Vaudeville Slang

Here’s a great list of vaudeville slang I found. I love a peek into the vocabulary of any specific art form. A lot of these terms are in common usage now, but some are just a great look into the life of a working performer.

Here are a few:

– Hanging around the theatre making it known that you are a performer in order to try and impress others. Grandstanding. Named after the 44″ x 84″ posters that were used in the lobby of the Vaudeville theatre to promote the show

Playing to the haircuts
– Last on the bill. In other words, playing to the backs of the audience as they left the theatre.

The Gerry Society
– The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Named for founder Elbridge T. Gerry. Originally founded to prevent the exploitation of child labour, the society was a thorn in the side of vaudevillians. The society declared performers must be over 16 to work in vaudeville. Buster Keaton, Fred Astaire, Rose Marie and Milton Berle were only a few of the child performers who ran into trouble with the Gerry Society.

Also, I had hear the term “working blue” before, but I never knew where it came from…

Blue – Crude jokes or other material using graphic sexual or toilet references or profanity. The term comes from the days when Keith-Albee insisted that performers stick to strict standards of propriety and would send blue envelopes with cuts to performers. You obeyed them or quit. And if you quit, you got a black mark against your name in the head office and you didn’t work on the circuit anymore.

Take the time to learn the slang used by people in the same artistic field you want to be in. It makes it easier to talk to other people interested in the same thing and helps you be taken seriously.

Historical Photographic Reference

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Here’s a great resource if you are writing or drawing anything from the beginning of photography through the 1940s. Shorpy’s is donated copyright free images from the dawn of photography. Not only is an amazingly inspirational thing to add to your RSS feed, but there is also lively discussion of the images. If you have some to add to the pool, they’re always looking for new stuff.

You can even check out the history of cat photography! It existed long before the internet.

Also, I’ve blogged this site before, but their content, scans of copyright free beautiful books, is amazing – Bibliodyssey. They just posted a group of pre-printed envelopes from the Civil War that are worth a look.

The history of punk zines

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The Digital Fanzine Preservation Society has posted a huge archive of original punk zines online for free!

Not only do these magazines have obvious historical value, but the style and layout have been appropriated many times and it’s nice to go back to the angry, messy and difficult to read originals. No large company could ever match the offensive cheapness of the originals.

As a teenager I bought some of these at Monkey’s Retreat in Columbus, Ohio. They fascinated me and, I have to admit, scared me a little bit. Looking at them now, I just see the the cut and xerox, all text done with a typewriter and DIY simplicity. But, at the time, they seemed like they came from a tremendously cool alternate universe where the magazines looked like they were written and designed by people in an insane asylum.

You can also get a selection of old Maximum Rockndroll issues from their site.

Even more zines here!

Obsessed with giants: Frederick William of Prussia

Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 8.18.22 PMA King obsessed with giants so deeply that he had an entire regiment of them in his army? I saw a brief reference to King Frederick William’s obsession with giants in a book I was reading about circus sideshows and immediately had to track down more information. How could I not have heard of the Prussian ruler who had an entire regiment of giants? It sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s true.

There are plenty of references available on the web, but the most complete I found was this one. Frederick it seems collected giants to be in his special giant regiment, the Potsdam Grenadiers. He would send agents to other countries searching for giants and offer them great sums of money to come and join his unit, if they refused he would often order them kidnapped.

His obsession made him the laughing-stock of most of the royal houses of Europe. His judgment was so clouded in this area that he would bring his nation to the brink of war while attempting to kidnap a seven-foot tall man from another country. In fact, other countries could easily gain his favor by presenting him with a gift of giants. The poor giants were paid well, but there were many attempts at desertion and suicide as they were separated from their homes and families.

To get around the trouble caused by his illegal giant activities, Frederick hit upon another idea. Instead of capturing them, he would breed them. He then started forcing the tallest men in his kingdom to couple with the tallest women to produce giant babies. Of course the effects were not immediate, but in a couple of generations there was a much larger proportion of giants in the city of Potsdam, especially very tall women.

In his deluded way, Frederick loved his hundreds of giants. He spent hours drilling them into one of finest precision military units in the world. They were dressed in expensive and detailed military uniforms topped off with tall red caps. He could paint their faces from memory and often did. In times of deep depression, he would have them march, preceded by their huge bear mascot, through his room to cheer himself up. It is said he treated them as a boy might treat his toy soldiers, and at five foot five, he was proportionally a child in their presence. Draw your own psychological conclusions.

Click here to read more about this fascinating story

Find Books and Movies By Plot

Fiction Menu is a site that lets you search for books and movies by plot details. The methodology is very unscientific, so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find a book you half remember reading as a child. Really, it lets you search other people’s descriptions of recommended books and vote their description up and down. The descriptions vary in quality. Here’s the description for Crime and Punishment:

A poor student kills an old woman, money-lender. But money is not the only stimulus. The murder is grounded on the student’s theory of morality.

Wow. Not much to go on.

Still, it’s a great idea. If the site takes off it could become incredibly useful.

Edit to add:

The original site has been discontinued and replaced with this one!

This Book is Unrecommended

Looking for something to read? Library Thing will let you go the usual Amazon route where things are recommended based on what you like. But, more interestingly, it will also let you type in a book you love and tell you what books you will hate based on that.

If one of your favorites is Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, it tells you that you will loathe Confessions of a Shopaholic. This is based on information about people’s actual bookshelves, so in the examples I typed in it was entirely accurate. Not to self: Never read Real Men Don’t Apologize by Jim Belushi, the internet tells me I would hate it. Well, that and common sense.

Link to the Unsuggestor

via Likehacker

Pagan Idol: rate your favorite gods

Godchecker not only has tons of great information about deities from around the world written in a informative and humorous style, but it also features a Deity of the Day.

Here’s a sample from the Chinese god, Monkey:

From the beginning of time, a certain rock on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers had been soaking up the goodness of nature and QI energy. One day this pregnant rock released a stone egg, and from it hatched a Stone Ape, who solemnly bowed to the Four Corners of the Earth — then jumped off to have fun.

This was MONKEY. He was high-spirited, egotistical and full of mischievous pranks. He was soon having a wonderful time as King of the Apes. But a niggling worry began to gnaw at him — one which would change his life. The Monkey King feared Death.

There are also essays, some theory and they just added a section for Christian Saints. Not only a useful reference for catching up on your mythology, but an entertaining one.

I’m not a nerd, he’s a nerd: slang for nerd status

I’ve been reading Talk The Talk: The Slang of 65 American Subcultures, which anyone interested in language should own. It’s a glossary, divided by group, of the inside talk used by people who participate in certain activities. There’s a lot of revealing information in the book. In particular, I’m interested in the use of slang to define the status within groups that are looked down upon.

Take a look at the historical reenactor section. Unlike the stamp collectors, they have words dividing themselves up into people who are too serious, just the right amount of serious or not serious enough. In their eyes it’s the people who are too serious that people outside the group are making fun of and rightly so. The book lists three terms for those people “button pissers”, “thread counters” and “soap eaters”.

Continue reading

Lost Art Form – Vaudeville!


Vaudeville! The Library of Congress has a great selection of available recordings, films and other information about that lost form of entertainment, the vaudeville stage. You can listen to The Arkansas Traveller, a comedy sketch that dates back to at least 1852! A Laughing Sketch, there were lots of these. It was basically a sketch where something happened and someone with an infectious laugh started laughing until everyone on stage and the whole crowd joined in on the mass hysteria. Or just enjoy a dramatic reading like this one.

They don’t have video collection online, but if you find a title you like in their archive, search youtube, I found Animal Act With Baboon, Dog and Donkey.

There are also scanned scripts available. The featured script right now is The Lone Hand Four Aces (To be acted by a Troupe of Educated Dogs). Most of the scripts read as if they are transcribed from someone describing the stage act to someone else. Which they probably were. Scripts in English and Yiddish.

Perfect for research, inspiration and entertainment.

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