“Hells Bells” Notes on Swearing.

swearingIn 1904, Roland D. Sawyer launched a crusade against obscenity.
No one ever heard my grandmother, in all her eighty-three years, utter a bad word. I can only once remember her even raising her voice. “It’s all fouled up!” she cried then, shaking a broken TV set.
She said it with such frustration and despair that it expressed at least as much as any curse word might have. In fact, besides the time I heard a four-year-old in my brother’s playgroup call his sister Mary-Ellen a “fuckindamnshit,” it was the most shocking thing I’d ever heard.
Her husband, my grandfather, was considered foul-mouthed in the family; his language was a constant cause of distress to her. But in fact, he didn’t use real swear words either—certainly not compared to that little boy.
It was usually a savage Goddammit! Or Hell’s Bell’s! His worst outbursts were reserved for his weekly gin game. It was then that he’d reach for the worst epithet of all: “I’ll be dipped.”
“I’ll be dipped”—said with a vehement emphasis on the last word that hinted at incipient violence, and with an Arkansas accent—was all the scarier because we weren’t sure what it meant. Sheep dip? Boiling oil? As a grown-up, I’ve heard it since in the South (or in its cruder form, “I’ll be dipped in shit!”) but it’s always a benign expression of surprise. Never does it convey the menace that my grandfather’s version did.
It’s true that curse words tend to be ugly—guttural, coarse, basic—but then, any word can be made ugly.
There just needs to be enough rage behind it, the way something innocent can be turned into a weapon.
Read on via Notes on Swearing: Is “I’ll Be Dipped” Our Finest Epithet?.

Baby Racing in the 1950s, New Jersey.

diaper-derby-baby-racing-12The annual event was held at a fairground in Palisades Park, New Jersey, from 1946 to 1955.
They were fiercely-fought competitions full of screaming, crying, and tantrums, but as one set of archived images reveals, baby-racing Diaper Derbies were in fact a popular spectator sport during the mid-twentieth century.
For some reason – probably health and safety gone mad – baby racing is no longer a thing you can go and see.
But these photos from the golden era of baby racing are amazing.

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Source: vintage everyday: Baby Racing Used To Be A Real Life Actual Sport During The Mid-20 Century, And It Was Amazing!

Unusual Deaths from the 1920s.

1920: Ray “Chappie” Chapman, shortstop for the Cleveland Indians baseball team, was killed when a submarine ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him in the temple. Chapman collapsed at the plate, and died about 12 hours later. He remains the only major league baseball player killed by a pitched ball.
1920: Dan Andersson, a Swedish author, died of cyanide poisoning while staying at Hotel Hellman in Stockholm. The hotel staff had failed to clear the room after using hydrogen cyanide against bed bugs.
1920: Alexander I, King of the Hellenes, was taking a walk in the Royal Gardens, when his dog was attacked by a monkey. The King attempted to defend his dog, receiving bites from both the monkey and its mate. The diseased animals’ bites caused sepsis and Alexander died three weeks later.
1923: Frank Hayes, a jockey at Belmont Park, New York, died of a heart attack during his first race. His mount finished first with his body still attached to the saddle, and he was only discovered to be dead when the horse’s owner went to congratulate him.
1923: George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, died allegedly because of the so-called King Tut’s Curse after a mosquito bite on his face, which he cut while shaving, became seriously infected with erysipelas, leading to blood poisoning and eventually pneumonia.
1925: Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, a circus strongman and Jewish folklore hero, died after demonstrating he could drive a spike through five one-inch (2.54 cm) thick oak boards using only his bare hands. He accidentally pierced his knee and the rusted spike caused an infection which led to fatal blood poisoning.
1926: Phillip McClean, 16, from Queensland, Australia became the only person documented to have been killed by a cassowary. After encountering the bird on their family property near Mossman in April, McClean and his brother decided to kill it with clubs. When McClean struck the bird it knocked him down, then kicked him in the neck, opening a 1.25 cm (0.5 in) long cut in one of his main blood vessels. Though the boy managed to get back on his feet and run away, he collapsed a short while later and died from the hemorrhage.
1926: Harry Houdini, the famous American escape artist, was punched in the stomach by an amateur boxer. Though this had been done with Houdini’s permission, complications from this injury may have caused him to die days later, on 31 October 1926. It was later determined that Houdini died of a ruptured appendix, though it is contested as to whether or not the punches actually caused the appendicitis.

1927: Isadora Duncan, dancer, died of a broken neck when her long scarf caught on the wheel of a car in which she was a passenger.

Source: List of unusual deaths | encyclopedia article by TheFreeDictionary

“Mortician” is another Gobbledygook Word, 1895.

The word “Mortician” was first printed in the February 1895 issue of Embalmers Monthly, where it was proposed as a replacement for “undertaker” or “funeral director.”
People outside the industry didn’t much care for it, complaining that it “grates the ear.”
For decades afterward it was called “ugly,” “affected,” an “uncouth stranger,” and an “atrocity” of a euphemism.
The literary critic Harry Levin called it a “pseudo-Latinism of dubious currency.”
Source: 12 Horrible Gobbledygook Words We Reluctantly Accepted | Mental Floss

The Baby who Loved Lemons.

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One day when he was 9 months old Michael Thomas Roesle was squirming on his mother’s lap while she tried to serve tea to a neighbor.
Inevitably Michael Thomas got his hands on a slice of lemon and popped it into his mouth.
A gargantuan pucker swept across his face, wrinkling it like an old prune.
But Michael Thomas manfully continued to chew.
Then he reached eagerly for another slice. Now his parents, who live in Richmond, Caliornia, have to keep a bag of lemons handy all the time . . . and Michael Thomas eats them by the dozen.
In fact, he picks them over chocolate ice-cream cones 10 times out of 10.
So — here’s to Michael Thomas, and the countless other kids everywhere who manage, simply by being themselves, to confound all expectations and make life so perfectly, marvelously unpredictable.
via Sour Power: Here’s to the Little Boy Who Loved to Eat Lemons | LIFE.com.

Freaky Revellers, A Carnival of Creepiness, Europe.

1589Freakiest Revellers – In Pictures.
In his new book Dusk, Axel Hoedt photographs carnival-goers away from the crowds in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
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The results will send shivers down your spine.1581

See more Images via A carnival of creepiness: Europe’s freakiest revellers – in pictures | Art and design | The Guardian.