Have you ever drawn a blank?

Have you ever been asked a difficult question and you just ‘drew a blank’? Most of us have, so ‘Don’t feel like the lone ranger’ Have you ever wondered where that metaphoric expression originated and how it came to be used the way it is today?

In my best-selling reference book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches. Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, which is in numerous public and university libraries across America, I listed over 1500 expressions and located the most likely origins, most with early citations, and many of which I was able to prove other researchers findings were not correct. ‘Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger is just one of those. But after the publication, and even two revisions of that book, I found so many more which really need to be explained, many of which were also incorrect in some other well respected and much used sources. One that was very interesting was ‘Draw a blank.’ Here is a sneak preview from my upcoming Volume II of Most Comprehensive Origins… to be released this October:

Draw a blank                                                                                                                                           

This is a very old idiom in the English language, stemming from British lotteries set up in Tudor England under Elizabeth I in 1567. Tickets with the names of purchasers were put into a ‘lot pot’. Another pot held slips of paper, some with prizes written on them, others blank. A name would be drawn, then a paper from the prize pot. Those who drew the blank papers were said to have ‘drawn a blank.’

Lotteries continued and in July, 1786, The Scotts Magazine, in ‘Parliament: Commons on the Greenland Fishery’ uses the term about the lottery:

“…his lot was equal to a 20,000 L prize in the lottery; whilst another, who chanced to fail of success, was like a man who drew a blank.

This usage continued through the 19th century, and into the 20th. The phrase, however, had been in print even earlier, in A Commentary upon the Fourth Book of Moses, Called Numbers by Simon, Lord Bishop of Ely, 1699, page 193:

“Then mixing all these in an Urn, he nad them come and draw: And. to every one who drew a Schedule, that had the Name of Elder in it, he said, God hath sanctified thee but to him that drew a Blank, he said, God hath not chosen thee.”

In Glenlonely; or, The Daemon Friend, Volume 3 by William Henry De Merle, 1839, the phrase is used figuratively of Sir Bruce Crawford’s quest for marriage (all marriage being ‘a lottery’ was voiced by Queen Victoria) on page 171:

“About three years after his divorce, he once more decided on the lottery of marriage: in England he had drawn a blank; in France he was more fortunate. Miss St. Clair was all that could add to the happiness of man; but, alas! how rarely does it happen that they who win the purest gems are allowed to wear them long…”

Note: another metaphor was employed in speaking of women as ‘the purest gems’, and being married as ‘wearing them’.

It was the 1930s before ‘draw a blank’ came into common figurative use. In Princeton Alumni Weekly, April 20, 1937 in ‘The Thumbnail Sketch’, number 130 by H.G. Murray on page 11:

“This after the college police and town force had drawn a blank. Ned simply strolled around the purlieus of the burgh, saw his suit on a mucker, and in the parlance of the local press, ‘apprehended the criminal.’”

2 Most Comprehensive cover

Hard at work

I’ve not done much on blog entries lately. That’s because it is a busy time. First, I’ve been busy taking and completing orders on the website, largely for copies of Gerald Sinclair’s factual historic tome, The Enigmatic Sinclairs, Volume One, but others as well; authors order this time of year for book signings and Christmas presents. Most books are drop shipped from the printer, but some are shipped out from here, and some are sold locally, particularly my own books. Which brings me to my other point. I have also been hard at work on a second volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and FIgurative Expressions. My goal is to have 1000 new entries in this one. But it will not be ready for a year or so, and the first volume is a must before getting this one. My good friend in England, Niven Sinclair, has sent me hundreds of British sayings from time to time, and my radio friend, Kelly Marlow, who uses the book on-air at least twice a month, reading and encouraging others to call in (he did this of his own free will at no cost because he is so into the book) is also getting me Americanisms not in the first one. Then every day I manage to come up with several on my own. I love this quest so much that I lose track of time while working on it. I have been surprised at the number once again which major sources came up with incorrect earliest origins for. And the origin of one of them, ‘Bound and determined‘, seemed so ‘shrouded in mystery’ that it seemed no one else had ‘taken a stab’ at it. I spent a lot of time on it and believe I may have unlocked that mystery. I have 121 of the phrases completed, and if all goes well, this new book should be ready within the next year! In the meantime, if you haven’t done so yet, get your copy of the book being used by numerous authors, teachers, ministers and public speakers, (and plenty of average folks) which is in severals college libraries across the country and has sold around the globe. If you have yours, get a copy or three for gifts! Get it at St. Clair Publications site or any Amazon site in the US, Canada, Europe or India.

The Enigmatic Sinclairs Volume 1

Some of my friends may have noticed that I have not been posting on this blog lately. There is a huge reason for this. I have been working very closely with Australian authors Gerald Sinclair and Rondo BB Me on final preparations for the launch of their exciting historical tome, The Enigmatic Sinclairs, Volume One. This book has taken many long years of research and a large number of contributing individuals to insure historic accuracy on a subject about which much speculation has been printed, especially since Dan Brown’s best seller, The DaVinci Code. Separating fact from conjecture and legend about historic events which carved out the history of Scotland and England and even the forming of our United States, all of which involved members of the noble Sinclair/St. Clair Clan, is no easy pursuit.

Two weeks from today, Gerald Sinclair will be launching this book at Rosslyn Book Store in Roslin, Scotland, at which time the book will become available. It may be purchased there, on the St. Clair website, stclairpublications,com, and on Amazon sites around the globe. Upon examination, Amazon recognized this extraordinary work One of the Best Books of 2015 so far. 

Don’t miss it when it is released! Below is a synopsis and a cover photo.

Enigmatic Sinclairs – a definitive guide to Sinclairs in Scotland, is based purely on primary source evidence garnered over 11 years painstaking research, supplemented by a few quotes from rigorous historians (a rarity) such as Geoffrey Barrow and those who worked with him. Author’s comments are at an absolute minimum as we found such a wealth of material the facts in chronological order present their own narrative.

Prof Hugh Montgomery PhD Dipl CL.Ing Com FSA Scot in his foreword says “It is such a pleasure to see authors produce a book based entirely on original research and using original sources without the myths and tall tales told by so many when writing their family history ……. I believe this will become one of the foremost sources and examples to future family historians of how to produce a family history”

Malcom of Caithness in his foreword says “book is such a useful breath of fresh air as they have taken endless trouble to go back to primary sources for evidence and have shattered a lot more myths in doing do, but have also discovered fascinating verifiable truths about the Sinclairs hitherto unpublished……..they have sought to follow those famous words carved in stone on an architrave in Rosslyn Chapel built by my ancestor , the first Sinclair Earl of Caithness, in the mid – fourteen hundreds “Truth conquers all”
This 461 page volume covers from first recorded Sinclair presence in Scotland to just after end of the 15th Century and is in 3 parts
Part A The Kings of Scotland – 4 chapters
Part B The de Moreville Family to Sir Alan of Galloway – 1 Chapter
Part C The Sinclairs – 3 Chapters c1160 – 1296; 1296 -1371; 1371 -1507

Why did so many celebrities change their names?

Like wondering about where so many catch phrases came from which led to the writing of my best-selling book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, I wondered for a long time why so many stars in entertainment and sports take stage names and authors often take pen names. So…o…o…o I started my search for those who had and found that there had been countless cases over the past 200 years. I couldn’t use them all, so I selected 200 which I felt had interesting stories to tell. Some of them I have personal, family, friend or business connections to.

I found that at least 20 featured entertainers who took stage names were from Jewish immigrant families. Many were impoverished; some were abused; several were forced to work as young children to help pay family bills. Many were from broken homes, and some never knew their biological fathers, often being placed in foster care. One worked as a prostitute, one a bootlegger; another was a drug dealer. Several were jailed. One was expelled from school and many were dropouts. How did these broken individuals climb to the top of their professions? It took dogged determination and encouragement, and likely, a new name.

The book  will be out very soon. In this pictorial book of trivia, one unique feature is that I include popular actors, singers, dancers, authors, sports figures, magicians, entrepreneurs, broadcasters, models and others who longed to create a public persona which he or she felt was worthy of his or her audience, revealing the circumstances and reasons behind the changes and how they built the public perceptions which took them up the ladder of success. I have been very selective in order to provide a variety of intriguing personalities and stories of overcoming adversity.

It’s called 200 Celebrities Who Changed Their Names and How They Found Success. I’ll let you know when it is available. Meanwhile, visit stclairpublications.com for a lot of great books by many good authors.

Powerful New Book Nearing Release

Final edits are being done on a special and powerful book! Normally I wait until a book’s release before making the announcement. But this one has unique qualities which have me excited. It’s early release was determined by timely factors. This is Book 9 in the series “Exploring Our Exciting World” and only one has previously arrived on the scene. What makes it so special?

1. The recent massive earthquake and those which followed have put Nepal at the center of current news. Firsthand adventures in Nepal are covered in detail in this book, with factors about the recent quakes.

2. It has several expert authors, or contributors, all of whom are relating their own personal adventures in East Asia.

3. Only areas visited by the contributors are included…history learned, geography, adventures and facts revealed to them on these trips which may not be reported through usual channels. I will post here as soon as it is released.

Below I want to include an excerpt from my own section which is particularly singular to my own visit to China:

I was very pleased when we reached the (Great) Wall at Badaling at dusky dark.

As we pulled up, a military maneuver was playing out. A unit of the People’s Liberation Army was marching in unison before the Wall, legs pitching upward, rifles upon their uniformed shoulders, and I felt that I was on a great world stage of a major motion picture.                                                                


Our dinner that evening was an experience like no other that I have ever had, or could even anticipate. My sole regret was that Rhonda was not there to enjoy this unique enfolding of time. If I had thought that our adventure at the Park City, Utah Olympic Park was unbeatable, I was overwhelmed at the grandeur and surrealistic awe that I felt in this particular locale. The temperature had held out so that we didn’t even need jackets, as is often the case on summer evenings there.

Nate, his wife, Kathleen, Spencer, A. J. (the agent I had met from Seattle), a lady named Sherrill (which I can’t now recall), a wonderfully friendly African American couple and I were seated around a table on the impressive pavilion upon which we were served. The full moon, burning a brilliant golden tone, arose like a blazing sentinel in the cloud-swirls of the welkin above. The ambience was beyond description. I cannot even remember the menu that night—only that it was uniquely superb. I do very vividly recollect when Scott, the President of the company, came to our table and I asked him, “Who is responsible for the full moon tonight?” and his smiling reply was a gentle and simple, “That would be me.” Though I knew he was not the keeper of the heavens, he could certainly plan that this exceptional farewell dinner was blessed by the incomparable presence of a bright heavenly body.

I shall never forget descending the Wall steps toward the impressive pagoda along with the smaller one and around the platform to the massive gate. It seemed that we had been granted temporary access to a surreal world, one which only exists in the minds of those who hope to dream.

Does your dog “talk to you?”

Our little dog, Brody, responds so well to what I say that it is remarkable. When I told Rhonda yesterday, she said, “One of these days he’s going to start talking to you.”

Brody knows what I’m saying to him, no doubt, a great deal of the time. When I say “‘short walk” he knows to head around the house instead of out to the street. He protects our older female cat, Shia, from our younger, playful male, Fonzie. When I call him to be a disciplinarian he comes running and gets right to it. When he starts pulling me in a direction I don’t want to go, I say “We’re not going that way,” and tug a bit on his leash and he changes direction. When it’s time for him to go to bed, I just say, “Time for bed,” and he hops up and heads for his crate with its soft warm blanket. Sometimes it seems that he is talking to me. When he wants to go out, he comes and paws my feet. If that doesn’t work, he whines a little.

The relationship between a dog keeper and the dog is almost like that of a parent and child. If they are trained right, and gently and lovingly disciplined, they will learn to obey and they will cling to their human.

This is demonstrated in verse in my little upcoming book, I Walked My Dog This Morning, featuring a poem by that name which I posted on this blog a few months ago. It will be out sometime next year. But right now, I’ve got to get to work putting the finishing touches on the first volume of Exploring Our Exciting World. It will be out shortly. I hope others enjoy it half as much as I enjoyed writing it. It covers the entire Southeastern US and Washington, DC. I’ll post when it is released!

Exploring Our Exciting World

Just an update to let everyone know the progress that is being made on this unusual tome. I am currently writing as often as possible to attempt to put into colorful words my experiences, as well as the history and geography of the numerous spots to which it has been my pleasure to venture thus far. More travel is in the making.

Also, I am still putting together my skilled team of contributors. I already have included small contributions from two members of my team. We have verified five more, and are still working to get details together for others to make sure that we have a most gratifying assortment of countries and places in this book. I am truly looking forward to working with each of you!

The book is due out next year. More later.

Exploring Our Exciting World

A new book is in the early stages which should generate a lot of excitement. Not just because of the content, but because it is being put together by a number of contributors.Another factor which makes this book differ from others of its genre is the fact that it is comprised of actual first-person experiences of the contributors who have witnessed the grandeur of nature and the colorful locales around our globe and know of what they speak. The writers are from several walks of life and their adventures include business, vacation, military, missionary and home-country experiences.

I will reveal more as time goes on, but release is estimated between November, 2014 and March, 2015. But the wait will be worth it!

Meanwhile, happy reading, and may you be enriched by ‘exploring our exciting world’ for yourselves.

The Prince of Kings–An Awesome Book is Coming Soon

Over the past couple of days my oldest daughter, Gennie, from Ohio, and her lovely daughter, Felicia, have been visiting with us, along with my handsome little great-grandson, Ecio. That was a tremendous pleasure in itself.

Right before they left yesterday we watched the DVD, The Life of Pi. I had been made familiar with the jist of the movie because of the awards it garnered. The film won four Oscars out of eleven nominations, and at the 2013 AFI Awards it was named Film of the Year for Director Ang Lee. Even with all of the noteriety, I never dreamed that it could be so engrossing. To me it was one of the best movies I have ever seen. No one should miss it!

But today’s entry is not about The Life of Pi, primarily. It’s about a book coming out which it is my extreme pleasure to be colaborating. What The Life of Pi is to movies, this is to 2013 books. The fact that this story has gripped my attention in such a way has nothing to do with any contribution I may have made. It all has to do with the true author to whom this gripping drama happened. His pen name is Israel Stuart, a name which he says should have been his true birth name and heritage. This remarkable book is titled, The Prince of Kings.

Kings, in the story, is a small town in Mississippi. Here, a ’tow-headed’ boy begins a life filled with abuse and denial by his parents of his true identity. He is endowed with a special and unique gift, which is also belittled and sluffed off by those around him. When certain events bring him to the brink of truth, he is forced by those to whom he is entrusted to pack up and move to one town after another. Dispite all of these attempts, he discovers that he is a special person with uncanny talents of royal lineage. He is able to quickly develop song lyrics for a future rock star who crosses his path which will define his career, but is also prevented from receivng the credit or any gain whatsoever. Yet numerous persons which he encounter come away better and richer people because of him.

Of all the books I have published, I have never seen anything quite like this one. It will keep you spell-bound. The Prince of Kings is due out in May. It is a must read.

Setting the Standard in a Genre

Watching the Golden Globes and other such award shows gives me a prospective of what is relavent in a particular marketplace and enriches my personal understanding of the various categories being judged.

Most motion pictures are based on books, of course, and only those catching the eye of producers are considered for such distinction. Then only the best of the best are the recipients of awards.

In not only writing, but publishing books, I understand more than the average person, that quality and desirability of a certain book is imperative in order for it to sell. At St. Clair Publications it is our desire to publish books, both in hard copies and e books, which will be appreciated and purchased by a fair share of individuals who are interested in or have need for that subject matter.

Our variety of genres runs a large gammet. We publish anything from poetry to sci-fi; from romance and time travel to religious publications and self-improvement; from true crime to dictionaries.

It is our desire to set the standard, which is not that easy in today’s wide market. And speaking of dictionaries, my phrase origin books have been some of the best-selling ones online. On the Origin of the Cliches and Evolution of Idioms with its quirky style of humor, has been near the top of Amazon’s best-selling cliche origin books for the last two Christmas seasons since it was released in September, 2011. The second volume of this is On the Origin of the Cliches, All New, Volume Two. It has held it’s own as well. But my ultimate and final effort in this field is now nearing publication. It is called Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions. It takes out the humor and competes with the dictionaries produced by the major New York companies in this field. In fact, in it I prove many of the earliest citations and some very origins of phrases published previously to be incorrect. In short, It is almost 800 pages in small print, and I plan on setting a new and impressive industry standard. It is due out this spring.

If you have a manuscript which you feel can set a standard in its genre, please contact me at stan@stclair.net . Of course, we reserve the right of rejecting any manuscript. But you never know till you try… and you may be pleasantly surprised.

(St. Clair Publications is a POD publisher)