where the writers are
Vocabulary Courtesy of Mr. Burns

The other day I used to the term "the great unwashed" in a blog post. I didn't really think about it -- didn't consider where I'd learned the term or how it got into my lexicon.

Well, last night the answer found me. And, wouldn't you know, I learned the term not from academic journals or Shakespeare's plays or any other source that would make me look good.

Here it is in the context from which I must have learned it:

Mr. Burns (to Smithers): "Just give the great unwashed a pair of oversized breasts and a happy ending, and they'll 'oink' for more every time."  

Still, it proved to be a useful term, even if I didn't learn it in the most prestigious way. In fact, I guess you could say I pulled a Homer.

Comments
3 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

This is the kind of thing...

...that sends me straight to Wikipedia. In the entry for Edward Bulwer-Lytton, we read he "...is widely credited for 'the great unwashed'. Unfortunately, many citations claim The Last Days of Pompeii as their source, but perusal of the original work indicates that this is not the case. However, the term 'the Unwashed' with the same meaning, appears in The Parisians—'He says that Paris has grown so dirty since the 4 September, that it is only fit for the feet of the Unwashed.'"

Maybe Mr. Burns added "the Great".

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

Comment Bubble Tip

Yeah ...

... that's exactly why I don't get into etymology -- so many winding roads (roads that lead past people and events I didn't know, anyway).

 I've been told numerous times that there was, indeed, life before "The Simpsons." I just don't believe it. 

Comment Bubble Tip

There are...

...plenty of people who really don't remember life before Springfield. Me, I remember The Simpsons and Twin Peaks arriving at about the same time. One lasted and the other I still miss.

The entryon Bulwer-Lytton is pretty interesting, by the way. Quite the phrasemaker, apparently, and I have this weakness for the idea of an aristocrat whose life is so leisurely that he has time to make up graceful phrases that are still on people's lips a century and a half hence.

Uh-oh...I'm using terms like "hence" to mean "after". Time to return to the 21st century.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room