Saturday, August 27, 2005


Six Feet Under and One Foot in The Mouth

I've got an article in this week's Village Voice about the Victorian origins of the slogan t-shirt. One anecdote on the cutting room floor was about a favored shirt motto for fin de siecle smartasses, Get Off The Earth Now, Your Time Is Up. According to a columnist in the October 11, 1896 issue of the Brooklyn Eagle, it caused problems for a local undertaker:

He relates that he sent an assistant to make preparations for a funeral in a family who was well known.... He was surprised to see the assistant come back after a brief time and hear him say: "Well, boss, I think you've lost the job." "What is the trouble?" "I don't know. The woman just looked me over for a minute when I said who I was and busted out cryin' and wouldn't let me in." The undertaker went right around to the house, where he was admitted, after some persuasion, and secured an explanation from the weeping widow, as follows:

"My grief is too recent to be trifled with, and when that big, rough man came to the door, wearing a button on his coat with the motto Get Off The Earth, he simply stirred my sorrow and hurt..." The undertaker soothed the widow's grief by explaining that the words on the button were only a slang phrase, which had nothing to do with the undertaking business.

Funny, I thought it had everything to do with the undertaking business...

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