Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Tippecanoe and Tyler Too"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History by Jan R. Van Meter.

About the book, from the publisher:

“By necessity, by proclivity, by delight,” Ralph Waldo Emerson said in 1876, “we all quote.” But often the phrases that fall most readily from our collective lips—like “fire when ready,” “speak softly and carry a big stick,” or “nice guys finish last”—are those whose origins and true meanings we have ceased to consider. Restoring three-dimensionality to more than fifty of these American sayings, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too turns clich├ęs back into history by telling the life stories of the words that have served as our most powerful battle cries, rallying points, laments, and inspirations.

In individual entries on slogans and catchphrases from the early seventeenth to the late twentieth century, Jan Van Meter reveals that each one is a living, malleable entity that has profoundly shaped and continues to influence our public culture. From John Winthrop’s “We shall be as a city upon a hill” and the 1840 Log Cabin Campaign’s “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” and Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” each of Van Meter’s selections emerges as a memory device for a larger political or cultural story.

So the next time we hear or see one of these verbal symbols used to sell a product, illustrate a point, make a joke, reshape a current cause, or resuscitate a forgotten ideal, we will finally be equipped to understand its broader role as a key source of the values we continue to share and fight about. Taken together in Van Meter’s able hands, these famous slogans and catchphrases give voice to our common history even as we argue about where it should lead us.
Read a feature on "Slogans We’ll Remember."