A Girl By Any Other Name

That student of the American language, H. L. Mencken, almost always had his finger on the pulse of usage:

Every lover of the true, the good and the beautiful must needs be interested in the Hon. A. Toven Worm’s campaign for a reform in the nomenclature of chorus girls. Hitherto, as we all know, the terms used to designate girls of different heft, altitude and talent have run to a distressing vulgarity. The smaller girls have been called “ponies,” “broilers” or “squabs,” and the larger “hillhorses,” “amazons,” “welterwetghts” or “beefs.” It is the aim of the Hon. Mr. Worm, who represents Miss Gertrude Hoffmann in the capacity of confidential fictioner, to remedy this curse by substituting names of a romantic and poetic nature. Accordingly, he takes space in the current Sunpaper to announce that Miss Hoffmann will be surrounded on her coming appearance here by a choir of “chickens” and “canaries,” with a few “violets” and “rosebuds” for good measure.

A benign reform, but one which Mr. Worm has failed to workout to more than one place of decimals. His invention of “canaries” deserves all praise, but he makes concessions to current slang in “chicken.” Why not rename the whole hierarchy of chorus girls, from “squabs” to “hillhorses,” with the names of pretty birds? Why not begin with “humming-birds” and run up the scale to “swans,” or even to “penguins” and “cassowaries”? Why not attempt to differentiate between girls who can sing and girls who can merely stand and wait by calling the former “nightingales,” “canaries” and “mockingbirds”? I submit the following provisional and partial list to the Hon. Mr. Worm for his consideration and judgment:

CANARIES—Singing blondes of less than 120 pounds weight, but of a generally rotund aspect.
DOVES—Small, sylphlike creatures, demure and dumb.
PARROTS–Large, gaudy girls with aquiline noses.
PENGUINS—Stately beings in ball gowns, heavy on their feet.
OSTRICHES—The grenadiers of the chorus, none less than 170 pounds in weight.
FLAMINGOES—The so-called “showgirls” of yesteryear: Florodora sextetters.
SWABS—Tall, resilient, necky girls, vocal only in the final chorus.
PHEASANTS–Bunchy little ones.
CROWS–Inky brunettes, large and sad.
TANAGERS—All red-haired girls, regardless of size. (Formerly called “Zazas”).
HUMMING BIRDS–Hundred-pounders.
STORKS–Long, panatella girls, voiceless and austere.
SPARROWS–Happy little chirpers, unbeautiful but industrious.
THRUSHES–Half-portion sopranos.
BULBULS—Deep-chested contraltos, gurgly and amiable.

And so on and so on. I offer only few suggestions. Let the Hon. Mr. Worm engage a competent ornithologist and proceed to the completion of the list. Again, he might try a list of flower-names, beginning with “violet” and running up to “chrysanthemum.” “Sunflowers” would be apt and excellent for towering, gawky blondes, and “dahlias” would fit the auburn-haired admirably. Let the hon. gent. proceed to the business at once. He has launched a laudable and long-needed reform. All connoisseurs of nomenclature look to him to give it substance and permanence.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “A Girl By Any Other Name

  1. Kevin D. Williamson of National Review objected that the debunking mentality prevalent in Mencken’s work represented a “genuine fervor to knock the United States and its people down a peg or two.”

    Lincoln’s famous speech was “oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense.” Its argument was simply that “the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—‘that government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ should not perish from the earth.” Mencken could not imagine anything “more untrue.”

    The reason: “The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What else was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg … than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States?”

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/mencken-for-conservatives/

    The sovereignty to buy and import immigrants?

    Like

  2. I identify with the bitterness of Mark Twain

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/angst-in-the-church-of-america-the-redeemer/?

    Hopefully Mencken’s “relevant comment” on the “new world order” says something different from the cheer leading of David Brooks.

    Mencken—“The old theory of a federation of free and autonomous states has broken down by its own weight, and we are moved toward centralization by forces that have long been powerful and are now quite irresistible. So with the old theory of national isolation: it, too, has fallen to pieces. The United States can no longer hope to lead a separate life in the world, undisturbed by the pressure of foreign aspirations. … to-day no one seriously maintains, as all Americans once maintained, that the nation may safely potter on without adequate means of defense. However unpleasant it may be to contemplate, the fact is plain that the American people, during the next century, will have to fight to maintain their place in the sun.”

    Like

  3. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/438882/hate-filled-humor-american-political-tradition

    Mencken had the right enemies, not only Wilson but Roosevelt.

    “The abdication of Congress is certainly not as overt and abject as that of the German Reichstag or the Italian Parliamento. Nevertheless, it has gone so far that the constitutional potency of the legislative arm is reduced to what the lawyers call a nuisance value. The two Houses can still make faces at Dr. Roosevelt, and when a strong body of public opinion happens to stand behind them they can even force him, in this detail or that, into a kind of accounting, but it must be manifest that if they tried to impose their will upon him in any major matter Roosevelt could beat them easily.”

    “The only will left in the national government is Roosevelt’s will. To all intents and purposes he is the state. We have thus come to a sort of antithesis of the English system, under which Parliament is omnipotent and the King is only a false face.”

    Like

  4. Mencken is a lot easier for me to take than any of those Christendom romantics like Russell Kirk

    Mormon Russel Fox—“Few are the people who haven’t, at one point or another in their lives, enjoyed seeing themselves as the lone sane people in the room, as the brave and necessary and suffering resistance to a malevolent agenda, whether embodied in some ignorant bureaucracy or a hateful boss.”

    “Dreher comments that ‘without a robust and successful defense of First Amendment protections, Christians will not be able to build the communal institutions that are vital to maintaining our identity and our values’ . There’s a lot of sense to that…and yet, it’s a comment which Dreher makes immediately after having devoted an entire chapter to praising the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy, as an antidote to the disorder of the modern world…an antidote which exists in a country where, obviously, there is no First Amendment. And yet, they abide.”

    “Rod Dreher sees some of you as likely the kind of Christian in need to seeking a Benedict Option solution in your life.If you’re not like that, though, then the Benedict Option probably won’t be necessary.for you”

    http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2017/03/on-drehers-benedict-option-the-christians-and-localists-who-can-live-it-and-the-ones-who-cant/

    Bonhoeffer, Life Together–“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s