A Dry T-Shirt Contest II
Bill Long 6/1/08
The Rest of the Terms
V. T-Shirt # 5--Callipygian
This, I confess, would be my favorite of all. In fact, I would think that the woman wearing this t-shirt would also have a picture of the Callipygian Venus below the word. Here is a great picture of it, from the Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Napoli in Naples, Italy. It only survives in a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original. What is so suggestive about this sculpting is that, in addition to its attention to the Greek virtues of proportion and symmetry, it carries hints of exhibitionism and female appreciation of her own beauty. If you haven't looked at the slide, it is a picture of the goddess Aphrodite lifting her peplos (outer robe or shawl worn by Greek women in the classical period) to expose her beautifully rounded buttocks. Indeed, the word callipygian means "of the beautiful buttocks."
But we can take things further than this. In the Wikipedia article on the subject is a quotation from the 2nd-3rd cent. CE Deipnosophistae, a work in fifteen books by Athenaeus, that provides an "immense store-house of information, chiefly on matters connected with dining, but also containing remarks on music, songs, dances, games, courtestans, and luxury." One book alone (Book XII) is an important source for the study of sexuality in ancient Greece. Well, Athenaeus has a story, quoted here, that tries to explain how it was that the goddess Aphrodite was admiring and exposing her buttocks to private (and, of course, very public) view. In brief it tells of two sisters from Syracuse (Sicily) who had a "butt exposing" contest to see whose was more beautiful. By chance they were seen by the son of a rich man of the island, who wanted the older girl for his wife. Eventually the younger son of the rich man married the younger sister, and they thus became rich. They then founded a temple of Aphrodite at Syrcause, and called the goddess the "fair-buttocked" (Callipygos).
So goes the story, which you can probably take with more than a grain of salt. Oh, one other word came up when I was studying this. The Greek word for "lifting up the garment" so as to expose oneself (only Greek would have such a word!) is anasuro. It is anglicized as anasyrma, which I have found in no dictionary, though there is a good article on it here. The word callipygian came into our language in the 17th century and has been used sparingly. I think that the word callipygian emblazoned confidently across the chest of a participant in a dry t-shirt contest would not only bring tons of money to the establishment sponsoring the contest but would lead to much interest in the woman wearing the shirt.
VI. T-Shirt # 6--Flexanimous
Nothing can really compare with the preceding word; thus, you can look at this word as a bit of a "break" for you, though some might fight it interesting. Flexanimous, derived from two Latin words meaning "to bend" and "the mind," was invented in English in the early 17th century, when the modern English language was being created. It means "having power to bend or influence the mind; moving, affecting." Perhaps not surprisingly, given the flexibility in how to interpret the two words put together, it can also mean "of a minde easily bent or turned." But I am more familiar with it in the first meaning. From 1621: "It stands not without doores as a Mendicant Flexanimous perswader." Or, referring to the eloquence of preaching, from 1633: "He is that flexanimous Preacher whose pulpit is in heaven." I really love the Century quotation from the 17th century English epistolographer, James Howell:
"I felt my Heart melting within my Breast, and my Thoughts transported to a true Elysium all the while, there were such flexanimous strong ravishing Strains throughout it."
We may want to dispense with all these "ancient" uses of the term and see it as describing someone who is remarkably persuasive. Thus, such a t-shirt might be appropriate for up-and-coming lawyers or others whose currency is words.
VII. T-Shirt # 7--Slummock
The word slummock was only invented in 1932, and it seems already to have passed out of use. Maybe it really never caught on from the beginning. It can be a noun and a verb; the noun means "A dirty, untidy, or slovenly person; a slut." I think that it probably derived ultimately from someone who lived in a slum but there isn't any indication from the OED that this is the case. The quotations given by the OED suggest more of a sloppy person than what we think of as a "slut" in 2008: "He wiped Norah's table top...Norah was a slummock," and "You are the greatest slummock," she said. "How can you bear to lie on an unmade bed?" Actually, the original meaning of "slut" was simply a woman of "dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance." I think slummock ought to be an equal opportunity word in 2008, referring either to men or women and suggesting a sort of "low-life" character to the person. If a person says this about him- or herself, s/he might be serious or, then again, might just be jesting. But the audience may appreciate the shirt.
VIII. T-Shirt # 8--Slammakin
I like the sound of this word, which goes back to the 18th century and is defined by the OED as "slovenly female, a sloven, a slattern." The initial 1785 usage doesn't seem to make much sense to me, but is amusing nevertheless, "Slammakin, a female sloven, one whose clothes seem hung on with a pitch fork, a careless trapes." A "trapes," by the way (also spelled traipse) is an "opprobrious name for a woman or girl slovenly in person or habits; 'a dangling slattern.'" It seems to me that there are a lot more words in English that criticize how women look or do things than men. I would think that someone in a gender studies program should (if they haven't already) do an exhaustive study on derogatory words in English from about 1400-2000, and then catalogue them to see which apply to women and which to men, before drawing some conclusions about the "sexism" or whatever of our culture. We would all get some good laughs, I think, and would learn a bunch of new words in the process.
If a young woman (or anyone, really) was to wear a t-shirt saying "Slammakin" on it, I think we in 2008 would also get the impression of someone "slammed," which in itself has more than one connotation.
Well, that is my attempt to start a "dry t-shirt contest" in such a way that we might all learn some new words and have some fun in the process. Any suggestions to add to my list?
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long