Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Little Woman's Fur Coat

I didn't stay in bed watching movies this morning.  I stayed in bed solving a double-crostic. 
 As you may be able to see, this one was number 82, in a book that reprints 182 double-crostics from the Sunday New York Times.  When the answer to a clue is Spiro Agnew, you know these are old puzzles.  Period pieces. 
I didn't have much trouble with the first four clues --Rough out, Intertwine, Network, Gandhi (which I misspelled) so I knew the author's first name was RING.  Cinch after that -- the next words down obviously started with LARDNE and R.  My age and that of the puzzle matched nicely.  I suspect there are lots of literate young people who never heard of Ring Lardner.  And then the remaining clues started with the excerpt's title:  WORLD SERIOUS.
You may not be able to read the quotation:
IT LOOKS TO ME LIKE AS IF THE SERIOUS SHOULD OUGHT TO BE WELL OVER BY SUNDAY NIGHT AND THE LITTLE WOMAN'S NEW FUR COAT DELIVERED TO OUR LITTLE HOME SOME TIME MONDAY AND MAYBE WE WILL GET INVITED OUT SOMEWHERES THAT NIGHT AND THEY WILL BE A BLIZZARD.
Ring Lardner specialized in giving his protagonists nifty grammar, but that last "THEY" strikes me as  a bit excessive.
None of which is what I started out to tell you.  What I noticed is "the little woman."  When's the last time you heard it?  the last time anyone said it?  are there literate young people who wouldn't know what it means?
And if it comes to that, what's become of fur coats?  When I was young, fur coats were everywhere, and all of us could interpret the wearer's status:  the inexpensive bunny shrug; the fox stole complete with head, tail and sometimes legs; the college man's raccoon -- that last pretty much gone after World War Two.  
We recognized immediately the young woman's sheared beaver, the matron's Persian lamb, the factory worker's stiff  "mouton." 
  I doubt if we knew much about nutria, but when mink appeared, people nearby would nudge each other and gape.  Stylish models wore trench coats lined with it.  In Montreal my mother-in-law's women friends (none of whom knew how to drive, btw) had one fur for waiting at bus stops and a fancier one for evenings. 
I found hundreds of illustrations for fur coats, but when I tried for The Little Woman, nothing came up but book covers and movie posters for Little Women. 
You can't beat that 1933 b&w version, the one that had Katharine Hepburn as Jo and -- of course -- Edna Mae Oliver as Aunt March. 

2 comments:

  1. Elizabeth ZimmerJune 21, 2015 at 3:28 AM

    Edith, if you're not doing it already you should start watching Jeopardy! You'll find that you know the answers to many of the questions (or is it, in the parlance of the show, the questions to many of the answers?) that the contestants miss, simply because the information involved predates 1995.

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  2. Lena's seal coat, much the worse than when she wore it, hangs in my closet as I type. Hard to know how to feel on the two or three occasions a year when I wear it. Nostalgic or guilty.

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