A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

Recent entries:
“You can’t leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution” (6/1)
“You simply cannot leave those who created the problem in chare of the solution!” (6/1)
“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier…” (6/1)
“You can’t just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution” (6/1)
Entry in progress—BP (6/1)
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Entry from May 26, 2011
Unring the Bell (impossibility of taking back a statement or action)

The expression “(you can’t) unring the bell” has been frequently used in courts of law. Once an attorney makes a statement or presents evidence, jurors can’t “unring the bell” and un-hear what they heard or un-see what they saw. If the statement or evidence is later found to have been inadmissible, it could be grounds for a mistrial. “Unring a bell” has been cited in a legal decision from 1912.

Politicians also know that they can’t “unring a bell”—statements and actions can’t be erased from the public’s mind. There are many idioms similar to “unring a bell,” such as “you can’t unscramble eggs” and “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”

According to the Springfield (MA) Republican newspaper in 1903 amd 1906 (see below), abolitionist Elizur Wright (1804-1885) wrote “You Cannot Unring the Bell,” arguing for Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Wikipedia: Unring the bell
The phrase unring the bell is an analogy used to suggest the difficulty of forgetting information once it is known. When discussing jury trials, the phrase is sometimes used to describe the judge’s instructions to the jury to ignore inadmissible evidence or statements they have heard.

Commenting on Court TV about the pre-trial release of nearly 200 pages of documents from a hearing on the sexual activities of the accuser in the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, jury consultant Idgi D’Andrea said, “It’s really hard to unring the bell, once that bell has been rung, and ask people to forget what they’ve heard.”

In Oregon v. Rader
One of the earliest reported legal references to unringing a bell can be found in the Oregon Supreme Court case State v. Rader, 62 Ore. 37; 124 P. 195, argued on May 9, 1912, decided on May 28, 1912.

Idiom Definitions for ‘You can’t unring a bell’
This means that once something has been done, you have to live with the consequences as it can’t be undone.

Wikipedia: Elizur Wright
Elizur Wright (12 February 1804–22 November 1885) was an American mathematician and abolitionist. He is sometimes described as the “father of life insurance” for his pioneering work on actuarial tables. He is also sometimes called the “father of insurance regulation”, as he campaigned that life insurance companies must keep reserves, and served as Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner.

15 August 1903, Springfield (MA) Republican, “Our Weekly Boston Letter,” pg. 12:
When the same class that suggested and supported the imperialista of McKinley and Roosevelt were, 40 years ago, striving to prevent the full fruition of Lincoln’s emancipation policy, and were shouting for McClellan against Lincolm, Elisur Wright, the best journalist of his day in Boston, headed one of his sagacious and witty arguments for emancipation, “You Can’t Un-ring the Bell.”

13 June 1906, Springfield (MA) Republican, “Our Boston Literary Letter,” pg. 13:
He and William Robinson ("Warrington") were my right and left bowers in that journalistic fight for slave emanicipation in which Wright saw his 30 years’ struggle against negro slavery crowned with success to Lincoln’s proclamation of January, 1863. One of his pithy headings, “You Cannot Unring the Bell,” told the story of the war measure of Father Abraham as well as the whole column could do it.

Google Books
The Pacific Reporter
Volume 124
Pg. 195:
(Supreme Court of Oregon. May 28, 1912.)
Pg. 196:
It is not an easy task to unring a bell, nor to remove from the mind an impression once firmly imprinted there, and the withdrawal of the testimony should be so emphatic as to leave no doubt in the mind of the juror as to the unequivocal repudiation by the court of the erroneously admitted matter, and even then, in a case where the testimony is evenly balanced or contradictory, courts hesitate to sanction such withdrawal, though it seems absolutely necessary to permit this course in some instances.

7 May 1918, Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 9:
Being a Doleful Homily on Cry-Baby Journalism and the Unavailing Efforts of The Oregonian to Please a Good and Pure Contemporary.
Of course, we were dismayed to learn that we had so grievously erred again through our failure to consult the Journal, but what could we do? You can’t unring a bell.

OCLC WorldCat record
Northwest history. Lumber industry & by-products. Trade agreement. 1935-12-13; Oregonian ; 1935-12-13; Trying to unring the bell
Publisher: 1935
Edition/Format:  Internet resource : English
Database: OAIster

6 November 1949, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. C2, col. 2:
Not even a Conservative victory at the next general election can put back the clock, unring the bell, unscramble the eggs.

OCLC WorldCat record
One from the heart : the original motion picture soundtrack of Francis Coppola’s movie
Author: Tom Waits; Crystal Gayle; Francis Ford Coppola
Publisher: New York : Columbia Records, 1982.
Edition/Format:  Music CD : CD audio : Motion picture music : English
You can’t unring a bell

OCLC WorldCat record
A piece of my mind. You can’t unring a bell.
Author: TL Schwenk
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 2006 Mar 1; 295(9): 977-8
Database: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

OCLC WorldCat record
Clawback Agreements in Commercial Litigation: Can You Unring a Bell?
Author: A S Joshi
Publisher: [Lansing, MI, State Bar of Michigan]
Edition/Format:  Article : English
Publication: The Michigan bar journal. 87, no. 12, (2008): 34-38
Database: ArticleFirst

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Thursday, May 26, 2011 • Permalink