foiled again

Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 11:41 am
Seems to be some fixed expression. Check Google. From the title of a movie?
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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 11:51 am
I wish you would learn to say idiomatic expression rather than "fixed"--no one, in the American language would say "fixed phrase," or "fixed expression"--any native speaker of the American language would say or at least understand idiomatic expression. I rather suspect that the same applies to those who speak British English and its variants.

"Foiled again" became an idiomatic expression because it was used so often in cheap fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was parodied so often that it became a commonplace to depict villains of the late 19th centuries as saying "Curses, foiled again." when their plans were undone by the hero.

In the 1960s, a popular cartoon program included a weekly segment on "Dudley Do-right" of the "Mounties" (refers to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is historical anachronism for reasons i will not go into here). His perennial enemy was "Snidely Whiplash," pictured below, who would frequently exclaim: "Curses, foiled again," as the Mountie would save Nell Fenwick, the beautiful young heroine, in each episode.


The image of Snidely Whiplash, and his stock behavior of tying Nell to the railroad tracks as a train approached, necessitating a last minute rescue by Dudley Do-right, were all classic images which parodied the cheap pulp fiction of the late 19th century. I couldn't say if there ever actually was a fictional villain who said: "Curses, foiled again," but i suspect it was a stock line used in cheap, local theater productions in the 1890s or the early 1900s.
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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 11:52 am
Villains in early movies and stage melodramas and some kid's cartoon show, whenever their dastardly plots were torn up by the granite-jawed hero, typically would say, "Curses! Foiled again!" ("Cuses" being a Victorian euphemism for something like "motherf#cker" which modern more-uninhibited villains would be likely to say in similar circumstances--without of course the #, which is our modern euphemism). "Foiled"meaning more or less "thwarted".
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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 11:53 am
Set's ten fleet fingers win again.
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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 12:04 pm
Didn't Dudley have a horse called "Horse"?

I haven't researched why the word foiled is used, and wonder whether it could have originated with fencing? (swordfighting that is, not gardening).

The weapon (rapier) is called a foil, so "foiled again", could mean that his opponent either keeps getting through his defence, or indeed deflecting his attack, thereby thwarting his attempt to win.

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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 12:08 pm
Yes, Dudley's horse was called "Horse," and additionally, Nell Fenwick was in love with Horse, and not Dudley, which was a running gag in the show.

As for the verb "to foil," this definition at Answers-dot-com says it comes form a middle English word meaning to trample or defile.
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Reply Wed 30 May, 2007 12:20 pm
Curses, foiled again! (my pasta was boiling over).

I found this, but it appears you have beaten me to it.

Extract -

At the time, I probably assumed that there was some convoluted connection between Snidely's frustration and aluminum foil, but the two kinds of "foil" are actually completely unrelated. The "thin sheet of metal" kind of "foil" comes from the Old French "fueille," meaning "leaf," from the Latin "folium" (also meaning "leaf," and the source of "folio," leaf of a book, as well as "foliage"). One interesting descendant of this "foil" is its use to mean "a person who enhances the distinctive characteristics of another by contrast," as in "Meg's drab husband acted as her foil, making her witty comments seem even sharper." This use of "foil" harks back to jewelers' use of metal foil as a backing in gem mountings to make the stones sparkle more brightly.

The kind of "foil" meaning "to prevent from being successful; to thwart; to frustrate" comes from the Middle English verb "foilen," meaning "to trample, to despoil," with a secondary sense of "to obscure or confuse a trail or scent in order to elude pursuers." The "throw them off your trail" sense of "foil" first appeared around 1300, but the figurative "thwart someone's evil plans" sense didn't appear until the 16th century.
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