lingered, most likely in Appalachia. Unfortunately, I have found no published form of this putative ballad, and if anyone knows it and can still sing it, he or she has not been found. Nevertheless, Katie bar the door has been in wide use for a long time. It is a reality, and the sense of it is exactly preserved in the form now used by sports figures and fans. It would require only one player or one sportscaster with Scottish roots to have revived it. Consider another well-known Southern phrase, which once had a popular vogue in the baseball world. "Sitting in the catbird seat" has been traced to Red Barber, a sports broadcaster of the 1930s and 1940s. It was later used in a short story by humorist James Thurber, who brought it to a wider audience. Katie bar the door may well have followed a similar route. I have come upon no competing explanation. But without some hard evidence, this particular scenario is inconclusive. I appeal once again to all with an interest in ballads or acquaintance with ballad singers. (pp. 280-281) . . . . . . Finally, Katie, bar the door. The reconstruction I have offered, however plausible, does not produce an acceptable etymology. I hope that someone may still find us some hard evidence. Till then, it is still etym. uncert. (p. 281) _____________________________________________________ From: Natalie Maynor : Is the implication of what Cindy just sent us that "Katie, bar the door" is associated with recent years more than with earlier this century? I may be wrong, but I think it's an expression I've known all my life and had not thought of as having had any kind of resurgence in popularity (recent resurgence, that is -- it may well have resurged at some point between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries). ________________________________________________________ From: "Barry A. Popik" : Your baseball team is in trouble. There are men on the basepaths. The game is on the line. The manager comes to the mound and makes a pitching change. He brings in his "stopper," his "closer," his "relief pitcher," for one specific purpose, and the manager tells him.... "Katie, bar the door!" (No more runs, please!) I don't know the specific sportscaster who revived it in this sense, but if I ever get to write a sports dictionary, it's one of the things you'll see. You remember my on-line, interactive sports dictionary, don't you? You know, the one that's sponsored by Nike and Reebock and the Sports Authority and Footlocker and ESPN and Sports Illustrated? No federal funding at all! You know, the one that turns kids on to language and to technology? You want to be blown away by "Katie, bar the door"? We'll play that audio clip RIGHT NOW.... :-) __________________________________________________________ >