conservative kidney

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conservative kidney

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:05 pm

I came across the following this morning and the origin of the bolded phrase has me buffaloed:
<2011 “Some physicists of a conservative kidney, like Freeman Dyson, are reasonably content with this division of labor. Let the Standard Model handle the small stuff (atoms on down), they say, and general relativity handle the massive stuff (stars on up).”—New York Times, 7 October>

Having appeared in the New York Times, I assumed that the phrase, although possibly not common, would not be that difficult to find in the literature. But after a fairly exhaustive search, I was unable to come up with a single listing or discussion. And the quotes I found were a precious few. However, it is not difficult from the context to guess what the expression means. Here's my take:

CONSERVATIVE KIDNEY: A conservative attitude, outlook, bent, point of view, stance.

But why kidney? I have no idea. We know of associations with bodily organs such as the brain, heart, spleen, gallbladder, and, and . . . can’t think of any others offhand. But the kidney’s?

Anyone have any familiarity with this expression or ideas of why the kidney has been singled out here.

The following are the only four quotes I was able to find and it wasn’t for want of trying:
<1931 “New England's taste and preference is for men of a solid and conservative kidney, very often of learning and scholarship.”—The Yankee’s Place in the Sun by O. McKee, Jr. in The North American Review, Vol. 231, No. 5, May>

<1976 “As a decidedly Rooseveltian Democrat, actors of conservative kidney at the time looked on me with scant warmth. John Wayne didn’t like me at all, and I didn’t approve of him . . .”— Cagney by Cagney by James Cagney>

<1986 “. . . a judiciary committee chaired by either Sen. Edward Kennedy . . . or Sen. Joseph R. Biden . . . will make it extremely difficult for Mr. Reagan to get Supreme Court nominees of the conservative kidney of Antonin Scalia through the senate.”—Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 14 November, page 4>

<1999 “In short, most are traditionalists and being of a conservative kidney they simply do not like what has been happening to their game.”—Daily Mail (London), 13 October>

Ken G – October 8, 2011

Re: conservative kidney

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:17 pm

Like you Ken I have not heard of the expression. But I do remember my father saying that a bloke "had a big kidney" which meant that he had a grouse against life in general, he was always grumbling about everything and anything.
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: conservative kidney

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Oct 08, 2011 11:47 pm

I have previously encountered 'kidney' being used, as in this expression, to mean 'cast of mind', 'mental outlook' or 'ilk'. Brewers Dictionary of Phrase & Fable (1999) says the following:
Temperament, disposition or stamp, as 'of another kidney' or 'of the same kidney'. The REINS or kidneys were formerly supposed to be the seat of the affections.
In the same work, under the headword 'reins' is found the following description:
(Latin renes). The kidneys, believed by the Hebrews and others to be the seat of knowledge, pleasure and pain, as is evidenced at various points in the Old Testament. [There follows the text of Psalms 16:7, Proverbs 23:16 and Lamentations 3:13, plus the comment that the last citation refers to God sending pain into Jeremiah's kidneys.]
Incidentally, the word 'renal' derives from the Latin renes.
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Re: conservative kidney

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Oct 09, 2011 6:01 am

Erik, Very nice. You hit the nail on the head. I think my “fairly exhaustive search” for conservative kidney exhausted me more than the available resources. (>;)

The OED had its say on KIDNEY, which I foolishly missed early on because at that point I had been looking for the phrase conservative kidney.

So, here is the addendum to my above posting:


KIDNEY figurative: Temperament, nature, constitution, disposition; hence, kind, sort, class, stamp.
<circa 1555 “To pronounce all to be thieves to a man, except myself, of course, and those men . . . that are of my own kidney.”—Sermons and Remains by H. Latimer (Parker Society 1844-1845), page 312>

<1602 “A man of my kidney.”—Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare, iii. v. 196>

<1652 “Is it not better for us that are men of this kidney to have a Ruler set over us then to be left to our freedome.”— Περι Ὑψους by J. Hall, translated by Longinus, page 82>

<1734 “This Fellow is not quite of a right Kidney, the Dog is not sound at the Bottom.”—Don Quixote in England by H. Fielding, iii. iv. 46>

<1880 “It was a large and rather miscellaneous party, but all of the right kidney.”—Endymion by B. Disraeli, I. xvii, page 146>
In, addition I also found the following:


KIDNEY, ‘of that KIDNEY,’ of such a stamp: ‘strange KIDNEY,’ odd humour; ‘two of a KIDNEY,’ two persons of a sort, or as like as two peas, i.e. resembling each other like two kidneys in a bunch.Old. “Attempt to put their hair out of KIDNEY.”—Terra Filius, 1763. [[Proper condition or state, order. colloquial Obsolete.]]

I also got to thinking that if there was conservative kidney, why not liberal kidney? And sure enough:
<1962 “Probably, the election should be construed more as a gain for Republicans of a liberal kidney rather than a setback for the New Deal which was not a major issue.”—The Review of Politics: Vol. 24, page 537>

<1974 “Eric F. Goldman has pointed out that isolationism of a liberal kidney had all but vanished when FDR signed the Lend-Lease Act, March 11, 1941.”—The isolationist Impulse: Its Twentieth-Century Reaction by Selig Adler, page 311>

<2000 “Just to make her proposal all the more poignant, Sen. Feinstein introduced her bill at the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Unhappily, it's just like a politician of Sen. Feinstein's liberal kidney to exploit tragedy for political gain and to enhance the power of the state, as do her pals named Clinton and Gore.”—Daily News Record (Harrisburg, Virginia), page 6>

<2005 “Will Self argues that support for legalising drugs is ‘the most accurate urine test for discovering if a politician is of liberal kidney or not.’ (on 7 October).”—Evening Standard (London), 11 October>

<2005 “New Yorkers of a liberal kidney diverted themselves by fantasizing over deservedly cruel fates for Karl Rove, at least until President Bush's Supreme Court pick gave them something new to ponder.”—New York Magazine, Vol. 38, Issues 27-33, page 12>
Looks to me as though there are more folks of a liberal kidney then of a conservative kidney!

And there probably other types of kidneys (staunch, pussyfoot, independent, libertarian, tea, . . .) but I’m not lookin’ for them. I’m all kidneyed out. (<:)


Ken – October 8, 2011

Re: conservative kidney Big Kidney

Post by Eliza » Thu May 17, 2018 2:48 am

My extended (Welsh/Irish) family still use the phrase 'Big Kidney' to refer to someone who's a grumbler about the lack of recognition of their (perceived) status; i.e. they are complaining about their status being unrecognised.

Although I'm from Wales (Swansea) I had always thought the phrase came from my Irish side.

I've noticed there's a 2011 post on this query (sorry to join the party 7 years late) from a fellow Welsh Person - Bobinwales & where Bob uses the phrase in a similar way - to describe a grumbler.

Just in case Bobinwales is still on this forum, it would be great if he could let me know if his family had any Irish ancestry and whether the use of the phrase "Big Kidney" could have come from there.


Re: conservative kidney

Post by Phil White » Thu May 17, 2018 10:15 pm

Hi Eliza,

Bob, like slate and coal does not have ancestry. He was hewn from the bowels of the Welsh ground.

But he will undoubtedly tell you that when he comes back from the pit.

Welcome to the Clubhouse!
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: conservative kidney

Post by trolley » Fri May 18, 2018 7:00 am

I wonder if someone could "change their kidney" towards something. I googled aound but kept coming up with stories about medical problems and procedures. It was so depressing, I gave up looking. Welcome Eliza

Re: conservative kidney

Post by Bobinwales » Fri May 18, 2018 9:20 pm

Welcome indeed Eliza, Croeso.

My background... Born in Gower, brought up in Manselton, grew old in Pontardawe, married for the thrd time and moved to Alltwen, which is so close to Pontardawe that most people think that it is part of it.

We do not have a drop of Irish blood, although I have tried to make up for that with copious amounts of Guinness and Jamesons.

Your turn. :D
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: conservative kidney

Post by Phil White » Fri May 18, 2018 9:33 pm

You disappoint me, Bob. The Gower is half English! You are a mongrel!
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: conservative kidney

Post by Bobinwales » Fri May 18, 2018 9:49 pm

My mother was in a maternity hospital in Gower and I wanted to be near her.
She lived her entire life in Manselton.
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

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