End of ADS-L Digest - 18 Jun 1998 to 19 Jun 1998
There are 16 messages totalling 665 lines in this issue.

Topics of the day:

1. DISCO anachronism; Zit's Theatrical Newspaper
2. Grammar Not Just For the Classroom
3. Bonin Islands English
4. bogus anecdotes (8)
5. DISCO anachronism
6. RE>bogus anecdotes
7. Metro Diary Instruction Manual (was Re: RE>bogus anecdotes) (2)
8. Is it military slang?


Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 01:20:27 EDT
From: "Barry A. Popik"
Subject: DISCO anachronism; Zit's Theatrical Newspaper


I didn't see the movie and neither did Jesse Sheidlower, but he pointed
out that the word "yuppie" is mentioned by several characters. "Yuppie" was a
1984 phenomenon and would not have been used in DISCO's time period of the
late 1970s.


I read some of Zit's Theatrical Newspaper at the Lincoln Center
Performing Arts Library. Zit's (an early competitor of Variety) is a very
obscure paper--you know it's obscure when the Theater librarian asks another
librarian. Zit's is on microfilm, but many years are missing. What was
filmed was very fragile and broken apart.
Zit's was founded by C. F. Zittel, a veteran of the New York Evening
Journal and the New York Morning Telegraph. Only four reels (1930-1937) are
left from fourteen Zit-filled years.
Zit's was published weekly at 254 West 54th Street. That's now the
location of--Studio 54! I'm sure no Zit's-ers were in LAST DAYS OF DISCO--now
THAT would be an anachronism!!
The following lexicon is from Zit's, 24 May 1930, pg. 17, col. 4:

The circus, like most other diversions of show business, has a jargon of
its own, colorful and interesting. Many of the expressions used are
unintelligible to other than circus folk.
Here are a few:
_A Joy_--Any clown.
_Clown Alley_--The entire joy aggregation of a circus.
_Kid Show_--The main sideshow.
_Pit Show_--Small exhibition of freaks which runs continuously for a
10-cent admission charge.
_Pad Rooms_--The dressing rooms and entrance way to big top.
_High School Horses_--All trained horses.
_Rosin Backs_--Horses used by bareback riders.
_Liberty Horses_--Posing horses.
_Cat Acts_--Any trained animal act of feline variety.
_Bull Acts_--Elephant acts.
_Hay Acts_--Horses, zebras, camels, etc.
_Mud Show_--Any circus that travels in wagons.
_Bubbles_--All balloon vendors.
_Grease Joint_--Hot dog stands, etc.
_Juice Joints_--Soda water stands, etc.
_Rough Necks_--All men who handle the tents.
_Spit Cloths_--The bright cloths around the front tier of seats.
_Camp Fire Men_--Employees who do nothing but keep water boiling for the
cook tents.
_Candy Butchers_--Peanuts, popcorn and candy vendors.
_The Blues_--Unreserved seats.
_Starbacks_--Reserved seats.
_Ducats_--All tickets.
_Stiffs_--The hard, general admission tickets.
_Longs and Shorts_--Passes. Longs carry admission to reserved section.
Shorts call for general admission only.
_Jig Band_--Colored band for sideshows.
_The Red Wagon_--The wagon where money and tickets are kept and where
employees are paid off.

This is from Zit's, "Vaudeville Philosophy" by Speakin' Frank, 23 March
1935, pg. 3, col. 3:

As long as I can remember people have been howling "I saw it first."
Long before Columbus had a tough time proving it, the question had had its
juggling from time to time. Miners all over the world are battling over it.
We find that a daily conjecture in show business. Say, even the columnists
are adding the "don't forget you saw it here first" line. But amongst the
show people we have heard the indignant rise of the voice to emphasize that
they had heard it, said, saw or did it first...well, many times it has been
proven true. But you can usually bank upon the originality of a good many
gags, bits, or even daily idioms if you peer into the vaudeville game where
much of our present words and slang phrases first burst into dawn by a casual
conversation amongst the troupers. Observations would show that troupers live
in a world all their own, fitting and exchanging their hobbies, ideas, and
habits amongst themselves. Instinctively they seek to originate something, to
be a little different, and their language has even found a different aspect
than the layman and often we will hear a slang word, or an idiom passed on to
the world at large where it gets its relay to farther usage. One may classify
the troupers as a tribe of different people. The laymen are always curious
about the lives of the troupers and often are eager to catch on to a new
saying or gag that may circulate amongst the actors or those associated with
them...Many coined idioms originated from the chatter backstage within the
social habitat...Take for instance the word "stooge" which was an old word
amongst vaudevillians, attributed to one who, in travelling wiht an act,
learned, by experience, the ways of the show world. It was a contraction of
the word student. I recall, long ago on the Delmar time, an act called
Galetti's Monkeys that had, travelling along, a chap whose business it was to
nurse and care for the animals, check the baggage, get tickets etc., on the
route. He was a stooge. Many stooges had inherent ability and sought to
learn the ways before they became proficient in developing their talents.
Today the average person confuses a stooge and a foil. They believe a stooge
to be a dialectician in grotesque makeup who would interrupt an M.C. or a
comedian to get laughs...and do a specialty...This type of performer is a foil
or sometimes called a second comic. A stooge doesn't necessarily mean a
comedian...tho many comedians were once stooges...For instance Joe Besser, now
a comic on his own, once trouped with Queenie Dunedin, an aerial act and never
spoke a line or did anything before the footlights...And then there is the
mistake of a straight man being a stooge...However, the word originated in
vaudeville, as did many other expressions, like, as another instance
"Chiseler" which wended its way even to high politics...It began from the
mouth of a disgruntled actor who didn't like to kick back any more than the
usual commissions. The agent who sought to chisel some of the salary was
knicknamed (sic) "Chiseler" but the word soon sailed along as ample
description of an unscrupulous person...Likewise the word "Flop" came from
vaudeville and served to express itself in every other business...I remember
once Fred Allen casually speaking of an act "laying an egg"...the association
of the audience responding to cackling on the stage made a comparative
description of the way it went...since then the expression sailed along and,
like many of his other sayings and gags, were repeated...Once the slang
saying, "Cut the comedy" travelled along. That too, came from a vaudeville
agent's criticism of an act...Jimmie Durante's many sayings have been adopted
in daily slang...most popular is the word "Pansy" with its inference...It
started while in rehearsal of his number, "So I Ups to Him" with the trio and
the band in vaudeville...he sought to replace "Fairy" in the song...Bill
Drewes, his trombonist, suggested the name of that flower...Durante picked it
up and made it popular and since then every comic and erstwhile humorist has
used "Pansy" at least once, and the laymen responding with a laugh carried it
further till the general every day audeince adopted it...A popular saying,
"Walking out on him" came from a closing act's difficulty in holding an
audience...Acts in vaudeville, kiding each other, brought out the "Can you top
that?" or "Follow that" or "That kills me"...the intermingling at night clubs
and elsewhere made these expressions contagious...but these and many more
originated in the wings of vaudeville.

Zit's weekly cartoon "Burlesque Happenings" by Chas. Peanuts Bohn
contained lots of theatrical slang. The 6 April 1935, pg. 7 cartoon shows the
saga of a "3rd Bannana."
"Burlesque Happenings'" 13 April 1935, pg. 7 cartoon explains in the last
panel that "Quick Watson the needle" is "The latest cry in Burlesque." The
first panel asks the reader "Vas you there Sharlie?"


I've heard "Know what I mean, jelly bean?" and "Know what I mean, bean?"
since the 1960s. Maybe McDonald's is advertising Beanie Babies this way,
which would be cool beans.