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Take back your poils

baby
Language goes viral vaster than any video. Only days ago I first heard a term -- maybe it lay doggo a long time before suddenly beginning to multiply -- that now I hear again from Emily Bazelon at Slate: "In all the pearl clutching about college-age men and women getting drunk and getting laid, we’re missing the fact that for lots of young people in the U.S., college isn’t one big party." "Pearl clutching" -- is this new, old, just made up, inherited? It's funny and right, and will be welcome -- until about 40000th iteration. Then it will go where Saturn keeps the years (note formerly viral tagline).

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Will Waller
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:31 am (UTC)
Definition
A casual google search says it's a old cliche on feminist blogs.

"The phrase pearl clutching, which means being shocked by something once-salacious that should now be seen as commonplace, like sex, is ubiquitous on blog posts, especially in media geared towards women."
crowleycrow
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Re: Definition
Well see? It had already gone viral when I noticed it. So all I proved was how out of it I am. As if Ineeded further proof.
Will Waller
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
Re: Definition
I'd never heard of it. I haven't heard 'lay doggo' or 'where Saturn keeps the years' either.
crowleycrow
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Definition
"The laugh that love could not forgive
Is hushed, and answers to no calling;
The forehead and the little ears
Have gone where Saturn keeps the years;
The breast where roses could not live
Has done with rising and with falling."

--Edward Arlington Robinson, "For a Dead Lady"

Edited at 2014-01-24 01:26 pm (UTC)
(Anonymous)
Jan. 24th, 2014 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Definition
"We're not set up to lie doggo on some undiscovered planet."

- Ensign Dominic Flandry
Will Waller
Jan. 25th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: Definition
See, now I'm the one whose out of it.
asyouknow_bob
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
I used the phrase "clutching their pearls" over on Library Thing in early 2011 (three years ago now), but I forget where I first heard it.
dsgood
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Try asking on the American Dialect Society mailing list. Contact info on their website (not included because turns out that causes a comment to be marked as spam.)
jack_ryder
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:36 am (UTC)
I've heard that expression several times over the years - certainly much earlier than 2011. Maybe it's an Anglo-English thing.
peregrin8
Jan. 24th, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
I always thought it was quite an old saying. But it might just *sound* old...
movingfinger
Jan. 24th, 2014 01:02 am (UTC)
Interestingly, I get 0 results on Google's ngram viewer. (am I doing it wrong?) Tried "pearl clutching" with and without hyphen, "clutching their pearls," and "clutching pearls".

But I've seen it in a few places, it has been overused lately, and it's generally associated with artificially whipped-up moral panic.


ETA: Oh, my gosh, it may derive from black gay slang. Interesting.

Edited at 2014-01-24 01:06 am (UTC)
eub
Jan. 24th, 2014 07:55 am (UTC)
Yeah, I can't find anything on ngram either. Closest I got was a tiny bit for clutching=>pearl_INF, which is "clutching" modifying "pearl(s)", so it would go pretty far afield to things like "clutching five pink pearls".

I don't know that I've actually seen it in print, only online, so I guess I can believe it's not in enough books (by 2008) to show up. No ngram hits for concern troll_INF either, as a point of reference. (A Google News search for "pearl clutching" finds hits in papers that probably do get printed, so there's that.)
rozk
Jan. 24th, 2014 01:11 am (UTC)
As I said to John over on Facebook, I came across it around three or four years ago in queer activist circles, which is the sort of place you might expect it to be coined, or adopted from olde queeniness.
crowleycrow
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
I suppose those who are familiar with it in its full forms (e.g. "one of those who clutches her pearls every time somebody...") will quickly shorten it up ("gives rise to a lot of pearl-clutching") -- which is really unintelligible and weird to one who doesn't know the source,


Edited at 2014-01-24 04:57 pm (UTC)
hotclaws
Jan. 24th, 2014 11:39 am (UTC)
I've seen it for ages on snark sites.
lillibet
Jan. 24th, 2014 02:14 pm (UTC)
I can definitely remember hearing it in a story told to me by a gay friend before 1995. I don't remember thinking it was a new phrase at that point, but that's the earliest definite memory I have of it.
(Anonymous)
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:15 pm (UTC)
I googled it and found that it was used in a "Men on Film" skit on the TV show "In Living Color" back in 1990. You can see the skit on YouTube if you search "Men on Film 1"- the line starts at 3:00. Certainly then it was parodied as a gay black expression. Maybe Damon Wayans wrote the line himself?
bibliola
Feb. 23rd, 2014 04:50 pm (UTC)
I watched _In Living Color_ when it first ran, and I definitely remember this sketch. That's the first place I heard it. One of the characters (played by David Alan Grier) exclaimed "Clutch the pearls!".
macthud
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
well, I never!
I know I've heard the phrase for many years, and believe I first read it in or before the 1980s.

A quick googling on `etymology clutch pearls` brought me a couple of helpful pages -- a Q&A on The Straight Dope (and particularly comment #5), and another on The Grammarphobia Blog.

I'm more with the first, in my interpretation.
fjorlief
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:48 pm (UTC)
I have read the term "lying doggo", somewhere in British novels, and "where Saturn keeps the years" while new to me was an easy to understand classical reference, but "clutching pearls" was absolutely incomprehensible - have never heard or read the term anywhere, so it must not be universally pervasive. I am still not understanding what that bit of language is intended to mean.
crowleycrow
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
I had no trouble seeing what it meant -- just picture an aging proper lady shocked at some scandalous or outre behavior reaching to her throat as though checking that her self-defining pearls are still there, while gazing open-mouthed at the page or the pic or the act.
fjorlief
Jan. 25th, 2014 07:02 am (UTC)
I do appreciate you for making that clear - now if I ever run across the term I will have a context for it...
crowleycrow
Jan. 24th, 2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
Well it turns out that the phrase(amply documented here and on Facebook where I also posted about it) to show that I was likely wrong and it was quite common among certain circles anyway and was ot going viral but just, well, showing up here and there, and I only thought it was new because -- because I hadn't heard it before. Unlikely but I guess true.
al_zorra
Jan. 24th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
By my own reckoning it's a very old phrase -- at least 1980's. I heard it first within circles of gay male dancers -- not disco dancing, per se, but in the category of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company dancers, when, after performances, we'd all be partying, i.e. dancing!

Those were the days.

Love, C
whatifoundthere
Jan. 25th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
"Catching the vapours"/"a case of the vapours" is also being used in a similar sense. It's genuine Victorian slang for a fainting lady, but it is nowadays used all over the Internet in sentences like "my grandparents had to retire to their rooms with the vapours when gay marriage was legalized in Utah" or what have you.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 25th, 2014 02:57 pm (UTC)
pearl clutching
I'd never heard the expression, but it's perfect.

Lori Trew
California
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )