One day, hopefully in the far-distant future, an archaeologist may come across the ruins of our American civilization that it had been. In order to do this, he may attempt to analyze the words and phrases that we used. For example, he may discover that George Dewey, an admiral in the U.S. Navy, is reputed to have said at Manila Bay, "You may fire when ready, Gridley." And he may also discover that William Prescott, a Revolutionary soldier, said at Bunker Hill, "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." As these two quotations are clearly at variance with each other in determining the proper time to fire at an adversary, he may conclude that the American people were split about 50-50 between the laissez-faire attitude of Admiral Dewey and the considerably stricter requirements laid down by Mr. Prescott. Or did the rules change drastically, depending on whether one was on land or at sea?
Greenblatt, M. H.
"What Will They Think of Us?,"
Word Ways: Vol. 4
, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/wordways/vol4/iss3/4