NABOKV-L post 0020623, Fri, 27 Aug 2010 21:04:23 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] Advertising in America and John Shade's "Pale
Fire":psoriasis, halitosis, gillette
A visiting nephew called my attention to "Made in America" ( An informal
history of the English Language in the United States) by Bill Bryson (1994).

Three words, related to advertising campaigns in the late twenties (the "era
of anxiety"), were mentioned almost side by side, as they appear in Pale
Fire, where we find a round of TV advertising, movies and programs, plus
Shade's bath soak (similar to Marat's, who suffered from "psoriasis" - as
did Nabokov?). The other two are Gillette razors and halitosis.

Although John Shade spends some of his time versifying about adverts and
brand terms, these are almost totally absent from Kinbote's commentary .
Like Kinbote's confusion between halitosis and hallucination.

On Halitosis: "In addition to the dread of auto-intoxication, the American
consumer faced a gauntlet of other newly minted maladies - pyorrhea,
halitosis (coined as a medical term in 1874, but popularized by Listerine
beginning in 1922 with the slogan "Even your best friend won't tell you" ).
Athlete's foot ( a term invented by the makers of Absorbine Jr. in 1928),
dead cuticles, scabby toes, iron-poor blood, vitamin deficiency ( vitamin
had been coined in 1912, but the word didn't enter the general vocabulary
until the 1920s, when advertisers realized it sounded worryingly
scientific), fallen stomach, tobacco breath, and psoriasis, though Americans
would have to wait until the next decade for the scientific identification
of the gravest of personal disorders - body odor, a term invented in 1933 by
the makers of Lifebuoy soap.".For deceased cuticles, ie, aunt Maud's
scarf-skin (?) you could apply "Cutex".

In connection to Gillette its creator King Gillette would advertise: " When
you use my razor you are exempt from the dangers that men often encounter
who allow their faces to come in contact with brush, soap, and barbershop
accessories used on other people." (the King lost most of his money because
he wanted to study and write about "the perfectibility of mankind,"
"'writing books of convoluted philosophy with titles like The Human Drift.")

Probably a lot more information about what scenes could be presented while
Sybil and Shade watched pirouetting nymphs on TV are to be found in Bryson's
informative book. There's even a reference to the money spent on choosing
brand names, as General Food's "Dreamwhip" and Ford's "Edsel."

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