Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vintage Ads: Colored Kids

(Click on the ad to enlarge).

Vintage ads often reflect changing social values and customs.  What was acceptable in the past may not be acceptable today, so that quite a number of ads that are sexist or racist raise eyebrows now.  So it is with the the above ad from 1917.

By way of comment, the following is from a website that shows the ad:
The ad is using wordplay. In this case that means it is blending two different meanings for certain words: "colored" and "kids". The problem is it doesn't make sense to us today unless we understand the old meaning of the words as they used them back then...

We all know about the old meaning of "colored" meaning blacks (and other non-white races) but it also meant (and still means) dyed a custom and/or non-natural color.

The word "kids" was old slang for kidskin boots. Kind of like today we sometimes say "kicks" meaning shoes.

Knowing this its easy to see that the ad is just selling lady's boots made of soft goatskin that has been dyed. The wordplay then is blending the real meaning (dyed kidskin boots) with the other meaning (little black children) to try and make the ad seem clever.

Finally, in those days the word "costume" did not just mean like Halloween costume but also was often used when talking about a fancy dress ensemble. There is no wordplay here, its just a use of the word that was common then but not now.

So when the ad says "Colored kids make a costume vastly more attractive" you just translate that to mean "Dyed kidskin boots make your fancy outfit look great".

But why does the little girl on the right look so freaky?

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