within a bull's roar

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within a bull's roar

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:23 pm

With regard to the search for the lost Flight 270, “discipline leader of accident investigation at Central Queensland University in Australia,” said the following:
<2014 “. . . it would be ‘coincidental in the extreme’ for the sounds to have come from anything other than an aircraft’s flight recorder. If they have a got a legitimate signal, and it’s not from one of the other vessels or something, you would have to say they are within a bull’s roar”—WashingtonPost.com, 7 April>
Wiz, I like it!


BULL’S ROAR: NOT WITHIN A BULL’S ROAR: Not anywhere near— ‘The club’s not within a bull’s roar of winning the premiership this season.’ A roaring bull can be heard over a great distance, so that to be not within a bull’s roar is to be a considerable distance away. The phrase is sometimes used without the negative— to be within a bull’s roar means that you are not too far away. A much finer unit of measurement is expressed by the similar Australian phrase within a bee’s dick [[beautiful!]].

But, I had assumed that a bit of poetic license was in use here. I know that lions, tigers, and bears roar. Additionally, Wikipedia says that alligators, elephants, and hippopotamuses also roar. But bulls? I thought they bellow.

Let’s check it out:

Here are 2 min. and 26 sec. of bull sounds (I can’t believe I actually listened to the whole thing) and I’m still not sure I heard a roar. Well, I guess it all comes down to definitions:


ROAR [[relevant definitions]]

1) verb intransitive: To utter a loud, deep, prolonged sound, especially in distress, rage, or excitement.

2) verb transitive: To utter or express with a loud, deep, and prolonged sound.

3) noun: The loud deep cry of a wild animal.

That was not too helpful. I’ll try another tack. Continuing with American Heritage:

BELLOW [[relevant definitions]]

intransitive verb: To make the deep roaring sound characteristic of a bull.

noun: The roar of a large animal, such as a bull.

Looks like bulls can roar, but pigs still can't fly! However, according to the above Wikipedia link, bears, for example, can roar as well as growl groan, and moan. So, not all bull sounds are necessarily roars. Now I should go back and listen to that 2 min. and 26 sec. again and try and pick out, which ones are. But I'm not. (<:)

The following quotes are from archived sources:
<1973 “The sound of axes rang all the way down through Taroona, past places that hadn’t been within a bull’s roar of the fire.”—The Barcoo Salute by Patsy Adam-Smith, page 53>

<1984 “La Humphrey at the opera is consumed by an onslaught of genteelism, a disease which afflicts so many of the Corporation’s servants when they come within a bull’s roar of Culture For the Masses.”—Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales, Australia), 1 February, page 10>

<1992 “Needless to say, the book never gets within a bull’s roar of establishing this amazing nonsense.”—The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1, Autumn, page 102>

<1999 “Shakespeare is the standard, the criterion by which all writers of English are judged, and no one has yet come within a bull's roar.”—Sunday Star – Times (Wellington, New Zealand), 14 March, page c5>

<2002 “That's a tremendous [[alleged]] marketing feat when one considers that a paper [[The Independent]] unable to come within a bull's roar of its main rivals in Britain - the Times, Guardian and Telegraph - manages to sell a higher percentage than any of them abroad.”— The Guardian (London), 14 January, Media, page 9>

<2008 “Reading about WWI carnage made hair stand up on the back of your neck. But it was not within a bull's roar of the heart-stopping jolt when you finally visited places such as Villers-Bretonneux in northern France.”—The Gold Coast Bulletin (Southport, Queensland, Australia), 11 November, page 15>

<2012 “‘Not within a bull's roar’: judge criticises KFC poisoning appeal bid: They don't come within a bull's roar of complying with the rules [relating to appeals], Justice Hoeben said.”—The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales, Australia), 16 November>

<2014 (Caption) Uneven field: Technology means regular investors don't get within a bull's roar of the big guys on Wall Street.”—Waikato Times (Hamilton, New Zealand), 5 April, page C.6>

Ken G – April 8, 2014

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:37 pm

In Britain, the expressions within a gnat's whisker and by a gnat's whisker are based on a similar idea:
During the fiscal cliff impasse, the Republicans came within a gnat's whisker of tipping America's economy into free-fall.

Geoffrey missed the open goal by a gnat's whisker.

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by trolley » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:21 am

We have similar units of measurement involving hairs, hairs of a particulatr type and hairs of a particular type that are of a particular colour.
"I don't have quite enough clearance. Can you lift it up a hair?"
...or a lesser amount:
"I don't have quite enough clearance. Can you lift it up a XXXX hair?"
...and lesser still:
"I don't have quite enough clearance. Can you lift it up a red XXXX hair?"
I never really understood why the red ones were considered to be thinner.

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:09 pm

The ISO submillimeter, insect-based, standard of measurement that I am familiar with is the gnat’s eyelash (‘gnel’), which I would guess is comparable in size to the British ‘gnat’s whisker.’ However, it is said that entomophobics and some others prefer the human-based, Canadian ‘hair,’ ‘XXXX hair,’ and ‘red XXXX hair’ system. However, its two finer measurements have the distinct disadvantage of triggering parental controls when the XXXX’s are keyed in online, although there's no problem in normal conversation.

The following quotes, from archived sources, illustrate the use of the gnel:
<1920 (from Autobiography of Babe Ruth) “As a pitcher I had reason to feel satisfied, but my poor showing at the bat gave me a whole lot to worry about because I knew I was just missing balls and bouquets by the width of a gnat’s eyelash.”—Chicago Daily Tribune (Illinois), 16 August, page 13>

<1958 “Future construction contracts in the first half of 1958 soared to within a gnat’s eyelash of the all-time record in the first half of 1957 . . .”—The Washington Post and Times Herald (D.C.), 20 August, page A22>

<1996 “the curiosity factor from passing motorists was substantial, including the rather silly gentleman in the minivan who gave the car two thumbs up, and came within a gnat's eyelash of rear-ending a tractor-trailer.”—The Ottawa Citizen (Ontario, Canada),13 December, page D.3.>

<2003 “Even though the rate of retreat [[of Mars]] will accelerate rapidly, the distances involved are a gnat's eyelash in astronomical terms, and will not affect the view for weeks.”—The Times (London), 27 August, page 1>

<2008 “"We have equipment that has a pixel resolution of 48 microns," Pursley said. This would be about the thickness of a proverbial gnat's eyelash: 48 millionths of a meter, or 0.001 of an inch.”—McClatchy - Tribune Business News (Washington, D.C.), 27 April>

<2011 “Nor was there anything ‘extralegal’ about the CIA interrogations. . . . , if anything, the whole U.S. approach to dealing with terrorists was lawyered down to a gnat's eyelash.”— Wall Street Journal (Online) (New York City), 21 January> [[Yeah, sure!]]

<2014 “For those interested in viewing–down to the gnat’s eyelash—what the outdoor temperature was like during past Super Bowls, please refer to this Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC) fact sheet . . .”—The Washington Post (D.C.), 31 January>

Ken – April 9, 2014

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by Phil White » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:40 pm

It took a long time for trolley's XXXX to sink in (I am an innocent soul at heart) but discovered this charming Wikipedia article with some detail on the RCH.
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Apr 16, 2014 4:59 pm

.. yes Ken a still common expression in Aus .. as to its etymology I have a notion, for which I have no written support that it could possibly be derived from the bullroarer ..
The bullroarer, rhombus, or turndun, is an ancient ritual musical instrument and a device historically used for communicating over greatly extended distances. It dates to the Paleolithic period, being found in Ukraine dating from 17,000 BC. Anthropologist Michael Boyd, a Bullroarer expert, documents a number found in Europe, Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Africa, the Americas, and Australia.

Bullroarers have accompanied the didgeridoos in initiation ceremonies {{Australian Aboriginal}} and in burials to ward off evil spirits, bad tidings and especially women and children. Bullroarers are considered secret men's business by some Aboriginal tribal groups, and hence forbidden for women, children, non-initiated men, or outsiders to even hear. Fison and Howitt documented this in "Kamilaroi and Kurnai" (page 198). Anyone caught breaching the imposed secrecy was to be punished by death.
.. the bullroarer was used to warn people away and it has been noted that the sound generated can be heard over a considerable distance .. the bullroarer would've been know to white Australians and it is my supposition that the saying not within a bull's roar was derived from the bullroarer as a reference to a person being not within the sound of the bullroarer which was a considerable distance .. the turn around from not within the sound of a bullroarer to the current saying is not a difficult linguistic transition .. when you think of how sayings are derived it is common to use sound repetition so not within the sound of a bulls bellow would have conformed to the general rule .. it would need further in-depth research to find out exactly when the first instances of the saying were recorded and if there was any variation ..

.. when we were kids we used to make bullroarers by tying a standard foot long school ruler (or should that be school rule??) to a piece of string and swinging it around our head ..

WoZ a Taurean
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by trolley » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:33 am

Well, there's another one of those things I always "knew" without ever bothering to validate it. I was convinced (up until about five minutes ago) that a bullroarer was a blowing horn fashioned from the horn of a bull and used in battle or hunting. I always imagined the sound of that horn as I pictured old Bullroarer Took charging the goblin's line and knocking off the Chieftain's head, winning the battle and inventing the game of golf in one fell swoop. Now I have to re-think that whole scene. Now that I know what they really are, I remember playing with toy versions of them when we were kids. For the life of me though, I can't remember what we called them.

Re: within a bull's roar

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:14 pm

It's a good job that this bloke didn't join up with us when you were showing us around your bit of Oz, WoZ. We were accused of being brothers, if he had joined us lots of people would have been confused! At least he can demonstrate a bullroarer, well, sort of! I can only imagine the earache he got!
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

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