Favorite

Words, Nov. 8 

“Paris Hilton, the 26-year-old socialite, won't be heading to Rwanda next month as planned …”

Socialite, is it? I suppose that's one way to refer to Paris Hilton. I'm not sure it's the best way, or even that socialites still exist in the way they did when the word was popular. The socialite seems to have run off with the man about town. Celebrity is a better fit today, when everyone gets her 15 minutes of celebrity and it doesn't really matter what she's celebrated for. Famous for being famous, as they say.

Socialite belongs to the pre-WWII, pre-television age, when people still got famous for being members of high society. Brenda Frazier was about the last of these. By the time she was the Debutante of the Year (1938), her picture on the cover of Life magazine, Hollywood had pretty much taken over the celebrity business, but a columnist like Walter Winchell could still produce the occasional celebrity from East Coast society. The Wikipedia entry on Brenda Frazier says that Winchell coined the word publiciety — a combination of money, social standing and news coverage — for those in Frazier's set. Wikipedia also calls Hilton a celebutante. Sounds like another Winchell coinage.

A reader wonders where flea market comes from. “I've never wanted to buy a flea,” she writes. Me either, but I'll bet you could get one cheap. The supply far exceeds the demand.

Random House says that a flea market is “a market, often outdoors, consisting of a number of individual stalls selling old or used articles, curios and antiques, cut-rate merchandise, etc.” The term has been around since the early 1920s, RH says, but it offers no explanation. The Word Detective has a couple, the most likely of which is that the term originated in Paris, “where Le Marche aux Puces (literally, ‘market of the fleas') was a popular shopping venue. Le Marche aux Puces took its name … from the semi-humorous (and probably at least partly accurate) popular perception that the market's ragtag goods were more than likely to be infested with fleas.”

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

More by Fritz Brantley

  • Words, Dec. 20

    Introducing an old movie on the old movie channel the other night, the host told an old story. The story is untrue, although I suppose the host, semi-old, believed it.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • He talks, and talks, the talk

    A fellow posted an old newspaper article on his blog about a Mike Huckabee speech to a religious group in 1998. A friend faxed the article to me, then called to ask if I’d yet read it, which I had.
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • Going whole hog

    A Q&A with irreverent Arkansas-raised comedian Matt Besser
    • Dec 20, 2007
  • More »

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Once again commentators blame the victim. Social scientists, of whom I am one, regularly find…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Shiny, nobody is saying that Hillary isn't entitled to speak. Shit, the more she talks,…

    • on September 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation