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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Phrases associated with the Titanic?

And the band played on
One of the most striking images from the disaster is that of the orchestra playing as the ship sank.
Survivors of the ship witnessed one of the greatest acts of selflessness and courage when Wallace Hartley and his string ensemble played music on the upper deck soon after the Titanic struck the iceberg in order to calm the passengers.
Though the ensemble did not  play the eponymous popular song, the phrase has been a favourite in newspaper headlines ever since. It was also the title for a famous book about the early history of HIVAIDS by Randy Shilts. (source)

The tip of the iceberg 

Only 10% of an iceberg is visible above the surface of the water. Used metaphorically the phrase refers to hidden danger.

Recent research suggests the phrase was unusually resonant in the disaster: 'the ship crashed because the iceberg was disguised by an optical illusion' - see here.


Women and children first

The first recorded use is in the novel Harrington: A True Story of Love by William O’Connor written in 1860. The phrase was popularized, however, by the famous order issued by the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith.
What Captain Smith precisely meant by this order caused a catastrophic confusion onboard and probably caused at least a hundred uneccessary fatatalities.
Unfortunately for the men aboard the sinking ship, some of the officers misunderstood the order and prevented men from climbing aboard the lifeboats. The final casualties explain the cost of that misunderstanding: 74% of the women and 52% of the children were saved; however only 20% of the men survived. source
In recent years there has been a lot of emphasis on the social class element of the disaster. Were the first class passengers favoured over those travelling Second or Third?


The unsinkable ship
This marketing slogan proved tragically hubristic. No ship is 'unsinkable' and the design of the Titanic made it catastrophically vulnerable - see here.

Rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic

This phrase - meaning to engage in trivial actions in the face of a disaster - is first recorded in the US in the 1970s - see here. It has now become a popular cliche - particularly for British politicians.

Mary Celeste Teaching Pack (includes Titanic materials)

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