Another Assessment

    I had no particular intention of revisiting the subject of Monday’s column.  It isn’t that I had exhausted the wordplay available with donkeys on postcards: I just felt I had rambled on long enough about the subject and ought to move to a subject where I could offer more substantive commentary.

    But the Interwebs is filled with substantive commentary and, anyhow, it was pointed out to me that I had skipped over an anatomical anomaly that was worthy of a mention.

    First, let us make it clear that the jovial insult was as popular then as now, and calling the recipient of your card a donkey was a very popular joke,  The following card comes from the era when the message, if any, was to be written on the front of the card.  So what was on the back?

    The name and address of the recipient, of course.  Other cards went to Shakespeare for inspiration.

    This particular joke was beloved by cartoonists, and several variants exist, but this one wins out because, just in case the recipient doesn’t immediately realize what you’re calling him (and yourself), the donkeys have their backsides pointed at the viewer.

    But it is not the backside of the donkey we are here to consider.  Our ancestors lived in a world before motorized transport, and though our pioneer ancestors tended to depend more on oxen than on the more expensive horse, it was the horse-drawn vehicle which ruled the day as postcards were coming into vogue.  Horses could be seen everywhere, with faces that were noble or lonely, legs which were strong or skinny, backs which were sturdy or bowed, and…say, did you know that once upon a time, the automobile was considered a CURE for transportation pollution?

    A mighty author referred to “the aroma inseparable from horses”, and postcard cartoonists were not going to let anything so obvious slip away without comment.  There were those who took the side of the horse, applying his troubles to those of us all.

    Others were content simply to remark on the phenomenon.

    And this, Cowslip Cocktail, is why a certain phrase was popular to apply to unpleasant, unsavory, or otherwise undesirable acquaintances.  I sometimes feel a hundred different cartoonists used this gag (which is nonetheless a true tale.)

    Other cartoonists went for something a little more subtle.

    Which brings us back around (pardon me while I try to visualize that) to the postcards which call the sender names instead of the recipient.  If you found this week’s theme in my columns tedious, well, I can only say

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