Did you wonder whether the expressions ‘the real McCoy’ or ‘Gordon Bennett!’ came from? I did, so I looked them up. I find the explanations very interesting, and I pass them on to you in the hope you will find them interesting too.
When something pleases us, we may say ‘it’s the real McCoy’ – the genuine article.
‘McCoy’ started his life as Norman Selby, a boxer, who was born in Rush County, Indiana, in 1873. In 1891, he changed his name to Charles ‘Kid’ McCoy, thinking to succeed as a boxer, he must have an Irish name since Irish boxers were popular at that time.
At the height of his success, a middleweight named Al McCoy appeared on the scene. From then on, Kid McCoy was billed as the REAL McCoy to distinguish him from lesser fighters.
But the expression ‘The Real McCoy’ originally applied to first class whisky, called McKay. It was exported to America, and the American pronunciation became McCoy, to describe it as the genuine article and above all others.
‘Gordon Bennett!’ is used as a mild expletive, but it may come as a surprise to us that Gordon Bennett was a real person.
James Gordon Bennett was born in New York City in 1841. He inherited the New York ‘Herald’ from his father, He changed the newspaper to his own taste. He added excitement to the paper by financing various expeditions; the most notable of which was sending Stanley to Africa to search for Dr Livingstone.
For almost a quarter of a century, the ‘Herald’ was a quality paper, but eventually, Gordon Bennett’s egotism, extravagant behaviour, and lavish spending undermined its image.
One of the tales told about Gordon Bennett, happened on New Years Day, 1877. He was already drunk when he arrived at a party, after more drinking, he unbuttoned his flies, in front of other guests, and urinated into the fire. Eventually, he took refuge in France, and there, he gave rise to another famous story. He bought a restaurant for a million francs. He then ordered his favourite meal of mutton chops. After the meal, he gave the deeds of the restaurant to a waiter. Telling him that he must always have a table for Gordon Bennett and that there must be mutton chops on the menu.
No wonder that people shook their heads and in desperation said, ‘Gordon Bennett!’