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Separated by a common language…

Here’s a weirdie: instead of “holy shit!” or “hot damn!” or “frilly pig knickers!” Brits will occasionally blurt “Gordon Bennett!”

Because they’re nuts is why.

James Gordon Bennett, jr. was an American, son of the Scot who founded the New York Herald. He continued the newspaper tradition, but he was better known as the archtypal crazy rich bastard who does not give a shit.

He was the editor who arranged and financed Sir Henry M. Stanley‘s search for Dr. David Livingstone (if all you remember is the tagline, Livingstone was a missionary missing and presumed dead in Africa). This brought the Herald all kinds of good publicity, which they promptly pissed away in the Central Park Zoo hoax.

On November 9, 1874 the Herald ran a breathless front-page story that all the animals had escaped from the Central Park Zoo and were rampaging through Manhatten eating people. The hoax ‘fessed up in the last line, but most New Yorkers didn’t read to the bottom before utterly losing their shit, making this the War of the Worlds of 1874.

Shortly after, Bennet became engaged to socialite Caroline May — until her parents threw a legendary New Year’s party. Bennett arrived late and drunk and pissed into the fireplace (or possibly the grand piano) in view of the guests. This sort of thing was frowned upon in 1877. The engagement was off, and Miss May’s brother caught Bennett in the street soon after and horsewhipped him.

This freaked Bennett so badly, he fled the country forever and didn’t marry until the age of 72 (to Baroness de Reuters, of the Reuter’s News Reuters).

In between, he was pretty much the first international playboy; all yachts and polo ponies and fast cars. There’s still a balloon racing trophy named after him. He died in France in 1918.

I’d love to think his last words were “Gordon Bennett!” but it doesn’t appear in print as an exclamation until 1937. It’s probably just a ‘god’ substitute, like “golly gee” or “gosh.”

Thinking about it, I’d like to volunteer myself as a curse word. I think you’ll find hissing SSsssssssstoatyWEEZel an entirely satisfying response to moderate pain or surprise. I live to serve.


Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:19 pm

Stoaty Weasel, what a post!

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:20 pm

Wow! I had an anglophilic childhood, and read a fair amount of English trash detective fiction as a result but I can’t remember ever stumbling across that one. . although I suppose, if I had seen it once or twice at widely spaced intervals, it might not have registered. Anyway, it is certainly, um, weird.

Comment from Allen
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:21 pm

I like it, here’s a few.

Holy Stoat Weasel!
Stoat Weasel on a crutch!
You couldn’t tell the difference between a Stoat Weasel and shinola.
Sure, I want a bite of that Stoat Weasel sandwich.
Yeah, go ahead and Stoat Weasel that chicken.
Go Stoat Weasel yourself!

This could be fun ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:40 pm

Oh come on, who hasn’t turned up drunk to a party and pissed in the piano? It’s not as bad as crapping in the aspidistra.

Comment from jw
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:41 pm

For way way too long we have needed a new curse word(s)!
All of the others have run completely out of steam.
Good use terms, Allen!
Thank you Ms. S.W. for your benevolence.

Comment from Desmond 2-2
Time: February 2, 2010, 6:44 pm

Fertilizing the aspidistra is biodynamic. And lets the polar bears live. And drives the Repukes nuts. All good reasons to do your part.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:10 pm

Your lordship! Good to see you on my humble blog. Sorry we’re all cussing tonight.

Comment from mongo
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:23 pm

I had always wondered but was too lazy to bother with looking. I remember hearing it on a “Red Dwarf” episode and thought it was funny. In fact, I may have uttered it a few times myself. Such a service you provide SWeasel!

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:27 pm

Oh come on, who hasnโ€™t turned up drunk to a party and pissed in the piano?

Pretty much any woman. . .

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:50 pm

Can’t hark my cry – ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 7:59 pm

Um. I am old, and my aged eyes distinguish detail poorly. . .but I’m going to assume that is a generally benevolent weasel face rather than the other sort. . .thankee, sir!

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:10 pm

That’s the one!

And no, I can’t make out those inscrutable faces, either.

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ™


Comment from brdwtr
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:20 pm

Some might not be aware, but in a large portion of the South (at least in North Carolina), ‘John Brown’ is used the same way – always as a negative. Its just cultural at this point b/c I’m quite sure not all of the people I’ve heard say it even know who he was.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:22 pm

Would you believe I own a large plaster bust of John Brown, complete with noose? No particular political statement there, I just liked the sculpture.

Never heard him used as an expletive, though.

Comment from Sockless Joe
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:30 pm

There’s always Sam Hill.

Comment from brdwtr
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:34 pm

Nice. He was obviously well hated for many many years.
As for his name. I’ve heard it used as;
John Brown it! (in place of dad gum it) and
Where is that John Brown (insert item here).

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:43 pm

“Pretty much any woman. . .”

I need to start hanging out with classier broads.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 8:50 pm

Not really a matter of class–but if you are drunk enough to WANT to piss in the piano, the chances of being able to climb up and assume the necessary stance are minimal at best. . .

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 2, 2010, 9:16 pm

I’m pretty sure any woman you accurately call “broad” by definition ceases to be classy.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 2, 2010, 9:19 pm

Are you kidding? These gals can nail a punchbowl from across a crowded room. Now that’s classy!

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 2, 2010, 9:41 pm

Christopher, there’s more than one kind of class; sounds as if this is one of the other kinds. But then, as it also sounds as if it would be impossible for there to be classier broads, David has no need to change his hanging out habits, so that works out good, n’est-ce pas? Although I’m still puzzling over the mechanics of what he describes, gravity being what it is. . .

Comment from EZnSF
Time: February 2, 2010, 9:45 pm

Stoatyweezels! I was about to comment something about Barack Obama and Pig Knickers, but thought better of it.

But mostly I just wanted to post some Stoatyweezel home movies I found on the nets this last weekend.

I have a feeling David Attenborough is a Badger-House neighbor and a reader.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 3, 2010, 9:10 am

Fantastic footage, EZ. I love watching the little bastards run. Bobbidy bobbidy bobbidy.

Did you notice the dozens of other rabbits standing around watching, like, “duh-wut?”

Comment from James
Time: February 3, 2010, 1:30 pm

I see your larger brothers are facing a little decline.
The article doesn’t mention them living in England, though I understand y’all had a little snowpack there for a while. Maybe somebody will offer them asylum.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: February 3, 2010, 2:51 pm

When Costa Ricans (and, I gather, most other Central & South Americans) sneeze, they make it come out “Washington!”

Ok, so I’m blathering, albeit slightly tangentially. Sue me.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 3, 2010, 3:36 pm

No, James. No wolverines. Biggest we can manage are some pine martens. Well, not counting badgers (who really resent being considered part of the weasel family).

My dad used to sneeze “horseshit!” jw. Easy habit to pick up. Bad habit for a teenaged girl.

Comment from Nina from GCP
Time: February 3, 2010, 3:48 pm

It explains much, however. ๐Ÿ™‚

Comment from Hector Owen
Time: February 11, 2010, 12:54 am

Wikipedia says that “Gordon Bennett!” is an expression of incredulity. Which I guess would translate into modern USian as “Yeah, right.” (The rare case in which a double positive makes a negative.)

He did not stay in Europe for long after fleeing the country forever. Everybody in Newport knows the story of how Bennett built the Casino after being thrown out of the Reading Room because of the equestrian antics of his guest, Captain “Sugar” Candy. Redwood Library lists him as a Newport Notable. The level of benign nuttiness in this town has subsided sadly in these waning latter days. Too many bien-pensant Democrats, that’s the problem right there.

Also: Worldwide Words on the expression of incredulity.

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