H.L. Mencken > The American Language > Appendix > 1. Specimens of the American Vulgate > 3. Ham-American
H.L. Mencken (1880–1956).  The American Language.  1921.
3. Ham-American
[Mr. Lardner also very kindly wrote the following for the present work. A ham, of course, means a fifth-rate actor. The scene is the sidewalk in front of the Lambs’ Club. The two hams, meeting, stop for a chat.]   1
  FIRST HAM—Have you seen Craven?   2
  SECOND HAM—Yes, I was in Thursday.   3
  FIRST HAM—It’s a great troupe. 3   4
  SECOND HAM—I give him the notion. I says to him last summer, I says, “Frank, I got a great notion for you.” He says, “What is it, Charley?” So then I give him the notion.   5
  FIRST HAM—It’s a great troupe. I enjoyed every minute, if you know what I mean.   6
  SECOND HAM—I give him the notion.   7
  FIRST HAM—He’s wrote himself a great part, if you know what I mean.   8
  SECOND HAM—I give him the notion.   9
  FIRST HAM—He’s a duke in that kind of a part.   10
  SECOND HAM—How’d you like the gal?   11
  FIRST HAM—Just fair, if you know what I mean. But What’s his-name was lousy the day I was in, if you know what I mean.   12
  SECOND HAM—I don’t think they cast it very good.   13
  FIRST HAM—No, and when you come right down to it, they’s nothin’ to the troupe, only the notion.   14
  SECOND HAM—I give him the notion.   15
  FIRST HAM—It’d be a flop without Craven.   16
  SECOND HAM—That’s the way I figured when I had the notion, and I tol’ Craven, I says, “Frank, I got a notion that’d make a play for you, but it’d be a flop for anybody else.”   17
  FIRST HAM—They’s really nothin’ to it but hoakum, if you know what I mean. But they eat it up.   18
  SECOND HAM—Too bad they ain’t got a bigger theater.   19
  FIRST HAM—You can’t tell. It might flop in a bigger house. It’s just a little every-day family troupe, if you know what I mean. Nothin’ to it but Craven and the notion.   20
  SECOND HAM—I give him the notion.   21
Note 3.  Troupe here means the entire production. [back]

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