Prisoners were shot for deadline-related infractions every day or two. And sure, some of them were probably purposely pushing the boundaries, but plenty of them were behaving perfectly innocently when some jerkwad with a rifle decided he wanted to make a name for himself. The guards could simply claim that the victim was over the deadline, or, hey, just drag the body over it, and be pardoned without arrest or punishment. It was a Get Out of Jail card good for unlimited free murders.
Wait, so a looming "deadline" always meant false reports and eager young men jumping the gun? No wonder journalists appropriated it.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
What It Means Now:
It's big, and it crawls, and it pushes stuff.
We, uh ... we don't have a clever write-up to explain bulldozers to you. If you are unfamiliar, perhaps see the dissertations of one Mr. Tonka.
But It Used to Mean ...
Originally "bulldozer" was a term applied to people -- specifically, people who used intimidation, fear, and violence to further their political agenda at the expense of whatever was standing in their way. And by "whatever was standing in their way," we mostly mean "black people."
Prejudice: secretly responsible for half the English language.
Forgive us for the controversial statement, but in the post-Civil War Deep South, it may have been advantageous to be a bearded white dude. The Reconstruction era saw scads of the aforementioned beardos who had just lost a war, their slaves, and a lot of their land in one fell swoop. No surprise, then, that the South became solidly Democratic.*
*Important note: "Democrat" didn't always mean "liberal Starbucks-dweller who won't get off their MacBook."
If there was one thing that might prevent the Democrats from staying in power, though, it was the influx of newly freed black citizens who were suddenly able to vote in elections. The key word here being "able." Around 1876, some white dudes in Louisiana figured out a simple way to keep black people from voting. What tool could possibly be so persuasive, you ask? Rallying speeches? Negative campaign ads? Naive presidential promises? None of the above: Armed vigilantes would go out at night and lash potential Republican voters (read: black folks) with a bullwhip. Flogging the ever-loving hell out of someone with a bullwhip was referred to as "giving them a dose of the bull," while the people who administered said lashes were called "bulldozers."
And yes, the whips were made from dicks. Make of that what you will.
At some point Democrats and Republicans alike began to use the term "bulldozer" to refer to a corrupt politician or anyone "willing to stuff a ballot-box or shoot a n****r, or, for that matter, a white man, in order to get an office." Hey, nobody said a political party is one of those fun ones with dancing and coed Twister. The cops are getting called and somebody is winding up with a scar and a story after this hoedown.
Brenna Crotty is the editorial coordinator for CALYX Journal. She blogs about Doctor Who and other nerdy TV shows at NerdyTVRants.com and would totally accept scabies if it came from David Tennant.
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Related Reading: Speaking of phrases with dark origins, did you know Mussolini didn't actually make the trains run on time? And if you're the kind of person who says "amazeballs" regularly, the world probably wants you dead. For a look at all the phrases you won't believe Shakespeare invented, click here.