Back To The Context

Welcome to Back To The Context, a regular feature on Con City Press where we take well known quotes used frequently in popular culture and put them back into the context from which they originate. Ever wondered who said "I'll be back" first and in what context? This is the place to find out.

Click here for the full list of quotes explained here, or browse the newest entries below.

Carrot or stick

posted Apr 10, 2017, 3:07 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

When you hear someone talk about the carrot and the stick, your probably think of mules, or rabbits. The phrase is used to weigh the option of harsh disciplinary action versus the choice of providing motivation through some sort of reward. Nowadays in politics within Con County, many politicians use this phrase at staff meetings when they consider whether they should bribe or blackmail an opponent. Despite the obvious allusion, the origin of this expression in fact has nothing at all to do with mules and rabbits. It doesn't even have anything to do with real carrots and sticks; it has everything to do with chickens. Roosters, to be exact.

In 1837 in Greenwell, in the year of the infamous incident with the wild bull and the cattle stampede it caused, farmer John Langston found himself facing serious difficulties adapting to a life in a town where cattle farming had been banned. Believing that not much if any risk came with poultry farming, he decided to convert his cattle farm into a chicken farm. By the spring of 1839 he came to regret his decision, as his hens started to disappear one after the other. One night he caught sight of a fox dragging one of his remaining hens into the forest, but he failed to chase down the animal. Since he was afraid of dogs, he tried to rely on traps to keep the fox at bay, but the fox proved too cunning and observant to fall into any of them, and Mister Langston's hens kept on disappearing as the days went on.

In his desperation, he turned to the owner of another chicken farm for help. Daniel Kruger operated a very successful chicken farm since years before the cattle farm ban, and one of the reasons behind his success was his flock of fighting roosters. His two best combatants were named Carrot and Stick. For many years, the two have been the undisputed champions of cockfighting, a sport of considerable popularity in Greenwell at the time. When John Langston asked Daniel Kruger to lend him some of his fighting roosters to help chase off the fox, Mister Kruger lent him Carrot and Stick, and all he asked for in return was that Mister Langston lie in wait and watch the roosters fight the fox. Mister Kruger wanted to know which of the two roosters, Carrot or Stick, would fare better against the sneaky carnivore. Mister Langston agreed.

That night, the fox did not show up until 2 AM. John Langston found himself barely able to keep his eyes open, but when he heard the sounds of fighting his sleepiness instantly evaporated and he rushed to the barn. He found Carrot and Stick beating the unholy hell out of the fox. The two roosters had the fox cornered and they took turns plucking huge chunks of red and white fur from the forest predator. The fight went on for ten minutes until the roosters simply allowed the fox to scamper away, bleeding from dozens of wounds and limping. John Langston never saw the animal again, nor did any of his hens go missing ever again.

As for the great debate of whether Carrot or Stick was the better fighter, it was never decided. As far as John Langston could tell, the two roosters did equally well against the fox, which put a large smile on Daniel Kruger's face. The owner of the fighting roosters had offered the people of Greenwell to place bets on who would dominate the fight. `Who will kick more ass, Carrot or Stick?' he asked. He even put up a few posters around town asking the infamous question. Very few people bet on the contest ending in a draw, hence Mister Kruger earned himself a fortune through the bets.

Since then, the phrase `carrot or stick' took on a life of its own and evolved in its meaning, no doubt due to Mister Kruger's odd choice of naming one of his fighting roosters after a vegetable. His cockfighting business prospered for many years, until bullfighting took it over as the most popular sport in Greenwell, but even then his farm made a good profit on the fights between Carrot an Stick, which, for some reason, always ended in a draw, yet people kept paying good money to watch them. It is perhaps no surprise that Gerald Embers, Chairman of the Greenwell Bullfighting Organization, cites Daniel Kruger and his roosters as a huge inspiration for his own business practices.

Read the manual

posted Mar 20, 2017, 3:28 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

`Read the manual,' occasionally worded as `read the fine manual,' but most often used in the form `read the fucking manual,' is a favorite expression of software developers and computer system administrators, especially those who don't know how to write a decent manual. Few people know that this phrase pre-dates the invention of computers.

In the 1840s the increasing trade traffic to and from Con City prompted the construction of the north-south train line. Work began in 1843 and was overseen by a local man named George Klein. Three months into the construction he rode a steam engine down the first mile of tracks in order to demonstrate his progress to the Mayor. The train derailed a third of the way and very nearly killed both the overseer and the conductor.

Upon inspecting the tracks, he was baffled to find that the two train rails were in fact not laid evenly. Rather, the distance between them steadily decreased from the starting point of the track by as much as five inches over the one mile length of the track. When he questioned his workers about that, a man named Theo Smith confessed that he had known about the error, except he thought it had not been an error at all.

`I did everything just like it was on the posters, Mister Klein,' he said. `The further along the track you go, the closer the rails are supposed to be to each other. I did think it was a bit strange, but I thought, the poster had to be correct. So I took a hacksaw and shortened the crossties, each slightly more than the previous one, to make sure we close the gap between the rails as we lay them.'

Witness accounts report that George Klein stood in perfect silence in the room for two whole minutes before he grabbed Mister Smith by the collar, dragged him to the riverbank, and tossed him into the water. It was then that he yelled to the drowning man: `Next time, Theo, read the fucking manual!'

Theo Smith was rescued by one of his friends who, along with Smith himself, was fired the next day, while the overseer proceeded with the repairs of the faulty track. The day after, the Mayor learned that Mister Klein had ordered the entire track to be pulled up and laid again, which prompted the Mayor to fire the overseer and his entire workforce. The track, which over the years cemented Con City's status as the center of commerce in Con County and ruined any chance that settlements like Brickton might have had at building a strong economy, was in the end built by craftsmen from Brickton; the very same craftsmen who later popularized the expression `if only I had known.'

Need to know basis

posted Feb 20, 2017, 10:54 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

`Need to know basis,' or, `that's on a need to know basis and you don't need to know,' is the street expression for the idea that classified information cannot be shared with everyone. As you might guess, the phrase originates from a man in a position of authority, though not quite the way you might expect.

In the year 1903, just a few months after the Great Flood that destroyed Con City, journalists gathered on a field to the north of town where a tree house served as the temporary City Hall. Howard Jackson, the Mayor of Con City, was set to make an announcement regarding the reconstruction of the city which the evacuated residents and business owners had been demanding since the day of the flood. Mayor Jackson himself, however, was not present at the press event. His deputy, Adam Asher, announced that the Mayor was in the process of finalizing the negotiations with an unnamed investor about the funding of the constructions.

The journalists of course bombarded Adam Asher with questions regarding the investor's identity. The investor, Frank Oberdick, who later went on to be Mayor of Con City (among other things), had asked Mayor Jackson to keep his name a secret in order to build anticipation for the upcoming announcement, set to take place a week later, when Oberdick and the Mayor would stand before a crowd side by side and shake hands on the deal. In accordance with the instructions passed to him, Adam Asher deflected just about every question at the press event. When the last question came, he answered it with the words, `that information is on a need to know basis and you don't need to know,' then took his notes and left the podium. The question was, `when will the Mayor and the investor come forward?'

The next day all news outlets in Con County crucified Asher for his refusal to reveal the date of the much anticipated visit of the then unnamed investor. Asher issued a prompt press release in which he insisted that he had misheard the question and revealed the date of the upcoming event, but his words were met with skepticism. Mayor Jackson, who wanted the date of the contract signing with Oberdick to be known and anticipated by everyone, and was forced to push the meeting and thereby the reconstruction of Con City back by another two weeks, fired Asher. When Asher asked for a detailed reason for his dismissal, the Mayor reportedly told him that the reason was `on a need to know basis.'

He went that way

posted Jan 23, 2017, 5:09 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

An often seen situation in works of fiction is the reliance of a lawbreaker on a friend standing at a junction to send the lawman giving chase in the wrong direction. At such times, the friend says to the lawman, `he went that way,' while pointing in the opposite direction as the one the lawbreaker had taken. Few people know that this often used phrase in fiction actually originates in real life.

In the year 1925 the infamous Red Scoundrel, a masked thief who stalked the streets of Con City for the better part of the 1920s and 1930s, robbed a liquor store while a police officer was on patrol in the neighboring street. As he made his escape, the policeman saw him and gave chase. The Red Scoundrel ran extremely fast and managed to gain a considerable distance on the police officer, who lost sight of him after the thief turned the fourth corner. At the fifth corner, a young man was selling newspapers. The police officer stopped and asked him whether he'd seen the Red Scoundrel.

`He went that way,' the young man said, pointing to his left. The police officer took one glance at the `no entry' sign on the street in question, then decided that the witness was lying, and proceeded to give a one minute sermon about the rules of one way streets and the consequences of lying to a police officer. Finally, he offered the newspaper boy one chance to amend his testimony, or face jail time.

The witness timidly pointed to the right and once again said, `he went that way,' to which the police officer nodded and promptly ran down the one way street. The Red Scoundrel, who had of course gone in the opposite direction, avoided capture that day. The newspaper boy later went on to tell his experience to all his friends, and before long all of Con City knew to always point the police in the opposite direction, should the Red Scoundrel run past them. This was just one of the reasons the Red Scoundrel remained at large for many years to come.

Happy Holidays

posted Dec 24, 2016, 1:32 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

The phrase `Happy Holidays' is a common expression used in North America associated to the end of year holiday season. Its popularity is often attributed to the desire to cover all bases and/or be politically correct. Few people realize that the birth of this phrase very much pre-dates the age of political correctness.

In the year 1922, police officer Harry Donaldson was called to a pub in the heart of Con City where an intoxicated man refused to pay for his drinks and would not leave the premises. The bartender, a man by the name of Emile Kent, was afraid that the intoxicated man might turn homicidally violent, hence the call to Officer Donaldson. Fortunately for everyone present, the drunken man proved remarkably docile and fully cooperated with the Officer. Prior to his removal from the premises, the intoxicated man had the following conversation with the bartender, as recorded in the memoir of Officer Donaldson.

`I gotta go, Emile. Merry Christmas!'

`It's not Christmas, you drunk fool!'

`Okay... So, Happy New Year!'

`It's not New Year either.'

`Well... Happy Easter!'

`Not even close.'

`Happy Unification Day?'

`Just get out of here, will you?'

`Okay, well... Happy Halloween? No, wait, I've got it. Happy Holidays! That's gotta work, right?'

According to the memoir of Officer Donaldson, the conversation prompted a considerable reaction from several dozen people who were within earshot. Most of them laughed, while one person simply said, `it's August you stupid idiot!'

Since that night, the phrase `Happy Holidays' found its way from the streets of Con City into popular culture, along with the phrase `stupid idiot.' For some reason, the two expressions are almost never used in the same sentence, except for the line `Happy Holidays you stupid idiot' spoken by action hero Brutus Force in every installment of the Bombs, Bullets, And Babes movie franchise.

Are you sure you can drive this thing?

posted Nov 20, 2016, 2:53 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

When someone asks the question, `are you sure you can drive this thing?' they typically address a barely competent driver, or someone who has never driven the vehicle in which they are traveling. The answers to this question range from `yes' and `no' to `I'm not sure' and a wide eyed stare. Yet the very first time someone asked this question, the answer came in the form of an oink.

In the year 1911, Con County's very first bus service came into operation. It ran as a tourist service between Greenwell and Desert Rock. On its third journey, during the return leg from Desert Rock to Greenwell, the bus driver suffered a heart attack half way to the destination. Passengers panicked from the thought of having to walk home until a farmer named Buford Stower walked up to the driver's booth with his pig Bertha in tow. He urged the pig to get into the driver's seat and figure out the controls.

The remaining passengers stared at the scene and expressed their doubt in the wisdom of allowing a pig to drive the bus, while Buford Stower argued that Bertha was very intelligent, and that the road to Greenwell lay along flat ground and it was therefore perfectly safe to let the pig drive. Two hours later the pig still sat in the driver's seat yet the bus was not in motion. One of the passengers then walked up to Bertha and asked the now infamous question, `are you sure you can drive this thing?' The pig oinked and inclined its head. Another hour later the bus was still stationary, and the passengers decided to get off the vehicle and proceeded to walk towards Greenwell. Buford Stower insisted that his pig would figure out the controls soon enough, and remained on the bus.

Interested tourists may come across the rusting hulk of the now derelict tourist bus on the side of the road between Desert Rock and Greenwell, and even find the skeletal remains of Buford Stower inside, who died of dehydration three days after the bus broke down. Bertha's remains on the other hand are missing from the bus. According to the memoirs of the widow of Buford Stower, the pig came home one day, skin and bones but very much alive, to their farm in the outskirts of Greenwell, thus proving that Bertha had indeed been a very intelligent animal, at least in comparison to the late Buford Stower.

Gravity is only a theory

posted Oct 9, 2016, 5:26 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

A borderline nonsensical statement like "gravity is only a theory" is difficult to associate to a city famous for its state-of-the-art high rise buildings and for cutting edge scientific research on the Graviton Surf Board. Nevertheless, the above phrase was born in Con City.

The year 1935 saw the beginning of the construction of Con City's first ever skyscraper. Then Mayor of Con City, Clark Blackwell, commissioned Brickton's very best craftsmen to build the tallest building in the world. He would call it New Babel upon completion. The chief architect in charge of the construction, Terry Bolton, vehemently objected against both the name and the idea to build the building as high as ten thousand feet. He explained to the Mayor that the tower would collapse under its own weight. "Gravity is only a theory," Mayor Blackwell famously replied, and ordered the architect to proceed with the constructions. Terry Bolton resigned from the job and started to campaign against the project, to no avail.

A couple of months later the building was roughly three thousand feet tall and made for an impressive sight that drew many a wide eyed spectator all day, every day. One morning, without any noticeable warning, the entire structure came crashing down on much of the builders, dozens of baffled spectators, and the Mayor himself who was enjoying his morning coffee at a restaurant opposite the construction, which had to be demolished after the accident. Since then, all citizens of Con City consider gravity a proven theory.

Terry Bolton went on to become the first and only Brickton resident to be elected Mayor of Con City. He oversaw the construction of the first seven proper skyscrapers of Con City, all of them less than a thousand feet tall, most of which stand to this day. He was later assassinated during his re-election campaign by an unknown gunman. Many suspect that the assassin was hired by his biggest rival in the electoral race, but a more widespread belief assumes he was simply murdered by Brickton citizens for betraying their beloved town.

Did I just say that out loud?

posted Sep 11, 2016, 8:58 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

The phrase "did I just say that out loud?" is endlessly popular among drunks and people lacking self control. Yet the first recorded use of this phrase was by a man who never drunk and never acted on impulse.

George Stanton, top candidate for the seat of Mayor of Con City in 1913, managed to win the elections by a landslide, securing more than ninety percent of the votes. What secured him a place in the history books was not his record breaking victory, however, but his victory speech.

"This is a great day for Con City," he said, "and all the assorted morons that live in it. Ninety percent of you stupid idiots voted for an incompetent jackass who will run the economy of the city into the ground, take all your money through a range of new taxes, and then deposit all that money into an offshore bank account and disappear as soon as his term runs out. Wait. Did I just say that out loud?"

After he finished reading his speech he bowed, thanked the crowd, and walked off the stage. He seemed incredibly confused as to why the people in attendance were booing him.

Later it was revealed that the speech he had read off paper had been the work of his rival John Temple who did not take the defeat in the elections well. Temple replaced Stanton's original speech with the scandalous fake while the freshly elected Mayor had been in the restroom. While John Temple admitted to having orchestrated what he called a prank, it did not save George Stanton from having to resign from office the next day: the people did not want a Mayor who remained so oblivious to the fact he was reading a speech designed to make him look like an idiot that he went on to recite the entire speech and still remained clueless as to what he had just done.

Since that day, the last sentence of the fake speech has come to a life of its own. In fact, the second ever recorded use of the phrase was just two days after the infamous speech when the newly elected Mayor John Temple, who had secured sixty percent of the votes at the hurriedly held by-election, gave the following short speech to the crowd: "Thank you for electing me. Did I just say that out loud?"

Unfortunately for Mayor Temple, the crowd did not appreciate the humor and pelted him with eggs and tomatoes, booed him out of the building, and forced him to resign the next day.

Come with me if you want to live

posted Aug 13, 2016, 2:30 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

Much like "don't make me destroy you," the phrase "come with me if you want to live" is an example of popular expressions that Hollywood cinema has adopted from the history of Con County. Long before Greenwell became the most popular touristic hot spot in the county, the self-styled Green City functioned as an agricultural center, known mostly for its massive cattle farms.

In late June of 1837 a wild bull wandered into the Langston cattle farm during the afternoon. John Langston, proprietor of the land, was enjoying a nap at the edge of the farm when he woke to the sound of distressed mooing. When he noticed the bull and realized that it had started mating with one of his prized cattle, a wide smile parted his lips as he considered the value of the offspring he expected would come out of the animals' union. His pleasure quickly turned to panic when the rest of the cattle, who apparently had not enjoyed the prospect of being next on the bull's list, made a run for the wilderness, trampling the wooden barriers in their path into sawdust and leaving their owner behind on the verge of tears.

A mile to the east of the farm, in the direction that the stampede was heading, a young tramp called Eddie Miles took note of the loud dust cloud marching his way and quickly sprinted off in the opposite direction. He came across a group of school pupils and their teacher on the way to the nearby river, who were having a picnic.

"Come with me if you want to live," he said to the group in passing, and ran towards the bridge without slowing down. It took the school group a bit of time before they understood the reason for the tramp's hurried advice but they did run after him, albeit a little too late. The cattle stampede caught up to them before they could have gotten anywhere near the bridge. Thirty-one pupils perished under the hooves as the cattle moved on towards the river. The surviving eighteen pupils and their terrified teacher carved the now famous words of the stranger into their memories, vowing never to hesitate to take that particular advice in the future.

That is not to say that they would have fared much better if they had gone with Eddie Miles, as the brave tramp ended up having to jump off the bridge and into the water from the oncoming stampede, where he very nearly drowned in the torrents.

The incident with the cattle of the Langston farm is the reason why no cattle farms operate in Greenwell since 1837. It is also the reason why bullfighting is Greenwell's national pastime.

You monster!

posted Jul 16, 2016, 8:59 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

The phrase "you monster!" is often used in reference to heinous acts committed by despicable people, usually spoken by the victim straight to the despicable person's face. Its first recorded use was in 1848. It was the year when, after the controversial events covered under the entry for the phrase "don't make me destroy you" led to the election of Jeremiah Roarke as Mayor of Brickton. While he was initially popular due to his handling of the trade crisis with Con City, it only took him three weeks to see his popularity plummet into the depths of Hell.

Mayor Roarke raised the income tax in Brickton to an unprecedented sixty percent, and reasoned that it was critical for the economy of the town. His decision was not viewed well by the public and the locals took to the streets in what would become a time honored tradition in Brickton, and protested against the Mayor's decisions and demanded his removal from power.

"Resign and fuck off!" the most famous transparency read during the protests. Mayor Roarke reacted by increasing the income tax to seventy percent at a press conference. A member of the press reportedly reacted with a gasp and the words "you monster!"

Jeremiah Roarke eventually got out of politics to every Brickton citizen's relief, but not before forging a lasting legacy by evoking the aforementioned reaction from the press on no less than ninety-six separate occasions. His legacy lives on as the phrase "you monster!" has been applied to many famous people in the history of Con County.

The most recent example is of course Robert Sloan, CEO of Sloan Chemicals, who is being held responsible for the death of the entire population of the town of Black Falls, now known as Ghost Town, due to the accidental release of experimental toxic gas from the facility that killed everyone in the town in a span of two hours. Robert Sloan's body was never found in the chemical plant but he was officially declared dead weeks after the incident, and his brother had an elaborate monument erected for him in the cemetery of Black Lake. An unknown local has since spray painted the words "you monster!" on the monument, and the graffiti has not been removed to this day.

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