This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 print, $9.95 Kindle and also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Scribd for $9.95. Also from Tolino in Germany. It’s fixed format so it’s better with a tablet, laptop, or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog here.
Grin and Bear It
“On Whit-Tuesday, 1786, there was celebrated at Hendon, Middlesex, a burlesque imitation of the Olympic games. One prize was a gold-laced hat, to be grinned for by six candidates, who were placed on a platform, with horse collars to exhibit through. Over their heads was printed:
The ugliest grinner
Shall be the winner
Each party grinned separately for three minutes, and then all united in one grand exhibition of facial contortion. An objection was lodged against the winner on the ground that he had rinsed his mouth with vinegar.”
— All the Year Round, Charles Dicken’s weekly, 1888.
Grinning matches, making grotesque faces for a prize standing on a table with your head through a horse collar, had been going on for more than a hundred years before this account.
A mocking essay by Joseph Addison in his paper The Spectator September 18, 1711 notes an advertisement in The Post-Boy for an event on October 9 featuring a horse race for a prize of a plate worth 6 guineas, a lesser value plate for a race of asses, and “’a gold ring to be grinn’d for by men’” Continue reading