Showing posts with label PLSB. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PLSB. Show all posts

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Flappers' Dictionary

Hidden deep within a box of materials that came into the shop this week was a short stack of old magazines. I’d never seen this title before, but I knew what it was just as soon as I saw it: Flapper. “Not for Old Fogies” said the masthead, but I took a look anyway. These were in beautiful condition (“Near Mint” is the technical term) and were just a lot of fun to page through.

During the Roaring 20s of the last century, young ladies took on a new, and for the time radical, lifestyle. These were the years following World War I and prior to The Great Depression. It was the jazz age and the ladies were taking full advantage in daring new ways. Illegal bootleg hooch was all the rage, with hide-away flasks an important fashion accessory. Smoking cigarettes became a statement of liberation. Hemlines were going up and, according to some, morals were going down.

It was all a reaction to what women perceived as stifling control placed over them by the male of the species. This magazine catered to the movement.

The July 1922 edition of Flapper contained “A Flappers’ Dictionary.” According to the uncredited author, “A Flapper is one with a jitney body and a limousine mind. The Shifter is a new species who flaunts as his banner, “Something for nothing and then very little.”

“The flapper movement is not a craze, but something that will stay,” the author maintained. “Many of the phrases now employed by members of this order will eventually find a way into common usage and be accepted as good English.”

The dictionary went into some detail, listing the group’s slang and providing definitions. In the process, it also provided an insight: through the slang we can begin to discern attitudes and priorities and the mindset of the adherents. And the adherents, after all, were our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Who knew?

My P,LSB*, ready and eager to join the movement, was amused by the term “Father Time” and couldn’t help but notice that it applied to one of us at the dinner table. And that was fine, until I pointed out that “Rock of Ages” might also have a present application.

So, whether you be airedale or biscuit, put down your dincher and pretend your munitions are fine for the moment. The whangdoodle is on in the background and you’re more weed than crepe hanger. This ain’t static; this is pure Di Mi. So pay attention; we don't want no klucks. And you may be edisoned later.

Absent Treatment—Dancing with a bashful partner.

Airedale—A homely man.

Alarm Clock—Chaperone.

Anchor—Box of flowers.

Apple Knocker—A hick; a hay-shaker.

Apple Sauce--Flattery; bunk.

Barlow—A girl, a flapper, a chicken.

Bank’s Closed—No petting allowed; no kisses.


Bee’s Knees—See “Cat’s Pajamas”

Bell Polisher—A young man addicted to lingering in vestibules at 1 a.m.

Bean Picker—One who patches up trouble and picks up spilled beans.

Berry Patch—A man’s particular interest in a girl.


Biscuit—A pettable flapper.

Big Timer—(n. masc.)—A charmer able to convince his sweetie that a jollier thing would be to get a snack in an armchair lunchroom; a romantic.

Billboard—Flashy man or woman.

Blushing Violet—A publicity hound.

Blouse—To go.

Blow—Wild party.

Blaah—No good.

Boob Tickler—Girl who entertains father’s out-of-town customers.

Brush Ape—Anyone from the sticks; a country Jake.

Brooksy—Classy dresser

Bust—A man who makes his living in the prize ring, a pugilist.

Bun Duster—See “Cake Eater”.

Bush Hounds—Rustics and others outside of the Flapper pale.

Cancelled Stamp—A wallflower.

Cake Basket—A limousine.

Cake Eater—See “Crumb Gobbler”

Cat’s Particulars—The acme of perfection; anything that’s good

Cat’s Pajamas—Anything that’s good

Cellar Smeller—A young man who always turns up where liquor is to be had without cost.

Clothesline—One who tells neighborhood secrets.

Corn Shredder—Young man who dances on a girl’s feet.

Crepe Hanger—Reformer.

Crumb Gobbler—Slightly sissy tea hound.

Crasher—Anyone who comes to parties uninvited.

Crashing Party—Party where several young men in a group go uninvited.

Cuddle Cootie—Young man who takes a girl for a ride on a bus, gas wagon or automobile.

Cuddler—One who likes petting.

Dapper—A flapper’s father.

Dewdropper—Young man who does not work, and sleeps all day.

Dincher—A half-smoked cigarette.

Dingle Dangler—One who insists on telephoning.

Dipe Ducat—A subway ticket.

Dimbox—A taxicab.

Di Mi—Goodness.


Dog Kennels—Pair of shoes.

Dropping the Pilot—Getting a divorce.

Dumbdora—Stupid girl.

Duck’s Quack—The best thing ever.

Ducky—General term of approbation.


Dudding Up—Dressing.

Dumbbell-Wall flower with little brains.

Dumkuff—General term for being “nutty” or “batty”.

Edisoned—Being asked a lot of questions.

Egg Harbor—Free dance.

Embalmer—A bootlegger.

Eye Opener—A marriage.

Father Time—Any man over 30 years of age.

Face Stretcher—Old maid who tries to look younger.

Feathers—Light conversation.

Fire Extinguisher—A chaperone.

Finale Hopper—Young man who arrives after everything is paid for.

Fire Alarm—Divorced woman.

Fire Bell—Married woman.


Flat Shoes—Fight between a Flapper and her Goof

Fluky—Funny, odd, peculiar; different.

Flatwheeler—Slat shy of money; takes girls to free affairs.

Floorflusher—Inveterate dance hound.

Flour Lover—Girl who powders too freely.

Forty-Niner—Man who is prospecting for a rich wife.

Frog’s Eyebrows—Nice, fine.

Gander—Process of duding up.

Green Glorious—Money and checks.

Gimlet—A chronic bore.

Given the Air—When a girl or fellow is thrown down on a date.

Give Your Knee—Cheek-to-cheek or toe-to-toe dancing.

Goofy—To be in love with, or attracted to. Example: “I’m goofy about Jack.”

Goat’s Whiskers—See “Cat’s Particulars”


Grummy—In the dumps, shades or blue.

Grubber—One who always borrows cigarettes.

Handcuff—Engagement ring.

Hen Coop—A beauty parlor.

His Blue Serge—His sweetheart.

Highjohn—Young man friend; sweetie, cutey, highboy.


Houdini—To be on time for a date.

Horse Prancer—See “Corn Shredder”.

Hush Money—Allowance from father.

Jane—A girl who meets you on the stoop.

Johnnie Walker—Guy who never hires a cab.

Kitten’s Ankles—See “Cat’s Particulars”.

Kluck—Dumb, but happy.


Lallygagger—A young man addicted to attempts at hallway spooning.

Lens Louise—A person given to monopolizing conversation.

Lemon Squeezer—An elevator.

Low Lid—The opposite of highbrow.

Mad Money—Carfare home if she has a fight with her escort.


Monkey’s Eyebrows—See “Cat’s Particulars”.

Monog—A young person of either sex who is goofy about only one person at a time.

Monologist—Young man who hates to talk about himself.

Mustard Plaster—Unwelcome guy who sticks around.

Munitions—Face powder and rouge.

Mug—To osculate or kiss.

Necker—A petter who puts her arms around a boy’s neck.

Noodle Juice—Tea.


Nut Cracker—Policeman’s nightstick.

Obituary Notice—Dunning letter.

Oilcan—An imposter.

Orchid—Anything that is expensive.

Out on Parole—A person who has been divorced.

Petting Pantry—Movie.

Petting Party—A party devoted to hugging.

Petter—A loveable person; one who enjoys to caress.

Pillow Case—Young man who is full of feathers.

Police Dog—Young man to whom one is engaged.

Potato—A young man shy of brains.

Ritzy Burg—Not classy.


Rock of Ages—Any woman over 30 years of age.

Rug Hopper—Young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.

Sap—A Flapper term for floorflusher.

Scandal—A short term for Scandal Walk.

Scandaler—A dance floor fullback. The interior of a dreadnaught hat, Piccadilly shoes with open plumbing, size 13.

Seetie—Anybody a flapper hates.

Sharpshooter—One who spends much and dances well.

Shifter—Another species of flapper.

Show Case—Rich man’s wife with jewels.

Sip—Flapper term for female Hopper.

Slat—See “Highjohn”; “Goof”.

Slimp—Cheapskate or “one way guy”.

Smith Brothers—Guys who never cough up.

Smoke Eater—A girl cigarette user.

Smooth—Guy who does not keep his word.

Snake—To call a victim with vampire arms.

Snuggleup—A man fond of petting and petting parties.

Sod Buster—An undertaker.


Stander—Victim of a female grafter.

Static—Conversations that mean nothing.

Strike Breaker—A young woman who goes with her friend’s “Steady” while there is a coolness.

Swan—Glide gracefully.

Tomato—A young woman shy of brains.

Trotzky (sic)—Old lady with a moustache and chin whiskers.

Umbrella—young man any girl can borrow for the evening.

Urban Set—Her new gown.

Walk In—Young man who goes to a party without being invited.

Weasel—Girl stealer.

Weed—Flapper who takes risks.

Weeping Willow—See “Crepe Hanger”

Whangdoodle—Jazz-band music.

Whiskbroom—Any man who wears whiskers.

Wind Sucker—Any person given to boasting.

Wurp—Killjoy or drawback.

*P,LSB = Poor, Long-Suffering Bride

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A 'Record Riot'

I know a guy who has a million records. That’s not hyperbole. In fact, when I say he has a million records, it is probably an understatement.

He lives in a 3-story house in the suburbs, and he barely has room for his kitchen table, TV and bed. Everywhere else, there’s records. You will see some on turntables (which are on the kitchen table and on the TV), but most are in boxes, stacked three or four high. And the boxes are everywhere, from the outer walls to the middle of the room. You walk from the kitchen, through the living room to the stairs and through the upstairs rooms following paths through the boxes.

Don’t even think about going into the basement.

And those are just the records he needs for everyday use. For the others, he has an off-site warehouse (again three stories, but with an elevator) and two additional storage facilities.

I know another guy who collects vintage recordings. Edison cylinders. Old Victrola platters (they only had recordings on one side). Early 78s of vaudeville routines and minstrel tunes. On the rare occasions when we’ve managed to get something in the shop that he doesn’t already have but needs to add to his collection, I am not allowed to tell his wife (1) how many pieces he’s bought (this time) or (2) how much he has paid. On at least one occasion, we’ve had to hold onto one of his purchases until he knew she wasn’t going to be around for a day, so he could bring it into the house without a lot of excess conversation.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that he is hiding his acquisitions. But he is a wise man and he has learned that, in the interests of domestic tranquility, there are times when it is best not to flaunt his, er, independence in this regard.

These two gentlemen are well known, liked and even respected in their individual spheres of acquaintance. If you were to pass either on the street, you wouldn’t give either a second glance if you were unaware of their passion for their collections.

They aren’t alone.

Last September we re-set the store and were able to devote a room to music. We have cassettes and CDs, and even a few 8-tracks. We have books, of course. And we have some sheet music on the wall, and even a few posters and autographs (Bing Crosby, for example). But what we have more than anything else is vinyl.

Rock-and-Roll, Jazz, Classical, Spoken Word, Country, Comedy. And from the day we put that together, I have been amazed at how much we sell.

At first I thought that only the Rock-and-Roll would sell, so that’s where we put our focus. We had a few Classical albums stuck off in a corner, but then they started to sell (autographs, too…Pavarotti lasted less than a week). So we expanded our selection and sales expanded likewise.

Then we got a large selection of Jazz albums from an estate and those started to sell before I could even put them away. The same thing happened with Country.

On at least two Sundays last fall, the sales out of the record room exceeded the sales of the rest of the shop, combined. That, to me, was amazing. We have almost 19,000 sq. ft. of books and stuff, and only about 300 sq. ft. of records. Yet, there are times when more people are in the record room than there are in the rest of the shop.

So yes, I noticed. There is something going on here.

And that’s why, when another avid collector approached me in January with the idea of a vinyl swap meet, I agreed.

Publicly, we’re calling it a ‘Record Riot’. Privately, I am calling it an experiment. I am really very curious to see who is going to show up. Supposedly there are dealers coming from Baltimore, Lancaster and Harrisburg, in addition to York. I’m not charging anybody to set up or to get in. In fact, I will be spending money on coffee and goodies to be given away. (And it is likely that I may wind up holding onto purchases for a week or two, until wives will be out of town.)

It will be a worthwhile investment. I want to know what it is about vinyl that fosters this passion. This is old technology, several generations old. Cassette tapes and 8-tracks have come and gone. Audio CDs are almost a thing of the past at this point. Yet vinyl lives.

Purists will tell you the sound is better, and this may be true if you’re using a high-end system (most collectors don’t). Is it the “pops” and “crackling”? The whole routine of taking the disc out of the jacket, dusting it off, placing it on the turntable, hoping there are no scratches, and then sitting back for 20 minutes or so before you have to do it again? The graphics and liner notes on an album? Some connection with a lost and, perhaps, more innocent time in one’s life?

I hope to find out next Wednesday evening.

Besides, my P,LSB* mentioned that she may be going out of town for a weekend here in the next month or so.

*Poor, Long-Suffering Bride™

Friday, April 24, 2009

There's a book for everyone

One of the satisfactions of the job of book peddler is matching the right book to the right customer. Someone will wander into the shop and when I ask if there’s anything in particular that they’re looking for, I’ll often get the “I’ll know it when I see it” response.

And that’s fine with me. I have no problem with folks wandering aimlessly around. What better place to wander aimlessly than a used book shop?

Tastes vary and that’s why we have sections on history, mathematics, romance, automotive repair, physics, vintage fiction, westerns and biography. And, while today you may have a hankering to work with trigonometric tables, tomorrow you might just want to sit down with a good whodunit.

So I really try to stock as wide a variety of subjects as is possible. But even I was a bit taken aback by this one.

Last fall we were cleaning out a stock room full of books that we had inherited when we bought the shop. There was some good stuff in there, and a lot of duplicates of books we already had on the shelves. But when we came across this one at the bottom of a box, I confess that I never thought it was going to sell.

I was all for donating it somewhere. With all the inventory we have, I just didn’t think we wanted to devote shelf space to something like this. But my poor, long-suffering bride (PLSB, © 2009) obviously is much more in touch with the real world than am I.

PLSB wouldn’t hear of us casually discarding such a work. She was convinced that there was a reader out there hungry for this book. I rolled my eyes and handed it over to her. If she wanted to add it to our on-line inventory that was fine with me, as long as I didn’t need to deal with it in the shop.

She was right, of course; she usually is (I will be the second one to tell you that. I’ll leave it to you to guess who the first one will be).

Tonight we received the order, and tomorrow morning we will ship Worm Farm Management off to a happy customer in Georgia.

There is a book for everyone.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thorne Smith

There are just too many mysteries written by someone named Smith. More accurately, I should say “someones named Smith,” because there seem to be a gazillion mystery writers named Smith. Not that Smith is a bad name; it is actually quite a nice name. But you would think that some of these writers would be clever enough to come up with another name, if only to differentiate themselves from all the other Smith-es out there.

I mean, if you’re going to have a “me too” name as a mystery writer, why not adopt something like Christie or Doyle or Grafton or something? That way, at least you might get some new readers…if only by mistake.

Yes, I do tend to have profound thoughts while shelving books.

And that was my general line of thinking yesterday as I was trying to jam yet another mystery onto the Smith shelf in our Whodunits section. And it was then that I came across a happy little accident: one of the Smiths didn’t belong there. It wasn’t a mystery at all and it had been mistakenly placed among the mysteries and it belonged somewhere else.

Two good things about that: (1) by pulling off the wrong book I suddenly had room for the new Smith, and (2) I came across a Thorne Smith that I didn’t know we had!

James Thorne Smith (1892-1934) was one of those urban sophisticate authors who seemed to litter the streets of New York City in the 20s and 30s. He was of a kind with James Thurber, Alexander Woolcott and Dorothy Parker. He is just not quite as well remembered as those others.

And it is hard to find a neat category for him. I may have to start an “Urban Sophisticate” section in here.

He wrote humor, but it came from a dark and sardonic place. His books were almost science fiction/fantasy,but they contained no space ships or time travel. Rather, the characters were always transformed into something they were not. There was usually plenty of drinking involved. And lots of sex. Some of it sly; some of it fumbling. And all of it more-or-less licit. But it was actually pretty racy stuff for its day (although it is pretty tame by the standards of some of the contemporary literature that comes in here).

“Like life itself,” he wrote of his work, “my stories have no point and get absolutely nowhere. And like life they are a little mad and purposeless…They are like the man who dashes madly through traffic only to linger aimlessly on the opposite corner watching a fountain pen being demonstrated in a shop window. Quite casually I wander into my plot, poke around with my characters for a while, then amble off, leaving no moral proved and no reader improved.”

Truth be told, this is my idea of a good read. A bit of mental floss at the end of the day.

His most famous work, perhaps the only one most folks remember today, is Topper. It involves the adventures of a banker (the title character) and two ghosts (who happen to be married to one another; one of whom continually engages in some spirited* flirting with Topper). In 1937, Hal Roach made it into a movie starring Cary Grant. Later, Leo G. Carroll became Topper in the 50s TV series. His other claim to fame was The Passionate Witch, published posthumously in 1941, that was the basis for the play/movie Bell, Book and Candle and, ultimately, the Bewitched television series.

The one I happened upon yesterday was Skin and Bones (1933) wherein photographer Quintus Bland undergoes a bizarre accident in his darkroom that sends him (and his dog) bouncing back-and-forth between flesh- and-bone to X-ray (i.e., skeleton) projections of themselves. It includes the usual drinking and morally-questionable behavior and rather spicy drawings. It wasn’t at a risqué level to get it banned, but prim country club matrons probably wouldn’t quite approve. Pretty good stuff overall.

So…welcome, Mr. Smith. Into which section shall I place you? Literature? Science Fiction? Morally-questionable? Vintage fiction?

Maybe I shall take you home, and thus provide yet another opportunity for my poor, long-suffering bride (PLSB © 2009) to cock an eyebrow and shake her head. She probably won’t quite approve.

I, on the other hand, shall approve heartily.

*Get it? Spirited...ghost. Well, OK. So I'm not Thorne Smith.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Number 2,499

Sometime during the night tonight we shall pass a milestone. Earlier today we shipped book #2,499 that had been ordered through one of the on-line services. If all goes well, we will receive an order for number two thousand, five hundred tonight.

When I stop and think about it, I come to the conclusion that it is really quite an accomplishment. We haven’t really been involved with that aspect of the business all that long; a little over two years, perhaps. And we really only got religion about it a year or so ago.

I saw “we”, but it really is my poor, long-suffering bride (hereinafter “PLSB”) who does all the work on this phase of the business, and to her go the accolades. She sifts through the inventory that comes into the shop and decides which books are to be fully catalogued and put on the Internet. Truly, she has a better feel for this than do I. And it is she who keeps the records straight, takes the orders, does the packing and makes the daily schlep to the post office.

PLSB is good at it and she enjoys it. And she has, with good reason, mandated that I pretty much stay away from it.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. In all fairness, I should say that she has actually mandated that I stay THE HELL away from it. A wise woman, my PLSB.

But I admit that I am of two minds about this business of selling books online.

On the one hand, of course, I am more than happy to cash the checks from Abe, Alibris, Biblio, Amazon, Barns & Noble, et. al. It is not quite “found” money. But it is certainly bonus money.

We maintain two distinct inventories. The larger is the one in the shop and it numbers upwards of 300,000 titles. The online inventory, now numbering around 3,000 titles, consists of the more esoteric titles and they generally are significantly more expensive. Whereas the average book in the shop will sell for between $3 and $4, the online average is in the $12 to $15 range (with more than a few listed for $75 to $100 or more).

So, yes, I am happy that my PSLB has developed this business and that she is shipping books to Australia, Russia, South America and throughout the United States (all this just within the past week, by the way).

The problem I have with online sales is really two-fold. First, I would kinda like to have some of these in the shop, even if they don’t sell. We keep some of the more rare books under lock-and-key here, and I think they’re probably safe. And they are certainly neat to look at. But that’s a lousy business decision. Still “neat” is rather high on my list of priorities. (“Eating regularly” ranks a little higher, which is why they’re online.)

The other is a more philosophic reason. Perhaps I am a bit of a Luddite in all this, but the purist in me would rather someone come into a book shop, any book shop even if it is not mine, to find reading material. There is something to be said for poking around the shelves of a used book shop in search of a treasure. There’s the aspect of working just a little bit to find what you seek…the thrill of the hunt and all that. There’s also the aspect of browsing and making the happy discovery of a title that you hadn’t known. Perhaps a little-known work by a favorite author or an obscure title on the topic of interest.

It is a romantic notion that I fear is rapidly going out of style.

Last night I committed an act that brought me square up against my misgivings by posting a direct link from our website to our online inventory:

One stop closer, I suppose, to the end of civilization as we know it.

So…here’s to Number 2,500! I hope it is something fun. And here’s to my PLSB! She is certainly something fun.

And here’s to my continuing to stay THE HELL away from the online business!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did you forget the one thing I asked you to do this morning?

My poor, long-suffering bride triggered the deer-in-the-headlights response (that is a technical term) from me this morning while I was rushing around getting ready to come in and open the shop.

“Did you forget the one thing I asked you to do this morning?”

It is a perfectly legitimate question and one that my poor, long-suffering bride was well within her rights to ask.

It is also a question absolutely fraught with peril. There are undertows here, with momentous implications and deeply significant meanings into which the unwitting may blunder and there be impaled, forevermore, by a rash, unwise or otherwise innocent response.

Truly, it was a thing of beauty.

Let us stop for a moment here to examine the danger. If we parse the question we may more fully appreciate the awesome power wielded with so little effort by my poor, long-suffering bride (hereinafter, “PLSB”).

Did you forget…” Obviously, the answer is "yes", otherwise the question would never have been asked in the first place. Just as obviously, one cannot just blurt out this answer, lest the battle be lost without a shot being fired (although the experienced husband will know at this point that the battle has, indeed, already been lost). But it is a signal, and most husbands who acknowledge a PLSB will immediately rise to the balls of their feet (this is known as “assuming the position”) in anticipation of what is to come.

…the one thing…” Dear, Holy Mother of God! PLSB only asked one thing of me and I have already forgotten what it was! The wise man has already started to review every word that may have passed between him and his PLSB since the breaking of dawn. This is a natural and utterly useless attempt to reconstruct the past. Studies have shown this process to be akin to one’s life passing before one’s eyes in the moments before imminent death. It is usually accompanied by the feeling you get when you lean too far back and your chair and you almost fall over but just catch yourself at the last moment.

…that I asked…” Read: “I do so much for you and ask so little in return and you just don’t care enough to pay attention to anything I say and what I want just makes no difference to you at all and if it doesn’t fit in with what you want to do it has no meaning at all you schmuck.” There is simply no acceptable response, verbal or non-verbal, to this. You cannot run; you cannot hide.

…you to do…” See “…that I asked…”, above.

…this morning?” The day has barely begun, but you might as well give up because it is all downhill from here. Accept it: you will be lucky to get dinner tonight.

All of this, of course, goes through your mind in a matter of milliseconds: weighing options, judging outcomes and playing-though various scenarios. Hence, the deer-in-the-headlights response.

In the end, of course, there is only one acceptable avenue open to you. You must let your shoulders sag, bow your head in mute acceptance of your eternal thoughtlessness, and go do the dishes. It probably isn’t what PLSB asked you to do, but it won’t hurt.

I am reminded of an episode of You Bet Your Life:
Groucho—“Are you married, Georgette?”
Georgettte—“Yes, I’ve been married to the same man for thirty-one years.”
Groucho—“Well, if he’s been married for thirty-one years, he’s not the same man.”

Oh, by the way, absolutely the LAST thing you should do is blog about it.