H is for Hooker and S is for Sideburn

Here are two men that I just recently learned about from Child 2:

On the left is Ambrose Burnside. Burnside was a Civil War officer with a bit of a checkered career: at one point being conspired against (according to Wikipedia anyway) by the man on the right, Joseph Hooker.

But that’s not what is of interest here, nor was it particularly fascinating to my current student of Civil War history, Child 2. No, what he wanted to share with me is that sideburns are known as sideburns because of Ambrose Burnside’s fancy whiskers, and that the word hooker, meaning a prostitute, came into the language because of Joseph Hooker’s fancy for the company of ladies of the night. Always good to talk about prostitution with your fourteen year-old son, no?

But beyond that, was he right?

Hmm. Well, in the case of Hooker, maybe not. The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary cites ‘hooker’ as first making its appearance in 1845. Although Joseph Hooker was born in 1814, he wasn’t really famous until the Civil War started in 1861. But while I was looking this up I could not help but look over the vast number of words for a prostitute listed in the dictionary.

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Here are a few side notes:

The first entries (not quite in this pic) are from Old English, confirming prostitution’s claim to be the oldest profession. Here are a couple to challenge pronunciation skills:

forligerwif

myltestre

portcwene

And here are a couple that stand out from the crowd:

Winchester goose (in use 1606-1778)

marmalade-madam (in use 1674-1717)

Twopenny upright (in use 1958-1978)

I could go on…

But instead, let’s switch to whiskers. Ambrose Burnside’s facial hair definitely brought the term side-burn into both American and English languages. My big fat dictionary has a section on ‘sidewings’ which it says was first used in 1811:

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Side-burns, we see, crops up in the language 1887, amidst a clear up-tick in the need for words to describe men’s facial hair. Obviously I had to google Dundreary whiskers and Piccadilly weepers and am so very happy to be able to add a couple of photographs here of Edward Askew Sothern:

Sothern, an English actor, played Lord Dundreary in a play, The American Cousin. I can’t imagine a better example of an English eccentric and it seems both terms come back to this very fetching looking gent.

As a further interesting bit of trivia, The American Cousin was the play that Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre in 1865. Although not with Sothern in the Lord Dundreary role.

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L is for Letterman

Some days – not everyday – it’s all a bit like living in a movie. Normally I feel this way when people start talking about their country club membership (think Caddyshack) or proms and homecoming (think Grease, Back to the Future, Peggy Sue got married etc etc). But this weekend, Child 1 brought home this:

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It’s a furry letter. About 8 inches tall. And all I could think of was this:

breakfast-club1

See that jacket Emilio Estavez is wearing? That’s a letterman jacket and above that, is the furry letter that Child 1 has brought home because he’s on the school swim team. Here is what Wikipedia has to tell me about Letter jackets with some my comments…

“Letter jackets are almost never purchased before a student has earned a letter. (What the?? Now I have to buy the jacket??) In schools where only varsity letters are awarded this is usually the practice in a student’s junior or senior year. (No idea what THAT means!) Recently, however, many student athletes have been awarded letters during their sophomore and sometimes freshman year, (Yes! He’s a freshman. This bit applies to me) leading to the need for a jacket much sooner. (Oh Marvellous! – said with heavy sarcasm) Still, the actual jacket isn’t usually purchased until the sophomore year at least. (Wait… what?) In schools where junior varsity letters are awarded, (and how do I know about that??) the jacket may be purchased by junior varsity letter recipients, though the letter is placed just above the left pocket, leaving space for a future varsity letter.” (Seriously? This is way too complicated. It’s a minefield!!)

For those who want to know (and I can’t imagine there are many of you) Child 1 has informed me that at his school – the name of which begins with the letter U – if you are on the American Football team, you get given the jacket in your Junior Year (second last year at school) with the letter already on it. This is good. No sewing or purchasing required. On the other hand, he also said that the boys are given the jacket at the end of year banquet and – wait for it – each boy’s mother gets up and puts the jacket on their son!!! Oh my. I can barely wait. Already gritting my teeth over it.

Funny side note. Last night there was an advert (commercial) on the TV where they played “Don’t You forget About Me” by Simple Minds. “Oh!” pipes up Child 3. “That’s from that movie – The Breakfast Bunch” Aaah. Our own little Mrs Malaprop 😉

L is for Lip Dub

Oh my, I feel old! I have toyed with not posting this as I did find a lip dub made by a college in the UK on YouTube, but that was only one. Here, it looks like every high school does one. What is it? Well it’s a lip-syncing video made by high school kids on a grand scale. The key common factors seem to me – in the poll of three lip dub’s I have just managed to watch (although I only made it through all of one of them and that was the one Child 1 was in so I felt somewhat obliged to view it all) – to be as follows:

  1. Whole school participation – already I’m thinking this is a massive waste of time when kids could actually be learning something.
  2. All the chosen ones – those that actually lip sync, rather than the hoi polloi lining the walls or doing stuff – have to walk backwards. That’s practically dangerous.
  3. The stuff they do. Apart from the lip sync-ers, there seems to be a heavy emphasis on cheer-leading cheering and football players looking manly. Quite a lot of balls get thrown. Mr T says he likes the school band, (so we are BOTH getting old, clearly) but where are the chemistry labs?? This is a school people!!
  4. Dodgy camerawork. I can only imagine the fall-out after this. In the ones I’ve seen the camera flies past hoards of desperate looking teenagers, all consumed with hand clenching excitement at being in this video. How many hopes and hearts across the land are crushed each year when these poor kids find out that they are a) barely in focus, b) grinning inanely or c) that they just bent down to tie their shoe at the wrong moment and missed being in the Lip Dub altogether. No. It’s just too painful thinking of all those young dreams being shattered.
  5. Littering. In my sample, again, admittedly small, there was a lot of little bits of paper being thrown over heads. What’s that all about? And who had to clear it up, eh?
  6. Apart from that it’s great 😉 School spirit! Yee ha. Yay. etc.

If I haven’t put off all right-thinking people already, here is the Lip Dub for Child 1’s school this year. Given that it is another seven years before Child 3 finishes high school (known as graduating in these here parts) I don’t think this is the last lip dub I’ll get to enjoy….

H is for Homecoming

This weekend Mr T and I had plans to go to a local brew fest with some chums. Tickets bought. Date marked on calendar. Weather forecast – bearable. But it has all gone wrong. We have been derailed by this American thing called Homecoming.

Homecoming is an event that takes place across the country in colleges and universities every Autumn. It’s billed as a chance for institutions to celebrate their ‘spirit’ by welcoming home alumni. The central activities are a football game (in our case that’s on Friday night) against big rivals and then a dance on the Saturday night. I have looked it up and it seems to be a pretty entrenched tradition, having started ‘way back when’ with the annual grudge meeting of the Yale and Harvard football teams.

harvard-yale-1903Well what is the problem, I hear you ask? Why would a football game and a school dance get in the way of an afternoon of merry brew-festing? The answer is Child 1.

Not only must Child 1 attend the football game on Friday night, where his girlfriend is a cheerleader (hear me groan!), he is also going to his first Homecoming dance with said girl and a bunch of other highly social 14/15 year olds. Which means we are driving. Living abroad teaches us that there are lots of differences between the States and the UK, but there are also things that don’t change wherever you roam. The joys of parenting teens is one of these things.

And while I am on about Child 1 – and since there is no chance of him reading this – here’s a bit more about him and Homecoming. As part of the ‘spirit’ we are enjoying because it’s Homecoming, the school has encouraged the wearing of different themed clothing each day this week. Monday was… (in fact I’ve forgotten Monday already!), Tuesday was Hawaiian day, Wednesday was ‘way back when’ day (that had to be explained to me) and today is purple and gold day (school colours). Kevin the teenager surprised me by being prepared to engage with this jollity but here he is maintaining his teenage aversion to having his photo taken in his ’70’s shirt for ‘way back when’ day.

IMG_5222See how he has spotted me taking his picture and is giving me the v-sign? Cheeky boy. And definitely still that wee bit British 😉