Sunday, January 20, 2013

Graphic Grandeur (Drawing Room Edition)


Picture postcard, 1915. Artist unknown.

"ISH KA BIBBLE" in the lower left hand corner, was the name of a popular nonsense song of 1913. Later, the name of a nonsense radio comedian of the 1930s and '40s. According to some research I did, it may be mock-Yiddish for "I should worry." Can't explain much more about anything else written here. I mean, worry like a gimlet? What kind of simile is that? What does a gimlet--which is name of both a tool, pictured here, and a cocktail--have to worry about? This actually put me on an etymological search of the word worry to see if perhaps it was an arcane carpentry term. It's not. Nor does it have anything to do with cocktails, though I can understand someone full of worry wanting to get plastered. According to my research, worry comes from the Old English word wyrgan, which in turn came from the Old German word worgen, meaning "to strangle". I'm no carpenter, but you don't strangle a piece of wood with a gimlet. At one time the word did mean "to lacerate", which in turn means "to cut". You DO cut a hole with a gimlet, so we might be getting somewhere. But why would someone then feel bored? A gimlet is a bore-er, not a bore-ee. And worry and boredom are not two emotions, or mind sets, I associate with each other. You can be so bored you fall to sleep (hence the woman yawning), but worry can keep you awake at night. Actually, I've found worrying about a word's etymology can keep you awake at night.

I get that it's suppose to be a pun, but wouldn't "I'm bored" be sufficient? If you're familiar with comic strips made before 1920, you know they're filled with all kinds of odd things, such as answers before questions, or captions that contradict word balloons. Though the above is a postcard and not a strip, I was tempted to just chalk it up as a "1915 thing." The folks back then got it and we don't. Except the fact that someone felt the need to actually draw a gimlet and a piece of wood tells me there was some doubt everyone would get the joke.

You didn't need the joke written out at all. Though the loopy Lothario and disinterested damsel was already a comic cliche in 1915, the artwork, to my eyes, makes it fresh and amusing. Look at that attractive (even with an oversized head) young woman yawn. She so much in the foreground it's as if she's sharing her tedium with us, letting us in that she's unimpressed with whatever the oblivious, aging would-be suitor is talking about.

And just what is he so eagerly yakking on about? The size of a fish he caught? His spanking brand-new Model T? A gall stone that was removed?

Perhaps he's a carpenter describing how he once worried a gimlet through a piece of wood.



 

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