This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Saturday Rave: Anything Goes by Cole Porter

Anything Goes is the title of a musical first performed on Broadway in 1934. The book was originally by PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, and the music and lyrics were by Cole Porter.

Was ever a child so set up for delicious success by its sparklingly talented parents?

Possibly not - but there are, as we know, too often wicked fairy godmothers lurking in the wings, and this one, in the guise of Fate, caused a terrible tragedy. There was a fire on board the passenger ship SS Morro Castle that killed 138 people, and this made a light-hearted musical set upon an ocean liner (and including a bomb-plot) quite impossible to put on.

Bolton and Wodehouse were out of the country at the time of the tragedy, and so...well, the management ran round in circles in their scramble to adapt the story into something acceptable, and things got very complicated indeed. The fact that the resulting book of Anything Goes has such a long history of revisions is a sign they weren't entirely successful, but the musical is still performed in various guises, and we still (thank heavens) have the songs.

And (thank heavens again) we still have the particular song Anything Goes.

Here's the middle bit:

In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.
Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose
Anything goes.
If driving fast cars you like,
If low bars you like,
If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like,
If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like,
Why, nobody will oppose.
When ev'ry night the set that's smart is in-
Truding in nudist parties in
Anything goes.

I'm also pleased to report that Cole Porter was no hypocrite, but a fervent exemplar of his own principles, as expressed in this song. 

He lived flamboyantly in rented palaces, put up platinum wallpaper, once hired the entire Ballet Russes for a party, and for another celebration hired fifty gondoliers to act as footmen and presented as entertainment a tight-rope walking troupe. 

His (very rich and domineering) grandfather wanted him to be a lawyer. 

But Fate was kind, in this case, and not cruel.

Word To Use Today: a colporteur is a peddler who sells books, especially bibles. I don't know if Cole Porter's parents knew this when he was named. The word colporteur comes from the French, probably from comporter, to carry, and probably altered by the idea that the word was something to do with porter à col, to carry on the neck.

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