FanPost

OT: Brooklyn's newly discovered "hard knock" history, from Talmage to Jay-Z

It's a hard knock life being a Nets fan, but I just discovered some hard knock history. The term "college/school university of hard knocks" was coined by a once-famous, now-forgotten Brooklyn preacher.

Brooklyn Nets co-owner Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" came out in 1998 and is one of his biggest hits. We've all heard of that.

How many out there have ever heard of Thomas De Witt Talmage (1832-1902)?

Talmage's Wikipedia page shows that he was born in Bound Brook, New Jersey, graduated from the University of the City of New York (now New York University), and married Susan Whittemore of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

In 1868, while preaching in Philadelphia, he gave a sermon where he said this:

“We all graduate at the college of hard knocks. Misfortune, fatigue, disaster are the professors; kicks, cuffs and blows are the curriculum. The day we leave the world, is our graduation. Some sit down and cry. Some turn their face to the wall and pout, others stand up and conquer.”

It's the first citation ever for "college of hard knocks." The Oxford English Dictionary (where I contribute) has 1870 for "school of hard knocks." Wikipedia (my work is linked to many pages, but I don't write for it) has a "School of Hard Knocks" page that insists that the term was coined in 1902. The entry is so bad that it even fails to link to Wiktionary (which uses the OED's 1870 date).

Talmage left Philadelphia in 1869 for Brooklyn's Central Presbyterian Church. "Attending Talmage's sermons became one of the most popular religious experiences of the era," Talmage's Wiki entry states. "In 1870, the congregation built a tabernacle solely to accommodate the large crowds who attended his church services."

My "school of hard knocks" etymology page shows that Talmage spoke about the "college of hard knocks" and the "school of hard knocks" and the "university of hard knocks" many, many times.

There is a statue in downtown Brooklyn of the once-disgraced preacher Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887). Talmage has no such honor. His grave can be found in Brooklyn's famous Green-Wood Cemetery.

I've been a Nets fan for almost 40 years. There have been many hard knocks. A coach has just been fired. The team has just been blown out by over 30 points in its last game.

Remember Rev. Thomas De Witt Talamage and correct Wikipedia if you wish.

Remember that we all graduate at the college of hard knocks. Some turn their face to the wall and pout, others stand up and conquer.

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