Friday, February 28, 2014

Hi, Guy!

More than most people, who spend time thinking about how to accomplish great things, earn a pile of loot and, in some nutty cases,  make it legal to discriminate against other people on the basis of whom they love, I like to learn things, and I find the learning trail almost as interesting as what I learn.

Here's an example.  I've long been a fan of Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945), the American humorist, drama critic, writer, actor and bon vivant.  Even back in high school, when I was supposed to be learning about Pythagoras, I smuggled in books of Benchley's essays, the end result being that I couldn't figure out the area of a triangle with more precision than to say, "It was right here a minute ago."

A recent happy find on Amazon for me was a book called "Robert Benchley's Wayward Press," a collection of his press review columns from The New Yorker magazine back in the day.  Benchley reviewed the local media (which consisted of 10 daily papers in New York and the radio stations, before tv, cable tv, the internet and what-have-you) for the magazine under the name "Guy Fawkes."

He also called himself "Guido" Fawkes
Guy Fawkes is one of those names that you've heard of, but I wasn't sure about who he was or what he did, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out the whole internet and found that he was a guy who was the leader of a group of guys who planned to blow up King James I and the Parliament in 1605 in an attempt to return England to Catholic rule.  James objected to this, as you might imagine, and old Guy was caught on November 5, 1605, with 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars under the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place for Parliament. He signed a confession and was executed the following January.  Now, every year on the  5th of November, England has fireworks displays and bonfires to remember the "Gunpowder Plot" and the King's escape from a fate worse than, or equal to, death.

This just burns a Guy up
AND - part of the fun of the bonfires is that they will dress an effigy in raggedy clothing and burn it.  The effigy is made of old raggy clothing, stuffed with newspaper, with a Guy Fawkes mask, and is known as a "guy," which became a word in English English meaning an oddly-attired man.

When the word "guy" came to American English, it lost the connection to the oddly-dressed and just came to mean any ...guy...that you might meet. 

All of this in no way explains the popularity of, or presence in our culture, of oddly-coiffed chef Guy Fieri.  Some things just can't be explained.

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