Who was Gordon Bennett? How did his name become an expression of surprise and astonishment in the English language?
In fact, there were two Gordon Bennets: father and son, and the expression is thought to be an amalgamation of the name and the already existing phrase “Cor Blimey” (a euphemism for “God blind me”), as a result of their extravagant, playboy lifestyles.
Gordon Bennett father was born in Scotland and later moved to America, where he founded the New York Herald in 1835. He made a name for himself as a successful but rather controversial journalist: his style and stories being considered somewhat “risqué” by the society at the time.
His son inherited the newspaper in 1866. He lived an extravagant lifestyle with a strong taste for women, fast cars and flying. In 1906 he founded a hot air balloon competition, launching 16 balloons from the Tuileries palace in Paris, with the winning team being the one that flew the furthest without stopping. The challenge, named the Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, carried on throughout the century and is still held today, and is the oldest race in the history of aviation.
The Gordon Bennett legacy is truly international!
GB Jr also donated a large sum of money to the Palace of Versailles in France for the restoration of its 18th century rooms, as well as founding two other Gordon Bennet cups, one in motor sport and the other in aeroplane racing, although neither exist today.
For more info:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/gordon-bennett.html - accessed November 2015
http://www.gordonbennett.aero/#start - accessed November 2015
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6226293.stm - accessed November 2015
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Bennett_Cup - accessed November 2015