Saturday, January 06, 2007

Potentially True Photographer Lingo

This morning I listened to another episode of the superb radio suspense-horror program "Quiet Please." This one was called "13 and 8" and was about a coded phrase that 1940s photographers supposedly really used.

According to the program, photographers have to be on the lookout for "lens-louses" who want to get in the shot, just so they can see themselves in the paper. Apparently many pictures get ruined if a photographer fails to notice a lens louse.

So whenever a photographer notices one of these people lurking around, he'll yell "13 and 8" to warn the other photographers about the person. They all position themselves to make sure the lens louse can't get in the pictures.

This may not be true, and Google isn't suited to dealing with phrases like "13 and 8." Google removes the "and" so you end up with millions of pages with the numbers "13" and "8" on them. Completely useless.

Still, this reminds me of another potentially true story about early-'40s photographer lingo. Whenever a homicide ocurred in a big city, folks would wander out on their fire escapes to watch the police do forensics work. Some of them were women wearing only bathrobes. Photographers at the scene would try to position themselves under the fire escapes and look up through the grills...if they saw a woman who wasn't wearing underwear they'd yell "beaver shot," and the other photographers would gather around to take sneaky photographs of early-morning vaginas. This is where the term "beaver" comes from, apparently.

Again, I don't know if this is true or not. And you can imagine the sort of pages that Google finds when you type "beaver shot."


d3 said...

I haven't heard of Quiet Please before. Is there a site where you can listen to it?

There's a radio station in Hamilton ( that plays old radio dramas from about 10 pm to 2 am every night.

Another interesting site is You can listen to a number of British radio dramas online.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I bought my "Quiet Please" collection from You can listen to a sample episode by clicking on the "listen to MP3" link here:

Though I'm not sure which one it is. Quiet Please is truly an outstanding program; it deserves its cult status, and I enjoy every show I listen to.

Every week I do a one-hour old-time radio show on CKMS...the details are here:

Sadly the CBC is vigorous about hunting down and squashing old Canadian radio programs. I have yet to find a source.

Eli McIlveen said...

Actually, you can search for an exact word or phrase on Google by surrounding it in quotes. I did a quick search on both "13 and 8" and "thirteen and eight" (both combined with photographer) and came up with nothing that didn't refer to the same episode of "Quiet Please". I didn't get through all the pages of results, though.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

From what I understand Google removes the word "and" from all of your searches, regardless of whether you use quotes or not...same with "the". But maybe times have changed or I'm just plain wrong?

As for "13 and 8," I'll try yelling it around a bunch of news photographers and see if they all jump.

Anonymous said...

HL Mencken included it in his book "The American Language".