Wednesday, January 12, 2011

All-A-Taunt-O

I came across this cartoon in the New Yorker archives today, from February 1957. I've been studying it, trying to figure out the gag.



After some consideration, what I THINK is going on is that this is a shotgun wedding because the young man saw the young woman in a two-piece bathing suit. That's my best guess. Is it right? Anybody?



Willie the Whaler is never inscrutable - his motives. His language sometimes is, but not this time. We've already seen "Gloucester Grog" - this ad includes the phrase "all-a-taunt-o" which is defined by A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century as: Fully rigged, with masts, yards, &c. A sea term.

Which I take to mean that Willie is saying once they put up all their rigging they'll take a break and get shit-faced on Gloucester Grog, which I'm sure is the usual custom aboard the bark Wanderer.

There's even a Polish "worldwide crewing agency" called All A Taunto, although they abbreviate it to AAT.

Melville's Billy Budd also uses the expression.

I rather like the sound of that phrase. And it sounds like it could easily be employed as a euphemism for an erection. I will try to use it in a sonnet one of these days.

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