Monday, August 27, 2007

NEVER "Bid Two Spades!"

From the March 10, 1928 issue of "The New Yorker," we learn a new piece of slang-that-never-was:
Despite her beauty and her youth she "BID 2 SPADES" (The synonym for gaseous indigestion) -- far from a bridge game, there in the tea-room--and how uncomfortable she was!

Concerning a damsel in distress, it is difficult to write. She was young, she was witty, she was impeccably gowned, but in spite of her youth, in spite of her grace, in spite of her wit, she was very much embarrassed.

So mundane a thing as her food was causing her discomfort. The nut sundae at the tearoom had been a little bit too much--and her luncheon was heavy on her heart.

The ordinary measure of relief--some soda and some water, helped her discomfort for the moment, but increased her embarrassment. For hiccups and murmurs escaped her swanlike throat. She was, as the saying goes, "bidding two spades."
Like myself you may be wondering what exactly this poor woman was DOING. What were the "murmurs" that escaped her "swanlike throat" due to that accursed "nut sundae?" Was she just belching, or does "bidding two spades" actually mean letting rip a swanlike fart?

We can't look it up online because it appears that Bristol-Meyers Co. (makers of "Gastrogen tablets") simply made the phrase up. This had some precedent, as another company (whose name I forget) had been warning people against "The Ha-Ha's" -- AKA "dry skin" -- for most of 1927.

Why would this sort of "made up phrase" advert have appealed to the people of the 1920s? Well, it certainly was a time of bizarre "fad" phrases to begin with ("The bee's knees," "23-skidoo," "hotcha!") so I guess the advertisers decided to get in on the action. I'm not surprised that "bidding two spades" didn't make it into the dictionary. It's too refined and weird.


VanillaJ said...

Seems manipulative and pretentious. Like the hollow laughter of a thousand force arthouse laughs.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

That's almost as bad as a thousand arthouse patrons "bidding two spades!"

Morgan said...

But at least they could sit and not flash everyone their panties!


Muffy St. Bernard said...

I only flash when I'm at shoeshine stands, and when my trusty photographer and navigator don't tell me what they can see!

VanillaJ said...

Ewwwh, I hate it when they flash their panties. I hate it even more when they flash their panties, AND their testicles are poking out the side of their underwear! I have coined this state of revealing the testicles: "Yuking a Duck". Now, everybody follow suit.

J said...

Or they should have done what the cockney did and said they were giving someone the raspberry. U see the term raspberry that everyone happily uses is NOT about making rude noises with your tongue and mouth. No, no, no.
It is a rhyming slang, where the second word has been left out. The full slang term is "Rasperry Tart".
Now you can easily decode what this cockney slang is supposed to rhyme with. ;-)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Patti and I watched "Valley Girl" last week, and we fell into half-forgotten valspeak, and she had NEVER heard "yuck a duck" before. Shocking!

It could almost be a piece of cockney slang, but it's not nearly CUTE enough. They'd say "plucky-dookey" or something.

daxohol said...

I love old slang! I say bee's knees often LOL! Thank for posting this!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Daxohol, you're the cat's meow!