As my student assistant, Sophia Durand, began the physical processing of the 131 letters in the Leon Simon collection (1915-1916, 1918), she noticed something intriguing. Leon Simon addressed each letter to his future wife, Esther Ellen Umanski, differently. Until they made official plans to marry, she was “My Dear Nellie.” But once the date was set, Simon became creative and effusive, his word choices sometimes questionable as endearments.
Romantics everywhere tend to be sugary in their pet phrases. Simon was no different, perhaps just more over-the-top. He addressed his letters to: My essence of honeycomb, My exquisite Peach Melba, My lump of sweetness, My peachiest apricot, My succulent meringue, My belovedest mimosa, My jujubious confection, My sweet Sugar plum(p).
As you can already tell, Simon was quite fond of food and cooking. Other highlights in the letters include My stewed apricot, My eversweet parsnip, My most succulent kipper, My pickled herring (You know how I love them!), My pickledest onion (=on’y ‘n =only one), My own dumpling, My coo (k) ing dove, My rapturous codfish, My toasted crumpet, and–my personal favorite–My incandescent soup-tureen.
Occasionally, Simon sought to be reassuring about his odd turns of phrase. On October 20, 1915, he wrote to Nellie, who was studying German, “My most exquisite Stumpfenbach, (Don’t worry about the meaning of this; it is a term of endearment invented for the occasion & means nothing at all except that all recognized terms of endearment are hopelessly inadequate)…” A Duke German professor says that he was unwittingly referring to a city in Bavaria.
So, if on this Valentine’s Day your terms of affection seem stale, why not borrow one coined by Simon: My adorable whelk, My kitchy-kooish boo-woo, My jokaceous blue bottle, My bilingual Scaramouche, My unique joy, My tender flamingo, My early paradise, My copious ink-pot, My imperative necessity, My darlingpetangelanddelightallrolledintoone. Perhaps you and your loved one will then share in one of his closings, a “Quintessence of hugs & kisses ad lib.”
Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original Cataloger.
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The Devil’s Tale Archive
- William C. Hall papers, 1873-1876 and undated. October 17, 2014
- Dainty-Maid product brochures, 1947,1953 and undated. October 16, 2014
- Noma Lee Goodwin congressional letters on price controls, 1946. October 15, 2014
- Ernest F. Hollings senatorial report to South Carolina 1968 May 7. October 14, 2014
- Works Progress Administration of Virginia notes for a Virginia tourist guide, 1936-1937 and undated. October 14, 2014
- Ricordo di Roma : 48 vedute October 16, 2014
- Manures, how to make and how to use them : a new, practical treatise on the chemistry of manures and manure-making October 16, 2014
- La photographie judiciaire October 15, 2014
- The last bizarre tale : stories October 14, 2014
- Tell the world you're a wildflower : stories October 14, 2014
- Dr. Bate's true marriage guide : (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Abrégé de l'art des accouchements, dans lequel on donne les preceptes necessaires pour le mettre h (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- From slave cabin to the pulpit; (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Egypt and the Soudan : (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014
- Minnie Albright's experience, or, A friendly warning to young ladies forming acquaintance with stran (Volume c.1) October 20, 2014