American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A stem-winding watch.
- n. A rousing oration, especially a political one.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A watch which is wound up or regulated by means of a contrivance connected with the stem, and not by a key.
- n. A watch that is wound up by turning a small knob (at the stem)
- n. US A rousing speech, especially by a politician
- n. US Someone who gives such speeches, a great orator.
- n. US, proscribed An boring, interminable speech.
- n. US, obsolete Top-notch, first-rate.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. colloq. A stem-winding watch.
- n. Anything of superior quality, as was attributed to the stem-winding watch; -- esp. used to describe a stirring speech, as in the phrase “a
stem-winderof a speech” or “delivered a stem-winder”.
- n. a watch that is wound by turning a knob at the stem
- US, mid-late 19th century, originally referring to then-recent stem-wind watches (invented in 1840s, commercialized initially 1850s by Patek Philippe & Co.). These were expensive, top-notch watches, hence generalized (1892) to “top-notch”, particularly applied to speeches, or to the orator in question. Non-speech senses later fell out of use. Nuance of “rousing” speech possibly by analogy with watch being wound up ("tighten by winding, excite, rouse"). (Wiktionary)
“Can hardly await Pres Obama's next bold move - Perhaps another stem-winder?”
“Both showed up; Gray delivered opening remarks, and Fenty handled the stem-winder.”
“Big awards, thankfully, don't always go to big ensembles, but there's a long way to go before a couple of perfect minutes of lapidary precision and ineffable depth can hope to compete on equal terms with a Wagnerian stem-winder. posted by Matthew @ 10: 00 PM”
“And any -- any thoughts that people had that he would be too frail to be able to give his typical stem-winder of a speech were put to rest.”
“He used to be was billed higher than a president or president-elect because he just knew he'd give a stem-winder (ph).”
“Yet the phrase "gun control" is about as welcome at party convocations as a stem-winder from Karl Rove.”
“The Boston Globe reports that "[w] hen it became apparent that Clinton was not going to make the customary acknowledgment of Obama's victory in her speech, Obama began his own address before she finished, in effect grabbing the national television spotlight from her and cutting her off midstride" - and he went on to give a 45-minute stem-winder.”
“Wolfe's op-ed stem-winder was widely seen as decisive in sending the Foster scheme to defeat last month, but the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has rejected so much new construction within the Upper East Side Historic District of late, the outcome of the hearing was already a foregone conclusion.”
“But it was when Schweitzer talked about our breaking our "addiction to foreign oil" that his speech turned into a stem-winder.”
“The big hit from last night, however, was Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer - who gave a passionate stem-winder about the energy crisis that literally brought delegates to their feet.”
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