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.

Nice guys finish last

posted Jul 24, 2017, 8:13 AM by Viktor Zólyomi

The words `nice guys finish last' are associated with villainy, or at the very least unsportsmanlike behavior, and used as justification for one's unsavory actions. Hardly anyone would expect that this phrase originates in an act of selflessness.

The town of Greenwell is famous for sports since the second half of the 19th century, and while most think of baseball or bullfighting when it comes to the self styled Green City, other sports are also popular to this day, such as the annual Greenwell Marathon. The run snakes around town spanning many popular areas and draws a considerable live audience.

The very first Greenwell Marathon was held in 1871. The favorite to win the race was a runner named Michael Banks, a veteran who had won numerous races in Con City in the years prior. Half way through the race he enjoyed a nearly two-minute lead on the runner-up. While he earned a good deal of applause for his performance, several members of the live audience in fact booed him. They called him names such as `showoff' and `bully,' and yelled disparaging comments at him such as `boring!' and `you're not giving anyone a fair chance, you prick!'

It was when he heard someone yell `you're not a nice person!' that he reportedly started to slow down, and before too long the runner-up took him over. Then he proceeded to slow even more and fell back to third place, then to fourth, and so on. Some worried that the exertion of the marathon was taking a toll on him and he would faint at any moment, but he finished the race in last place, exactly one second after the runner in front of him.

`I simply realized I had an unfair advantage over these enthusiastic amateur runners,' he stated when he was interviewed after the race. `I have experienced the taste of victory many times, so I know exactly how good it tastes. I wanted to be nice, you know. Nice to my fellow contestants. Let them enjoy success. So I fell back to be the nice guy.'

The phrase `nice guys finish last' was the headline of the news article which chronicled the outcome of the marathon the next day. The phrase eventually became a part of popular culture, while Michael Banks went down in history as the first ever runner in Con County to hold both first and last places on his professional record. He was also the sole focus of Greenwell news outlets for several weeks following the now infamous marathon, in part due to the unprecedented nature of his act of generosity, and in part due to the public outrage among the fans. Numerous members of the audience had placed bets on him winning the match, and they felt cheated by Banks literally handing over the first place to another contestant. They accused him of being in cahoots with betting agencies who, as it turned out, had made a considerable profit on Banks' more than unexpected loss.

Michael Banks denied having any connection to betting rings and the police found no evidence of foul play on his part, so the case was dropped very quickly. The enraged fans turned their ire to the people who had `heckled' their runner throughout the race, convinced that Michael Banks would never have given up the victory if he hadn't been goaded into it by the vocal minority. Two months and about two dozen bar fights later tensions died down and the incident was largely forgotten; or so it seemed.

A year later Michael Banks once again participated in the Greenwell Marathon, and once again found himself the target of a very vocal audience. Only this time, the loudest members of the audience were threatening to subject him to various forms of bodily harm, were he to surrender the race once again. Despite the verbal abuse, he hung back for much of the race, occasionally pointing with his thumbs to the words on the back of his shirt which said, `I'm a nice guy.' That was until several members of the crowd started to chase him with pitchforks.

He was the first across the finish line, a small army of angry fans barely ten seconds behind him. Even then he kept on running, for good reason, since the judges disqualified him for relying on outside help to win the race. The decision did nothing but reinforce the idea that, one way or the other, nice guys finish last.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer

posted Jun 25, 2017, 3:13 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

The words `keep your friends close and your enemies closer' are synonymous with the idea of keeping a very close eye on your enemies in order to prevent them from doing you any harm. This is a meaning that the above phrase acquired over the decades, but when it came into being it stood for something quite different.

In the 1870s and 1880s the annual Con City Fair was a popular summer attraction in the community of Con County. Visitors would flock to the growing market town to purchase locally produced art and prize winning melons grown in the fields east of town, and also to participate in games. The most popular of these was the farting contest.

The competitors would prepare for the contest by eating elaborate meals comprising beans, onions, and various spices, cooked specifically for the event. After the meal they would stand in the middle of a crowd of thirty people within a circle marked with chalk on the ground. The contestants would then have one minute to drive as many people out of the circle as possible by farting.

By 1881 the contest was synonymous with the words `keep your friends close and your enemies closer.' The philosophy behind the strategy, as recorded in news articles of the era, was to use the contest to make one's enemies suffer as much as possible, if only for one minute. Yet it was essential to keep one's friends nearby as well, in case the contestant turned out to be so successful that their enemies decided not to abandon the circle but to converge upon them with intent of bodily harm.

The most successful contestant in the history of the fair was a man from Brickton named Kyle Willis. He won the farting contest in five consecutive years between 1879 and 1883. In 1884 he lost to a Con City born man called Alec Strong, who managed to drive everyone out of the circle in a record breaking seventeen seconds. `I guess my bowels are just that foul,' he said after claiming the trophy. When later he was seen celebrating in the company of the very people whom he ejected from the circle in the contest, many began to question whether he had adhered to the principle of keeping your enemies closer to you than your friends. Kyle Willis petitioned the organizers to disqualify Strong, but no one could prove any wrongdoing.

In 1884 the farting contest was won by Kyle Willis in a record breaking five seconds. While no one could prove that he had broken the unwritten rules of the game, the organizers saw it fit to put an end to the contest and from 1885 the Con City Fair went on without the infamous farting competition. The concept of keeping one's friends close and one's enemies closer survived the demise of the contest and lives on to this day, as does the memory of the violent beating Kyle Willis and Alec Strong both suffered at the hands of the disappointed attendees of the Con City Fair in 1885.

Best not miss

posted May 8, 2017, 2:27 PM by Viktor Zólyomi

`If you come at the king you best not miss,' one might hear when someone tries to usurp whoever sits at the top. A phrase often used in the government, organized crime, and office politics. Yet its origins have very little to do with positions of power.

In the year 1865 a man named Kirk Johns, better known as Kirk Six Shot, was the best sharpshooter in the town of Black Lake in Con County. The town in those days was extremely small, hence being the best shot was hardly an accomplishment, and sure enough Kirk Six Shot often found himself called out for his less than stellar shooting skills. One day he decided he'd had enough of the constant berating of the townsfolk and made the bold claim that he could hit a pea from a hundred yards with his pistol. Loud laughter echoed across the pub at which he had chosen to make his announcement, while the bartender told him, `next you'll say you could use a rock to hit a tin can hanging from a tree branch ten whole yards away.'

Feeling infuriated at the utter disrespect of the town, Kirk Six Shot immediately accepted the challenge, and when someone suggested he should perform it by the beehives at the Howell farm, he agreed to that, too. And so it came to pass that he stood alongside a dozen or so of his fellow townspeople at the farm of Buck Howell, ten yards away from a tree where one of Buck Howell's beehives hung. The old man himself was busy tying a tin can to the branch using a piece of string. Taking care not to let it touch the beehive, he positioned it five inches from the hive and then returned to Kirk Six Shot.

`Best not miss, sonny,' Buck Howell said to the young man, then he and rest of the townsfolk retreated to a safe distance.

Kirk Six Shot hurled his rock at the can but to his misfortune struck the beehive instead. When the bees swarmed out of the hive and took off in his direction, he tried to run, but he only made it a couple of yards away before the bees closed the distance and descended on him with all their wrath.

Witnesses later said they had never seen anything so gruesome all their lives. The cruel fate of Kirk Six Shot, from that day called Kirk The Faceless, burned Buck Howell's words of warning into their minds, and over the years the phrase spread across the globe and eventually took on its modern form.

Whether any aspiring party leaders or ambitious gangster lieutenants have any clue as to who they have to thank for this expression is anyone's guess. The people of Black Lake doubt it very much, and believe that if the world truly knew what had transpired that day at the Howell farm, the exact form of the modern phrase would read, `best not miss, lest the bees eat your face.'

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.

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