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Edward Southerland: Honor Bright
By Edward Southerland
Jul 28, 2017
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I don’t know why it caught my ear; it was just a throwaway line. Paulette Goddard was talking to Artie Shaw about Fred Astaire and Burgess Meredith— Wait, perhaps more explanation is due. I was watching Second Chorus, a 1940 musical from Paramount, when I heard Paulette Goddard used the term “honor bright,” meaning, “It’s the truth.”

I wouldn’t have given it a second thought except that the next day I heard the phrase again, this time from Frank Sinatra. Actually Sinatra sang, “honor brightly” to make a rhyme with “day or nightly” in a song called “You Can Take My Word for It, Baby,” by Ticker Freeman.

Do people use the phrase “honor bright” anymore? Granted, it sounds a bit dated, like something from a Shirley Temple movie, but it intrigued me, so I got on the computer to see what I could find.

There’s a punk rock band from Syracuse, N.Y. called Honor Bright. Frances Parkinson Keyes wrote a novel entitled Honor Bright in 1941 and Randell Platt used the term for a children’s book in 1998.

There is an Honor Bright horse farm in Clovis, California and a Minnesota stable has a stallion named Cadence of Honor Bright available for stud. It sounds like a good title for a movie, and indeed there is an Irish film by that name, but Hollywood does not seem to have used it. It did make the movies in 1941 however, as the title of a song written by Johnny Mercer and Jimmy McHugh for You’re the One.

The most interesting hit was from a site labeled Honor Bright.org. The creator wrote, “From the words Honor Bright there was no retreats. They were Cherokee words which, when spoken, meant truth and honor in one blazing moment.” The coda to the page says, “This site is dedicated to the belief that words do matter.” And they do. Honor Bright.