Friday, November 21, 2014

Sinclair + Babbit (for Sinclair + Babbitt)

On Leave It to Beaver the other night (which is also to say, 54 years ago), Wally gets offered a summer job as a lifeguard (though it later turns out he's too young to take it). Beaver is beside himself with reflected glory. Ward seems a bit wary at first, but is equally impressed. June teases him about it, but her husband denies any undue parental pride. When Eddie Haskell drops by and affects surprise at the news, Ward says: "Coach Driscoll recommended him for the job. I suppose the fact that he'd lettered in three sports had something to do with it." "Yes, sir," says Eddie. "Athletics are fine, Mr. Cleaver. Of course, my father prefers me to develop in a normal manner." Ward grits his teeth and sighs as Eddie heads upstairs. "I thought you took these things in your stride," June reminds him. "Well, usually I do," says Ward, "but there's something about that Eddie that brings out the Babbitt in me." Sinclair Lewis's most famous novel, published in 1922, brought out the Babbitt in much of mid-century Middle America. George F. Babbitt's name eventually became synonymous with "a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards." We found seven cases of this author-title typo in OhioLINK this morning, and 98 in WorldCat.

(Sinclair Lewis, 7 March 1914, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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