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Posted by Smokey Stover on July 30, 2006

In Reply to: PLAY BLIND TOM posted by Yuri on July 27, 2006

: Dear experts,

: 1. Could you identify the meaning of PLAY BLIND TOM as in:

: Auctions look very much like adults playing blind Tom. Everybody pretend that they are looking for the just price which is already known. The auction is the place where market goods are sold at market prices.

: He never could understand this system of playing Blind Tom with the House of Commons ^ especially in a taxing statute.

: 2. Does this figurative meaning refer to Blind Tom an autistic musical prodigy or to a game in which one player is blind-folded, and tries to catch and identify any one of the others?

: Thank you,
: Yuri

None of us is likely to be expert enough to answer your question with confidence. For those who are unfamiliar with Blind Tom, he was the son of slaves who were bought at auction in 1850 by "Gen." James Bethune. They had an infant, blind from birth, Thomas, who turned out to be an "autistic savant." Although not showing any other abilities, he demonstrated a great affinity for music from an early age, and quickly learned to play the piano, playing accurately by ear the music that he heard and liked. He gave concerts and earned quite a lot of money in his lifetime, which ended in 1908, when he died of a stroke in New Jersey.

Although Blind Tom wrote music, that's plainly not what the people to whom Yuri has referred were playing. It sounds as though the author is saying that the people at the auction were role-playing, acting like Blind Tom. I'm confident that there was no actual Blind Tom game, with blindfolds. The two quotations sound as though the authors must have been contemporaries of Blind Tom, and familiar with his concert-stage mannerisms. (You could have given us the dates, Yuri.)

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