The etymology of “beazel”

I’d wanted to write last night about Donald Trump’s ever-changing position on mandatory background checks for gun sales, and the pathetic way in which he publicly grovels at the feet of the NRA, but, when I saw that one of my favorite films, Preston Sturges’s delightfully thoughtful 1941 screwball comedy Sullivan’s Travels, was going to be on television, I decided to take a little time off. And, apparently, I’m still under its spell. Here it is 24 hours later, and I’m still making my way down Sullivan’s Travels-related rabbit holes. Last night, I was trying to find verification that Charlie Chaplin had stopped Sturges from using footage of his Little Tramp character in the film’s well-known church scene. And, today, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to figure out the etymology of the word “beasel,” which is uttered by the protagonist’s butler about half-way through the film. Here’s that exchange from the film’s script… For those of you familiar with the film, this exchange takes place as Burrows (Robert Greig), the butler, drops off his employer, film director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), and his companion (Veronica Lake), at a Los Angeles hobo camp so that they might be able to hop a train east.

SULLIVAN TO THE GIRL (WHO IS DRESSED LIKE A BOY): You look about as much like a boy as Mae West.

THE GIRL: All right, they’ll think I’m your frail.

BURROWS: I believe it’s called a “beazel,” miss, if memory serves.

[I didn’t know this until I started doing some research, but “frail,” when used as a noun, is — or at least was — a slang term for a slight girl or woman.]

OK, so it’s not something I’m likely to get to the bottom of right now, but here’s what I’ve found thus far.

While the word “beazel” is used in Sullivan’s Travels, most of the discussion around the term seems to be centered around its use by Rosalind Russell two years earlier, in George Cukor’s brilliant 1939 film, The Women. And, in that case, most people seem to think it was used because censors wouldn’t allow either “bitch” or “floozie” to be used, and the producers had to find an alternative. [I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I’ve seen it mentioned that The Women’s published screenplay spells the word “beezle”.] Here, with more on this, is a clip from the July 31, 1939 edition of the Washington, D.C. Evening Star.

And, perhaps because of this article, and that line about how “there was nothing for the studio to do but to coin an entirely new set of words,” a good number of people still seem to think the word was essentially pulled from the ether by the screenplay’s author. The truth, however, seems to be that the word significantly predated The Women, having first been used a quarter of a century earlier, during the era of the flapper.

To the right, you’ll see a piece that ran in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune, in Logansport, Indiana, on April 25, 1922. As you’ll notice, the word not only pre-dated The Women by decades, but it’s defined in such a way as make sense in the context of both films… A beazel, as you can read here, is essentially a more experienced flapper. And, by flapper, of course, we mean, a young, fashionable, independent, modern woman, who, according the dictionary, is “intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behavior.” [If you’ll recall, American women had just won the right to vote in 1920, with the passage fo the 19th Amendment, so the theme of the independent woman had pretty much permeated popular culture.]

So, Veronica Lake, in Sullivan’s Travels, dresses like a boy in hopes of avoiding suspicion while hopping freight trains with her new-found director friend, gets told that her disguise isn’t working, responds by pretty much saying, “So, they’ll think I’m an innocent, non-sexual, androgynous girl,” only to essentially be told by the butler, “No, it’s pretty clear that you’re an independent, sexual, modern woman who knows exactly what she’s doing.” At least that’s my reading of things. [So, she’s not as naive as a barlow, and not as sexually experienced as a biscuit, but somewhere in between.] If you disagree, let me know.

And, now, I can’t stop reading about flapper slang. The following comes from page 235 of the book, The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances: Outrage at Couple Dancing in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries. As you can see, the definition of beazel remains fairly consistent with what was presented above from 1922.

Or, if you don’t want to talk about beazels, we can talk about common sense gun control, you pettable crumb-gobblers.

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Days after Trump takes credit for single-handedly saving the steel industry, 200 Michigan steelworkers lose their jobs

A week ago today, standing in front of 5,000 Royal Dutch Shell contract employees in Monaca, Pennsylvania — who, by the way, were told that, if they didn’t attend, they wouldn’t be paid — Donald Trump announced that the American steel industry “was dead” until he levied tariffs against imported steel last year.

According to the White House website, his exact words were, “…And, by the way, steel — steel was dead. Your business was dead. OK? I don’t want to be overly crude. Your business was dead. And I put a little thing called ‘a 25 percent tariff’ on all of the dumped steel all over the country. And now your business is thriving.”

Well, today — just seven days after Donald Trump delivered those remarks — it was announced that US Steel would be laying off 200 workers right here in Michigan.

If the name US Steel rings a bell, it might be because Donald Trump has referenced the company before, as an example of his brilliant manipulation of world markets to benefit American workers.

In reality, it would appear as though Donald Trump’s poorly thought through tariffs, in many cases, have done more harm than good, in large part because they’ve increased uncertainty in the market. In the case of the steel industry, Trump stepped in and announced tariffs against Chinese steel, causing American firms to start stockpiling the commodity, which, in turn, led to decreased demand the following quarter. While I suppose it’s possible that these recent job losses could be temporary, and the American steel industry could come roaring back to life, things aren’t looking good right now, and Donald Trump, who has campaigned on the power of his tariffs to reinvigorate industry, needs to step up and take ownership… You can’t keep issuing statements like the following when things are good, and then say, when the layoffs start being announced, that you didn’t play a role.

One last thing. While we’re talking about Trump and the economy, check out “The Trump vs. Obama economy — in 15 charts” in today’s Washington Post, if you haven’t already. There’s lots of good stuff in it.

Posted in Economics, Marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

An online architectural tour of my earliest years in Frankfort, Kentucky

If you’re reading this in the future, and want to send a cyborg back in time in order to keep me from being born, so that I don’t destroy Skynet, or do whatever terrible and awesome thing it is that I’m going to do in my remaining years here on earth, this is where you should probably send them. This is the duplex in Frankfort, Kentucky were my parents were living in 1967, just prior to my birth… I hesitate to think about it, but it may even be were I was conceived.

My parents just recently went on a pilgrimage of sorts, retracing their early years of married life around Frankfort, Kentucky, and this is one of the photos that they texted me. I don’t imagine that any of you will likely care, but, as I’m tired of thinking about politics, and figure there’s a chance that one of my kids may someday be curious as to where I got my start in life, I thought that I’d share a few of the photos here, along with my abbreviated notes.

As for the duplex above, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it. I never lived there outside the womb. By the time I exited my mother, we were living in Lexington. My mother, as I understand it, had decided to move back in with her parents when my father left for the military, having been drafted to serve in Vietnam. So that’s how I ended up being born on February 11, 1968 at Lexington’s historic Saint Joseph Hospital, instead of in Frankfort.

My mother and I, as it turned out, didn’t live in Lexington for too long. My father, having been pretty seriously injured while in training, never was shipped off to Vietnam. And, after serving for a while at the Navy hospital in Portsmouth, he was discharged… After he got back to Kentucky, he, my mother, and I moved back to Frankfort, and got an apartment. Sadly, I don’t have a photo of that apartment, but, according to my mother, that’s where I learned to walk. And I think it must have been around this time that, according to family legend, I won the title of “Little Mister Frankfort.” [I was apparently a radiantly beautiful infant.]

So, then, when I was one year old, my parents purchased their first house, which you can see here. They bought it in 1969 for $13,500, a fact they still talk about to this day. While I don’t have an exact address for the duplex where I was being incubated inside my mother, or the Frankfort apartment where I learned to walk, I know that this house can be found at 1009 Mojave Trail, in Frankfort, which, interestingly, is just two miles from the Buffalo Trace Distillery, the place that makes one of my favorite bourbons. [Maybe there’s something in the local limestone water they use that reminds me of my youth.]

[If someone wants to put a plaque in the yard of this house, designating this as the place where Mark Maynard was potty trained, I think that would be fine. I wouldn’t want to see their house turn into any kind of shrine, though, so please don’t start leaving candles and the like.]

I’ve said here on the site before that my first memory is being in my crib at about 2 years old, when we lived in Monticello, Kentucky, watching the breeze blow a yellow curtain on a summer day as I listened to kids playing outside, and a lawnmower cutting grass in the distance. I think, however, I might be wrong about that, as I have a really vague memory — now that I’m thinking about that house in Frankfort — of being in a playpen at the house of the woman who lived next door to us on Mojave Trail. Her name, according to my parents, was Angie Condreva, and she’d babysit me on occasion. I don’t remember much, but I have a sense of pulling myself up and watching soap operas through the slats of a playpen set up in the living room at the front of her house.

We only stayed in that house for a year or so. When I was two years old, we moved to our second house — the house in Monticello where I remember watching those yellow curtains flutter in the wind. My dad, who had been working in construction, had gotten a job at AT&T, keeping things running at a remote relay station in rural Kentucky, just outside the Daniel Boone National Forrest, and we apparently had to move to be closer to it. [Monticello, which is near Lake Cumberland, advertises itself as “The Houseboat Capital of the World“.]

My parents, on this recent stroll down memory lane of theirs, also visited my great grandparents’ home in White Sulphur, Kentucky, about ten miles east of Frankfort. This is that house… the one I told you about not too long ago, where there was a pistol hidden inside the clock on the mantle.

Here, speaking of my great grandparents, and this house of theirs, is a little context from that earlier post that I referenced above.

…I should add here that my great-grandparents weren’t wealthy when I knew them, lest my comment about “fortunes” should give anyone the impression that they were William Zanzinger-like characters who inherited tobacco wealth and walked around town wearing diamond rings. Toward the ends of their lives, they lived in a very simple farm house, sleeping in separate twin beds (just off the kitchen) that sat at a 90-degree angle to one another, with a gas heater and a small television between them. My father tells me, however, that, while they were never what we’d call rich, there were years that they did quite well, reaching a high point in the 1950s, when they had a 60-acre tobacco farm of their own on a parcel of about 1,000 acres. [I need for my father to show me where this farm would have been, as I only remember their later house, which was near Georgetown, Kentucky, in an area referred to as White Sulfur.] So, all things considered, they did pretty well for two people who, as teens, got married, started farming the land of others, and eventually got a place of their own in the small town of Rabbit Hash. [To hear my dad tell it, their fortunes began to change during the flu pandemic of 1918, when, as everyone around them was dying, they kept going, farming more and more land for those who no longer could. My father says my great grandfather was able to do this, and not get the flu himself, by “staying drunk” for the duration. And that’s how they came to eventually own their own farm, where they raised my father. Even then, though, they still lived in a house without insulation, electricity, or indoor plumbing. They wouldn’t get a house with those things until my dad was about eight years old.]

So this house you see above is the last house they lived in, and the only one that I ever knew. We would visit often when I was young. It was behind this house that I shot my first gun. And it was in a pond near here that I believe I fished for the first time, with my father and great grandfather.

Before I call it quits for the night, there’s one other property in Frankfort that I should mention, and that’s the site of my paternal grandfather’s bicycle shop at 109 West Main Street, which, just recently, was reopened as a brewery. This is what it looked like when I was young.

As my father wasn’t particularly close with his father, we didn’t spend much time here. I do, however, have some memories of my grandfather, and of the shop. I remember it being dark and dusty. I remember that it had an old and dangerous-looking freight elevator in the back. And I think it may be the place were I first stood on a skateboard… One day, I’ll try to write more about this side of the family. For now, though, I’ll just say this… I talk a lot about “first memories” on this site — it’s something I ask a lot of people about when I interview them — and it’s just occurred to me why I might do this. My father’s first memory, he once told me, is being kicked out of his home at the age of two, along with his mother, by his father… So, yeah, the memories in Frankfort aren’t all pleasant.

Posted in geneology, History, Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Looking at what happened in Portland, and the President’s response, I’m afraid that things are going to get a whole lot worse

Yesterday, several white nationalist groups descended on Portland, Oregon. The idea, it would seem, was for these heroic specimens of Arian perfection to bait the anti-fascist counter-protestors who had gathered in response into some kind of violent confrontation, in hopes that right-wing “journalists” like Andy Ngo might be able to get a few photos of the poor, helpless, peace-loving white patriots being besieged by lawless hoards of aggressive people of color. Sadly for the white provocateurs, the anti-fascists, for the most part, didn’t give them what they wanted. [Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler described the day’s events as “largely peaceful” and only 13 people were arrested.] But, all was not lost. According to Proud Boys organizer Joe Briggs, the event was a success because Donald Trump had weighed in on their side. When a reporter from The Oregonian asked Briggs to elaborate on why he thought the event was a success, he said “Go look at President Trump’s twitter.”

Here’s the tweet that Briggs’s was referring to.

Donald Trump did not condemn the so-called Proud Boys, or the other white nationalist hate groups that came together in Portland. He did not take the opportunity to appeal to our nation’s higher self, as Obama and other presidents have done. He did not even pretend to pray for everyone’s safety. No, less than two weeks after a white, racist gunman took the lives of 22 in El Paso, the President of the United States deliberately chose not to note the rise in racist right-wing violence in America. Instead, he chose to call the anti-fascists standing up to these men an “organization of terror.” [To my knowledge, anti-fascists have yet to kill anyone, whereas white supremacists have claimed the lives of at least 62 people since Trump came into office.] This is the point we’ve now come to. Racists are rallying in broad daylight in the streets of America, and the President of the United States, instead of standing up to them, is threatening those who do, labeling them terrorists.

We’re at a very dark place in American history, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse. With a recession looming, an increasingly desperate Donald Trump, I suspect, is going to be left with no choice but to double down on racial grievance, and the politics of fear. What else does he have in his bag of tricks to keep the MAGA base energized and hold onto Wisconsin? He can keep telling people that the economy is better than it’s ever been, but at some point they’re going to figure out the truth. And, without the economy to prop him up, he’s not only going to need the vote of every cereal-loving incel Proud Boy in America, but he’s going to need to push more non-college educated white males into their ranks.

Donald Trump knows that, if he loses the election, he’ll likely face prosecution for his crimes, and he’s not about to let that happen. He doesn’t want to go out in a federal prison like his friend Jeffrey Epstein, and he’s going to do whatever he can to ensure that doesn’t happen, regardless of how many people may be hurt in the process, or how much damage may be done to our already fragile democracy. As we know, he doesn’t care about anyone other than himself, and he’d rather take us to the brink of civil war than face responsibility for a life of criminal activity. And, sadly, it’s non-white Americans that are going to pay the price, as he attempts to build a winning coalition of terrified and angry white people struggling to make ends meet. He may try to juice the economy for a bit by bullying the Federal Reserve into dropping interest rates again, but that won’t get him to November. And, in the end, he’s going to have to do what every other fascist leader has done, and fully embrace hate and fear.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 260 Comments

The “Affluent Middle-Aged White Men in Existential Crisis” film festival

I’m not familiar with every movie that’s ever been made about affluent, middle-aged white men coming to terms with their own mortality, but, if I were asked to weigh in on what films should be included in an “Affluent White Men in Existential Crisis” film festival, I’d definitely nominate John Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966) starring Rock Hudson, and Eleanor and Frank Perry’s The Swimmer (1968) with Burt Lancaster. As we’ve talked briefly about The Swimmer before, I feel as though I should share a little background about Seconds, but I really don’t have the time right now… But here are the trailers for both. Check them out, and just imagine watching them one after the other in a movie theater filled with unsuspecting middle-aged bankers and ad men… I don’t know what would happen, but I suspect it would be an interesting sociological experiment.

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