Posted by Bob on April 19, 2006
In Reply to: 1948? posted by Lewis on April 18, 2006
: : : : : : Does anyone have any ideas on the origin of the phrase "take the high road"?
: : : : : Here is information from the archives. Seems to me like we had a discussion about the difference in meaning in British and American English.
: : : : : HIGH ROAD, LOW ROAD - rational approach versus emotional appeal; sticking to the issues versus going for the jugular; Marquis of Queensberry rules versus no-holds-barred. The phrase became popular in the presidential campaign of 1948, when Republican Thomas E. Dewey selected 'the high road' and let voters draw their own conclusions as to what road President Harry Truman was trudging.Derivation: a 'high road' or 'high way' is the easy way in English usage. In London today the 'high streets' are the main traffic arteries. However the takes of low roads can sometimes make better time, as the balladeer in 'Lock Lomond' indicates: 'O ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye.'" From "Safire's New Political Dictionary" by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).
: : : : It is asserted by some folklorists that the "low road" by which the singer of the song "Loch Lomond" expected to travel back to the Highlands was death (there is allegedly an old Highland belief that the soul of anyone who dies away from his own country will travel back to its home) which is why the song ends "me and my true love will never meet again / On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond." Naturally the soul of a dead person travels more quickly than a living person does on foot.
: : : "Naturally the soul of a dead person travels more quickly than a living person does on foot."? I'm keen to know how you know this. If you listen to the world's most famous psychick Allison Dubois, the dead don't move at all. They remain as enery forms around the place where they die while slowly gathering the psychic pulse needed to "pass over". Depending on the trauma, this can take enternity. Fairly easy to beat in a foot race, I'd think.
: : William "Often wrong but never in doubt" Safire was sloppy in his explanation in two ways: the misreading of Loch Lomond, as was pointed out, but also identifying the "high road" as the "easy road." Built into the notion of "high road" is a kind of self-congratulation that says I'll stick to principle at some cost to myself. Let others sling mud; I'm above that.
: : And as to Ms. Dubois' hangers-on? They might speed their passage if they didn't pause to chat with her at length.
: Became popular in 1948...gee that poor balladeer had to wait so long for it to become known. But of course, only when it hit the States did it become significant. or maybe only when it lands on the desk in the Oval office.
: Somehow, I think it might have been well known outside the refined atmosphere of the White House a little before then. If that is the case, why is there any significance to its belated appearance in American politics?
: The song is supposed to have been written by Donald MacDonald in 1746, one of the failed Jacobites imprisoned in Carlisle castle - so only 200 years before it became worthy of note.
We provincial Yanks are, from time to time, guilty of Cultural Hegemony and linguistic myopia ... but not nearly as often as accused, and not in this instance. Dewey (and the legion of politicians who followed) was not quoting the ballad, any more than the balladeer was quoting the guy in Mesopotamia 9000 years ago last Tuesday who looked up at the hill, and said "that's a high road." (In American-accented English, no doubt.) The political "high road" is a different se nse and a different contrast to the "low road." Donald MacDonald was not going to launch a smear campaign against another candidate for mayor.