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Re: Correction for Mr. Safire

Posted by Henry on January 07, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Correction for Mr. Safire posted by Brian from Shawnee on January 06, 2004

: : : : : : : : : when was this phrase first used and by who?is it a recent saying or one thats been around a long time.I know its a alice cooper song but I belive it was around before he wrote the song.Its been sugested that hitler said it in responce to the normandy inviation.

: : : : : : : : Yes, it's older than the Alice Cooper song, but the Hitler attribution is, well, preposterous. Quite apart from his humorlessness, he didn't express himself in English.

: : : : : : : NO MORE MISTER NICE GUY - There is a long section in Mr. Safire's dictionary about Mr. Nice Guy, "everybody's friend; a practitioner of the politics of pacification. 'Nice guys finish last' was the dictum of Brooklyn Dodger baseball manager Leo Durocher in the 1940s (although his actual words were 'Nice guys finish seventh' - at that time, last place in the National League), and to a degree this has application to modern politics.'Nice guy,' as in 'Mr. Nice Guy,' connotes weakness. 'No more Mr. Nice Guy' is a warning before retaliation, the end of passive acceptance of unfairness or harsh treatment, the opening pitch of 'Hardball.' This gloves-off warning was popularized in the 1970s. Richard Nixon was asked by the 'Washington Post' in 1977 about his response to Vietnam War protests: 'When was the moment when in effect, you said, 'OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy'?' It may have originated as the punch line of a macabre joke: A group of neo-Nazis sought out Hitler, alive and hiding in the Argentine, to lead them in their quest for world domination. 'OK,' he replied.' but this time - no more Mr. Nice Guy.'.' From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

: : : : : : Nigel Rees has another political example to add from his A-Z of Catchphrases, Not Tonight Josephine. Mr Nice Guy is a nickname for "straight" figures, possibly one following someone who was not nice, for example Gerald Ford after Richard Nixon. In 1972 presidential challenger Senator Ed Muskie decided to throw off some of his virtuous image saying, "No more Mr Nice Guy." He thinks the phrase may date back to the 1950s.

: : : : : : The Alice Cooper song continues, "No more Mr Clean!" From http://www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/2385

: : : : : : But fortunately, Ford left Nixon's misdeeds undisturbed. But contemporaries reviled Ford for the pardon. Author Larry L.King pithily summed up the situation: The manner and timing of the pardon made it appear as if Mr. Clean had suddenly dealt a dirty card from the bottom of the deck.

: : : : : : From http://www.manythings.org/voa/00/001211tia_t.htm President Nixon proposed a single federal office that would establish and enforce protective measures. The first Environmental Protection Agency administrator was government lawyer William Ruckelshaus. Sometimes people jokingly called Mr. Ruckelshaus "Mr. Clean."

: : : : : To correct some details in Mr. Safire's dictionary regarding the Leo Durocher quote, I would direct one to Mr. Durocher's 1975 autobiography "Nice Guys Finish Last" and to any readily available baseball record book. First, Mr. Durocher does indeed claim he was misquoted, but he claims the actual quote was "They're all nice guys, but they'll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last." Second, he would probably never have said "Nice guys finish seventh" because during the entire 20th Century there was a minimum of 8 teams in the National League! The year was 1946, and Durocher was referring to the New York Giants, who did finish 8th (last) that year.

: : : : safire@nytimes.com

: : : Thanks. I've e-mailed my humble correction to Mr. Safire.

: : Let me know if you hear from him. He's my hero.

: I will...

: And it would be a real hoot if my contribution has an effect on any revised edition of the book!

Bill Safire your hero? Etymologically or politically?