I have to admit that sometimes I don’t understand every facet of every joke thrown at me by the humorists of the past.  I think we can all enjoy the basic humor of this card, for example.  Anyone who played on seesaws (teeter-totters, in my neighborhood) knows that joy of breaking the rules and putting your opposite number in an awkward position.

            But I’m still slightly puzzled.  DID adults play on seesaws a hundred and twenty years ago?  Did young women glory in being this much heavier than their friends?  That gesture she’s making is a classic, too, and not very polite.  DID people become that competitive in the world of major league seesaw?

            (I also wasted a certain amount of time researching the gesture, known as “thumbing the nose” or “Cocking a snook”.  What IS a snook, anyhow?  The gesture goes back to the sixteenth century, based on literary data, but the snook reference only to the early nineteenth century.  The Interwebs defines a snook merely as “a rude gesture”, without noting that it MUST be a NOSE-related gesture, since the word starts with sn, as do so many nose-related terms: snout, sniff, sniffle, snort, etc.  This is the problem with libraries being inaccessible these days.  One is limited to the resources of whatever somebody feels like posting, raising their sneering snouts at what the rest of us may want to…where were we?)

            This pair of postcards has also left me in something of a puzzle.  I GET the general attitude of the card: you’re visiting or working in some area where you’re a newcomer and a rookie, and you’re sending word back home…or something like that.  But what’s so great about the idea that it was good enough for some other postcard maker to swipe?  Were there THAT many people a hundred years ago who wanted to mock themselves as tenderfeet?  Or am I missing something that would be obvious to experts on the era of the 1910s?

            If any such person reads this, they could relieve my mind with a few other jokes as well.  This is a pretty popular joke, which we in our era might call a MacGyver gag.  Somebody takes what material he has on hand and makes a fairly complicated mechanical device from it all.  This fed neatly into what we might call the Irish Problem of the era.  The Irish were still stereotyped as a low-class, illiterate, heavy-drinking, heavy-smoking group, but enough Irish-Americans were rising to positions of power that a salute to their ingenuity (though it was ingenuity with beer kegs) could work.

            But again, what was so good about the joke that other artists used it?  One of these artists obviously took hold of the idea the other had, or they both stole it from the same place.  What was so appealing about a coal-driven beer keg vehicle that it made larceny worthwhile?

            Sometimes it’s just a matter of slang.  I have plunged through the Interwebs several times in search of the exact significance of “Ace High” and came out about as dry as when I jumped in.  Yes, I know it’s a good omen, taken from the world of poker: if you have a straight flush with an ace, you have the best possible hand, “ace high”.  But there was more to it than that.  It had some nuance that I’m missing, probably through being born too late.  (Ever try to explain the phrase “Where’s the beef?” to someone who didn’t see the commercial when it was new?  You’ve got the words, but you can’t recapture the music.)

            This card is described as a picture of a suffragette by some sellers.  I have hunted high and low for some use of this phrase by a suffragette, to no avail.  You can see the other half of the joke: she’s standing on top of a cylinder recording—standing on her “record”.  (Side question: when did we start calling recordings records?)  But what does it mean that she’s standing on it Ace High?  A piece of the puzzle is still missing.

            (No, you can see she didn’t do THAT joke.  If she had, I’d be saving this card for my “How Did They Get Away With That?” blog.)

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