Friday, September 16, 2005


Something I didn't know

From the Oxford New Dictionary of Eponyms. Be sure to read through to the end--it just gets better and better.
BLURB: Belinda Blurb was a fictional character who appeared on the dust jacket of a book written by Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) titled Are You a Bromide? Her name has been immortalized by its acceptance into the English language and by an entry in recent English dictionaries.

The publisher of the book, B.W. Huebish, in the summer 1937 issue of the publication Colophon, to report the history of the word blurb, wrote: "It is the custom of publishers to present copies of a conspicuous current book to booksellers attending the annual dinner of their trade association, and as this little book was in its heyday when the meeting took place I gave it to 500 guests. These copies were differentiated from the regular edition by the addition of a comic bookplate drawn by the author and by a special jacket which he devised. It was the common practice to print the picture of a damsel--languishing, heroic, or coquettish--on the jacket of every novel, so Burgess lifted from a Lydia Pinkham or tooth-powder advertisement the portrait of a sickly sweet young woman, painted in some gleaming teeth, and otherwise enhanced her pulchritude, and placed her in the center of the jacket. His accompanying text was some nonsense about 'Miss Belinda Blurb,' and thus the term supplied a real need and became a fixture in our language."

Burgess was born in Boston, attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in the late 1800s moved to San Francisco. After a stint of teaching at Berkeley, he became an associate editor of The Wave, a society paper. He was a prolific writer, known for a briskly satirical style, as exemplified by the titles of some of his books. Aside from Are You a Bromide? (1906) he wrote Why Men Hate Women (1927) and Look Eleven Years Younger (1937), and several other books in the same vein.

Burgess, in 1895, wrote a four-liner that plagued him all the rest of his life. His whimsical quatrain--"I never saw a Purple Cow, / I never hope to see one; / But I can tell you anyhow, / I'd rather see than be one"--was gleefully shouted at him wherever he went. In retaliation, in 1914, Burgess wrote this rebuttal--"Ah, yes I wrote the Purple Cow, / I'm sorry now, I wrote it! / But I can tell you anyhow / I'll kill you if you quote it!"

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?