a gesture; and cubana & green specs

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Sep 23 15:25:54 UTC 2002

I supposed that the natural interpretation of the sentence was that Green Specs pushed his own hat aslant while striking a prize-fighters pose.  The quoted passage is all the context describing the beginning of the fight -- there are a couple of sentences not quoted on the fight itself.  Nothing expressly states that Green Specs touched Tom, or Tom him, before they went out to find a ground to fight on.

No doubt green spectacles were tinted glasses.  They must have been a novelty, and I'm interested by the indications that wearing them were taken by some as a very objectionable affectation.

As for cubana, my definition of "cigar" is purely a guess, based on the thought that cigars come from Cuba and rationalized by supposing that the cigar was the sort of prize that might be fought for.  Cubana wasn't in HDAS or OED.  I'll check DARE.  Meanwhile, translating "cubana" as "fight" certainly makes sense, but then we need to cook up some reason why it would mean "fight".

No one remembers a Gene Kelly dance with this gesture?  I'll settle for Fred Astaire or even Arthur Murray.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African
Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
Date: Saturday, September 21, 2002 7:34 am
Subject: Re: a gesture; and cubana & green specs

> >The following passage contains an interesting description of a
> provocative>or defiant gesture:
> >
> >"I say." says Tom, who wears the big man-of-war's Spanish cloak,
> lined>with scarlet, "you there, with the green specs, ought to be
> at home at
> >this hour -- no man that won't go out to Cato's ought to perambulate,
> >demme!"  Green specs knocked his hat a little aslant on the top
> of his
> >head and stood a la Fuller.  "Oh! thank ye," said Tom, "I'm your
> man for a
> >cubana."
> (1) Did Green-specs knock his own hat aslant, or did he knock
> Tom's hat aslant?
> (2) "Cubana" here looks to me like it should mean "fight" or so.
> Perhapsthis "cubana" is a metaphor? Was there a dance then known
> as "[danza]
> cubana" perhaps (in the more recent sense or otherwise) (cf.
> "habanera")?
> -- Doug Wilson

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