Monday, July 07, 2014

Hit a Cigarette

Megan Abbott sent me a "link" to an article about Stephen Crane, and it made his novel THE THIRD VIOLET sound pretty appealing. I didn't think I'd ever heard of it, even, but it turns out I have a copy around here, so I started reading it. It's like a really good episode of GIRLS! It's all about artists trying to make it in NYC - they're always trading wisecracks and smoking cigarettes and playing the guitar "despondently" and there's one young woman nicknamed Splutter, so there are lots of good lines like, "Sit down, Splutter, and hit a cigarette." Hit a cigarette! I like that a lot. The slang is great. They constantly call each other "chumps," which always struck me as a kind of '30s insult, but Megan confirmed that it goes back to the late 19th century, when the book came out. So Stephen Crane was right on top of things! In fact, one guy says, "Splutter was in last night. Looking out of sight." And he means "out of sight" in the way we associate with the 1960s or '70s. Once again, Megan confirmed that this was up-to-date slang in the late 19th century. Who knew? Stephen Crane, that's who! Even the old, forgotten slang (by me at least) sounds fresh and new, like when Splutter insults the guys by calling them a bunch of "dubs." I like it. Let's bring it back. Some of Splutter's friends are named Purple and Wrinkles and Grief.