"Submission": "Mauve" adj. fig.

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Jun 19 16:49:26 UTC 2006

On 6/19/06, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> Wikipedia:
> The 1890s were sometimes referred to as the
> "Mauve Decade," [JSB: as early as 1895, given the
> Wilde quotation?] because William Henry Perkin's
> aniline dye allowed the widespread use of that
> colour in fashion,

Popularized via a book by Thomas Beer with that title published in
1926. Etext here: http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/MauveToC.htm

But Beer was evidently already using the expression c. 1921:

Atlanta Constitution, Mar. 19, 1922, p. B2/5
[HNP Doc ID 519906892]
But only a month or two ago, three persons at least read a paper on
"The Mauve Decade" without doubting for a moment that Thomas Beer was
only another Owen Hatteras -- not a word or an idea in that wreath for
the tomb of the eighteen nineties would have belied H. L. Mencken's

> and also as the "Gay
> Nineties", under the then-current usage of the
> word "gay" which referred simply to merriment and
> frivolity, with no connotation of homosexuality
> as in present-day usage. The phrase, "The Gay
> Nineties," was not coined until 1926.

Now that Proquest has _Life_ from the '20s, we can see that the
magazine was running a weekly comic illustration entitled "The Gay
Nineties" at least as early as Apr. 9, 1925.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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