Burma Shave

Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Thu Feb 3 23:41:43 UTC 2005

On Feb 3, 2005, at 12:34 PM, James A. Landau wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Burma Shave
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
>>  2 books that are to be found in better libraries everywhere:
>>  he Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs
>>  and Jingles, by Frank Rowsome, Jr., in print from Penguin for $12.95
>>  Burma-Shave: The Rhymes, the Signs, the Times, by Bill Vossler, in
>>  print from North Star Press of St. Cloud for $14.95
> I have the Rowsome book---unfortunately I can't find it at the moment.
>  It
> includes what is claimed to be a list of all Burma Shave jingles.
> Two contributions Burma-Shave made to the American language:
> "A town so small that it fit between two Burma-Shave signs"  (I heard
> this
> one in the 1959-60 school year, in reference to Versailles, Kentucky
> (/v at r
> 'seilz/), the home of the outgoing governor, A. B. "Happy" Chandler
> (yes, the
> one-time baseball commisioner).
> A way of expressing your disapproal of a piece of verse that has just
> been
> recited was to add the words "Burma Shave" as soon as the reciter had
> finished.
>          - James A. Landau
> Aside to Wilson Gray---have you managed to forget the military meaning
> of
> "heel-clicking"?

I've never heard this term used in a military context, Jim. So, feel
free to explain. But that reminds me. In the WWII anti-German
propaganda of my childhood, the marine-style "jarhead" haircut, the use
of a monocle, and clicking one's heels and bowing one's head when
shaking hands were all considered to be stereotypically German.

During the early '60's, when I was stationed in Germany, young German
males wore what came to be known as the Beatle haircut. (I've always
felt that the Beatles didn't originate this style. Rather, they picked
up on it from German kids during their Hamburg days.) No one that I saw
wore a monocle. But German males, whether younger than I was then or
older than I am now, actually *did* click their heels and bow their
heads when shaking hands. Weird! It always seemed so Nazi. Who'd a
thunk it?

Also, German soldiers in uniform always saluted American soldiers in
uniform, regardless of the G.I.'s rank. I have no idea why they did
that, since they always looked pissed off as hell while doing it. By
contrast, we were told that we were allowed to salute German
*officers,* but only _if we felt like it_. So, of course, we always
saluted German officers while doing our best to avoid saluting our own
officers. Exceptionally, we black G.I.'s went out of our way to salute
black offficers, but only out of race pride, since it was our
experience that assholery was typical of all officers, irrespective of
race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation.

-Wilson Gray

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