Friday, June 5, 2015

Esli* + Elsi* (for Elsi* or Esli*)

I said to someone the other day that my late great-aunt and -uncle had been called Elsie and George, and he replied that his next-door neighbors growing up had had the same names. It seems that Elsie, in particular, apparently once popular for girls, has pretty much fallen out of favor, despite its clearly being short for Elizabeth—much like Beth, Betsy, Liza, Lizzie, etc. (A Jewish pal tells me that their version of it is Elisheva.) Or perhaps, more directly, Elspeth, a Scottish name meaning "my god is bountiful" or "god of plenty." This makes sense, given that the famous Borden Dairy Company icon "Elsie the Cow" was created by a Scotsman named David Reid. She was quite the beloved bovine, for those of you who don't recall those Elsie-yon days. She played "Buttercup" in the RKO movie Little Men in 1940 and even appeared on the TV program What's My Line? And she was a huge hit at both New York State World's Fairs. The real live Elsie (she had gotten her start as a promotional cartoon cow) was an appealing seven-year-old Jersey with big brown eyes and the inspired if rather perplexing moniker "You'll Do, Lobelia." She was renamed "Elsie" and was introduced to the public (along with the amazing "Rotolactor") at the 1939 World's Fair. Elsie, who was once described as "a mixture of cow and housewife" (though she also had a "Boudoir" at the Fair), was blessed with a husband ("Elmer" of Elmer's Glue fame; he could be rather bullheaded) and baby named Beulah. Sadly, the original Elsie had been killed in a traffic accident in 1941, so another "Elsie" was found to take her place. Three more calves followed: Beauregard (who was born at Macy's department store!) in 1948, and the twins Larabee and Lobelia in 1957. There was only one case of Esli* + Elsi* (for Elsi* or Esli*) in OhioLINK today, and 19 in WorldCat, but let's milk this one for all it's worth. In other words: "E is for the Energy she gives us ... L is for the Lovely things she does ... S is for the Satisfying moments ... I is for the pure Ingredients ... E is for ..." (Does anybody out there know what E was for?) "Put it all together it spells ELSIE. She's the one that's all the world to me!"

(Commemorative tile on the ground near the Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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