Monday, January 13, 2014

Appilcat* (for applicat*)

To "upset the apple cart" means to cause a disturbance or create a difficulty. The first known use of this phrase was by Jeremy Belknap in The History of New Hampshire, 1788: "Adams had almost overset the apple-cart, Belknap wrote, "by intruding an amendment [to the Constitution] of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification." So why apples, you might ask? Well, I expect it's because apple carts were such a common sight in 18th-century New England, but I also think apples are rather apt here. A cart heaped with hay, say, might be as hard to clean up as a needle is to find; a cart bearing bananas could end up a funny and painful pedestrian hazard; a cartload of oranges would roll quickly into the ditch. But only an overturned apple cart would produce a truly chaotic scene worthy of the metaphor. In the adorably pro-Cubist tune "Paul Cezanne," we're told that "his melons look like footballs and his apples look like dice." I first heard this song in a video by the Special Guests (who had met as students at Columbia during the early eighties, and later changed their name to 5 Chinese Brothers) on the very wonderful PBS series The 90's, which very few people seem to remember. I just discovered another and much more recent video of Tom Meltzer, down in North Carolina this time, reprising his rollicking hit about "the original Father of Cubism." I'm not sure if this group of art-loving musicians is even still performing together anymore, much less taking applications, but frankly I can't picture a more fun gig. Appilcat* (for applicat*) turned up three times in OhioLINK, and 71 times in WorldCat. You might get a few more hits by truncating it just a bit, but don't upset the apple cart by taking it too far. (And speaking of taking things too far, I just realized I've already blogged this typo, back in 2012. Unlike Cezanne, my "oeuver" may not be "in the Louver," but recalling all its constituents can be, if not a political football, at least a somewhat dicey proposition at times!)

(Still Life with Apples and Oranges, by Paul Cezanne, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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