Monday, March 30, 2020

What is the origin of the phrase "The buck stops here."

"You know, it's easy for the Monday morning quarterback to say what the coach should have done, after the game is over. But when the decision is up before you -- and on my desk I have a motto which says The Buck Stops Here' -- the decision has to be made."

- Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States
Address at the National War College, December 19, 1952

"The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."

- Harry S Truman
Farewell address to the American people, January, 1953

"I take no responsibility at all." (for the lack of available tests during the COVID-19 outbreak)

- Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

Press Conference, March 13, 2020


The saying, "The buck stops here" did not originate with Harry Truman.  It is derived from the slang expression "pass the buck" which means passing the responsibility to another.  The expression "pass the buck" is said to have originated as a poker term frequently used in frontier days when knives with buckhorn handles were used as markers counters to indicate whose turn it was to deal.  If a player did not wish to deal, he could "pass the buck" (the responsibility of being dealer) to the next player.

So, how exactly did the phrase "the buck stops here" become associated with Harry Truman?  Well, the sign on Truman's desk was made in the Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma.  In 1945, Fred A. Canfil, then United States Marshall for the Western District of Missouri, paid a visit to the El Reno prison.  Canfil was a longtime friend of Truman's.  The two men were both from Missouri and had known each other since Truman was a Missouri judge.

When Canfil noticed the sign on the warden's desk, he thought it would appeal to the plain-speaking, no-nonsense president.  He asked the warden if he could arrange for a similar sign to be sent to Harry Truman.  The painted glass sign was made and mailed to the president in October of 1945.  It was approximately 2 1/2" x 13" and mounted on walnut base.  On the reverse side of the sign, the words "I'm from Missouri," were inscribed (Harry Truman's home state is known as "The Show Me State" and its people from Missouri have a reputation for being skeptical).

The sign ended up on Harry Truman's desk and he adopted "the busk stops here" as his personal motto.  It was kept on his desk on and off throughout his presidency to indicate that he didn't "pass the buck" to anyone and that he accepted personal responsibility for how the country was governed.  Truman's  sign has been on display at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri since 1957.

Harry Truman and Donald Trump are certainly a study in contrasts.  The first was a folksy plain-speaking man from Missouri, a drug store clerk who became a judge and later a United States senator.  The other is a flamboyant real estate mogul from New York who became a television reality show host.  Harry Truman's first pay at the old Clinton Drug Store on the Independence Square consisted of three big silver dollars.  He never dreamed he'd be earning $100,000 a year as President of the United States someday  According to a wealth of tax, loan and corporation documents that came into the possession of The New York Times, Donald Trump, the son of a wealthy real estate dealer, Fred Trump, was a millionaire by the age of eight.  The Times branded the elder Trump's years of tax avoidance as "dubious" and in some circumstances, "outright fraud."

I could continue listing the difference between the two men, but there isn't enough space.  The only thing they seem to have in common is that their last names begin with the letter "T."  The current American president, Donald Trump is the biggest buck passer in the U.S.A.  Trump has a completely different approach toward accepting responsibility than Truman.  He shirks it at every turn.  He refuses to acknowledge his mistakes and he refuses to apologize for them.  He thinks that that's a sign of weakness.  It's always the fault of the press ("the enemy of the people) or the dastardly Democrats or "crooked" Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.  

On March 13, 2020, Trump held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.  A reporter ashed him if he took responsibility for the failure of the government he leads  to act sooner and provide more tests during the COVID-19 outbreak.  In typical Trump fashion, the president attempted to blame the Obama administration for his government's shortcomings.  He claimed that Obama's red tape had prevented the Centers for Disease Conrol from dealing with the emergency.  The previous administration, however, has been out of office for over three years.  If there was red tape, why didn't Trump cut through it weeks ago when health officials first sounded the alarm?  True to form, Trump's reply to the the reporter was "No, I don't take responsibility at all."

No leader is perfect, including the 33rd President of the United States - but mister, we could use a man like Harry Truman again - or at least an American president who accepts responsibility.

- Joanne

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Some reflections while at home during the COVID-19 crisis

Here I am in Toronto in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Fortunately, I haven't travelled anywhere since I visited Prince Edward Island last summer, and as far as I know, I have not been in contact with anyone who has the virus.  Of course, I am taking precautions - washing hands etc.

Like many people in this city right now, I've been staying at home.  I've stopped using public transit and I only go outside to take a walk or to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy.  So, as you can imagine, I've had a lot of time to think and reflect about this pandemic.  What is happening is truly a nightmare.  The sheer volume of death and devastation, especially among the older population, is staggering.

I used to work in a newspaper library.  I am a news junkie.  I love current events and politics.  I know it's important for the public to be informed about the virus.  However, I can only take so much of this 24-hour wall-to-wall coverage.  I get the information I need and then tune out.  I am fully aware of how serious this crisis is, but I can't be completely consumed by fear and all the bad news. 

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has no idea how to deal with this crisis.  He seems incapable of soothing people's fears, or giving them true hope.  When asked by NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander to say something to calm Americans, Trump went on a tirade.  He reprimanded the correspondent and told him he was "a terrible reporter." (Alexander had challenged the president for promoting unproven drug treatments).

It is certainly not helpful for the American president to tout untested drugs, drugs that haven't even been tried on the COVID-19 virus.  It is certainly not helpful for the American president to throw tantrums and attack the press, which he calls the "enemy of the people"  The media are not perfect, but a free press is one of the pillars of democracy.

Trump appears clueless and incoherent.  He doesn't inspire the the trust needed at a time of crisis.  At first he didn't take the virus seriously.  He declared that it was going to magically go away.  Now he claims to have known all along that this was a pandemic.  Because of the president's mixed messages and misleading attitude, it has taken longer to provide the measures needed for the United States to combat this scourge.

When I think of how Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt helped America and the world get through the Great Depression and World War II, it saddens me to see the lack of global leadership today.  Instead of the Roosevelts and Winston Churchill, we have Trump and Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

We Canadians are doing our best to get through this crisis, but Canada is not a superpower.  Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, does not have as much influence as the leaders of more powerful nations.  We don't have a huge population or a great deal of military might.  The leadership in the U.S. and Europe and Asia affects us profoundly.

I have never experienced war first hand.  I never lived through the Great Depression or World War II.  As bad as the current crisis is, I am glad I do not have to face bombs like the British did during the London Blitz.  Yet, I have to admit that I am scared and worried.  I am trying to stay positive and not be too stressed.  It's hard to do at this terrible time, but it sure helps.  Maybe I should listen to some of FDR's old "fireside chats" on YouTube.  They were so reassuring.

By the way, here's how describes Roosevelt's "fireside chats."

From March 1933 to June 1944, Roosevelt addressed the American people in some 30 speeches broadcast via radio, speaking on a variety of topics from banking to unemployment to fascism in Europe.  Millions of people found comfort and renewed confidence in these speeches, which became known as the "fireside chats."

Below is a photo of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's June 28, 1934 "fireside chat" during the depths of the Great Depression.  He spoke about the merits of his recovery program.

Where have you gone Franklin Roosevelt?

Here are two final thoughts.

1.  This is one world and we are all in this together.  We are interconnected.

2.  In a crisis, government is not the problem.  It is a solution to the problem.  It is a balm.  It provides aid to a suffering people.

- Joanne

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The longest one-syllable words in the English language

" Never judge us the least."

Yours truly,


- Riya Ravi Sankar

Riva Ravi Sankar was born and raised in Coimbatore, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.  She is a poet and the English language has always fascinated her.


A word with one syllable is called a monsyllabic word.  The word "cat" is an example of an monsyllabic word.  Monsyllabic words cannot be divided into two or more syllables.  Each syllable must contain no less than one consonant and one vowel.  The consonant "y" can be a monsyllable.


* According to the Guinness World Records, the longest monsyllabic words in the English language begin with the letter "S."  "Scraunched" and "scrounded" are the longest and they both have 10 letters.  "Screeched,"" scrounged," ""squelched, "straights"and strengths finish in second place with 9 letters.

* It's interesting to note that in Chinese, all words are monsyllabic.

* How many monosyllabic words are there in the English language?  The Phonetic Word Search website returns 12,000 one-syllable words.  However, some of those words have two pronunciations and many of them are rarely used.

- Joanne

Friday, March 6, 2020

5 Golden Rules to help stop coronavirus

What is needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is knowledge and information, not fear and panic.  The most trustworthy information comes from the World Health Organisation (WHO).  Number 16 would like to share with you 5 Golden Rules provided by WHO.

- Joanne

5 Golden Rules
to help stop coronavirus

🙌Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
Keep a safe distance from anybody coughing or sneezing (at least 1 metre / 3 feet).
🤦Minimise touching your face.
🙊Sneeze and cough into your elbow or tissue.
🏠If you have symptoms, stay at home and call for medical care early.

Source: World Health Organisation

Monday, March 2, 2020

Quebec City Snow Sculptures

Here are some photos of the work of a very talented artist, snow sculptor Denis Gravel of Quebec City.  I hope you enjoy them.  Merci Denis.

- Joanne