pardon my wet glove

Nastya1976

Senior Member
Russian
Define meaning of the phrase "Pardon my wet glove" in texts below, please. Is it something like excuse my rudeness or what? I'm russian speaking user.

1. The hostess, all smiles and sparkles and small, abortive dance-steps, led the young man with the side-burns across the room to where sat the girl who had twice been told she looked like Clara Bow.
“There she is!” she cried. “Here’s the girl we’ve been looking for! Miss French, let me make you acquainted with Mr. Bartlett.”
“Pleased to meet up with you social,” said Mr. Bartlett.
“Pardon my wet glove,” said Miss French.

from D.Parker's "Mantle of Whistler"

2. The Irish may be as common as whale-shit -- excuse me -- on the bottom of the ocean -- forgive me -- but they do have imagination and... creative misery which comes from being smacked down by the devil, and lifted up again by the angels... But the Jew, what is he at his best? Never anything higher than a meddler -- pardon my wet glove -- a supreme and marvelous meddler often, but a meddler nonetheless.

from Nightwood, by Djuna Barnes
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I've never heard the expression but I imagine it means "Pardon my faux pas, my social blunder." Shaking hands with gloves on isn't always the best etiquette, but even when it is, doing so when your glove is wet would be pretty poor form.

    It's like swearing -- on purpose, which all the statements above are -- and saying, "Pardon my French." You're not really asking to be excused, just suggesting that this isn't your normal manner of speaking ... even if it is. Think of it as a "false excuse" or an "insincere request for pardon."
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    But, you see, the excerpt given in post #1 is the very beginning of the story. Alice, the one who is introduced and says Pardon my wet glove has nothing to apologise for as yet. The more so, to quote Copyright, these words of hers cannot suggest that this isn't her normal manner of speaking as she has not spoken in this story as yet.
    If this makes any sense could you please suggest any other interpretation?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Given that the excerpt is about two people meeting, it's entirely possible that it's literal. He has just taken her hand in greeting and her glove is damp. Perhaps she's just been dancing with a man whose hands were sweaty.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    A look on Google suggests that "Pardon my wet glove" was a popular expression at one time. I found this quotation from "The Billboard" June 3rd 1957:
    It's a changing world. Along with fashions, domestic applicances and the shifting sands of the desert, the American language never stays put. Hardly anyone says "Pardon my wet glove" any more...

    There is another example in another Dorothy Parker story here: Big Blonde by Dorothy Parker

    My wild guess is that the modern equivalent (at least as Dorothy Parker uses the expression) would be "Whatever". The speaker would rather not remove her glove and so come into physical contact with the interlocutor when he takes her hand; and she is indifferent to the discomfort this will cause him.
     
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    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Given that the excerpt is about two people meeting, it's entirely possible that it's literal. He has just taken her hand in greeting and her glove is damp. Perhaps she's just been dancing with a man whose hands were sweaty.
    Or her own are so. But would you have a look at post #1, Myridon. If I'm not mistaken, from it becomes clear that the expression in question is idiomatic.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I found several references to this when I Googled "pardon my wet glove". The earliest was in Radio Digest in 1932. But none of them give a clear meaning to the phrase. It did not seem to mean faux pas though.

    Google Books prevents any copying so I don't have the excerpts here. Take a look yourself at: Google

    The first on the list links to this thread. The third is
    Nightwood
    By Djuna Barnes, Thomas Stearns Eliot

    And it seems to mean "pardon my being so direct/frank/lacking in tact" to my ears.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There is another example in another Dorothy Parker story here: Big Blonde.
    My wild guess is that the modern equivalent (at least as Dorothy Parker uses the expression) would be "Whatever". The speaker would rather not remove her glove and so come into physical contact with the interlocutor when he takes her hand; and she is indifferent to the discomfort this will cause him.
    But in 'Big Blonde' the protagonist does take and shake the hand offered to her.

    He opened the door, then came back to her, holding out his hand. “ ’By, Haze,” he said. “Good luck to you.” She took his hand and shook it. “Pardon my wet glove,” she said.

    In the translation of the story published in the USSR in 1959 the translator understood the expression in question literally. As the protagonist could not wear gloves in that scene (it took place in her flat, and it was not a party etc) the translator added from herself "she tried to be funny".
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In the translation of the story published in the USSR in 1959
    You have access to many more resources to understand English than that translator did!
    But in 'Big Blonde' the protagonist does take and shake the hand offered to her.
    There is no point in apologizing for the dampness unless you take the hand! In that story, is she being truly dismissive and insulting, or is she pretending to be so, to light-heartedly cover the pain she is feeling? Or a bit of both?

    Similarly, in quote 1 of #, is Miss French being truly dismissive and insulting, or is she covering up the excitement she feels at the meeting?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It would have been ill-mannered to shake someone's hand without removing your glove. As you can see from this snippet from a newspaper article (The Huntington Herald) it seems to have been a catch-phrase of the time, said by those who chose to shake hands with their gloves on:

    "We are in too great a hurry. We say 'pardon my wet glove' instead of taking it off. . "At the end of this class year we shall have a reception to 'show off what we have learned.
    Source: the first result on this page: "pardon m y wet glove" - Google Search
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There is no point in apologizing for the dampness unless you take the hand! In that story, is she being truly dismissive and insulting, or is she pretending to be so, to light-heartedly cover the pain she is feeling? Or a bit of both?
    Actually she is indifferent to the things that happen around her as she is drinking heavily. She returns home from her neighbour's flat where they were drinking and finds her lover in her bedroom. He came to her place to take his things, he had found a job in another town and was going to move there. She is so drunk she does not feel anything at all. All happens as if in a dream.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    It would have been ill-mannered to shake someone's hand without removing your glove. As you can see from this snippet from a newspaper article (The Huntington Herald) it seems to have been a catch-phrase of the time, said by those who chose to shake hands with their gloves on:

    "We are in too great a hurry. We say 'pardon my wet glove' instead of taking it off. . "At the end of this class year we shall have a reception to 'show off what we have learned.
    Source: the first result on this page: "pardon m y wet glove" - Google Search
    Hi, Velisarius,
    unfortunately there are too many instances of using this expression where there are no signs of gloves at all. Would you have a look at post #1 (second excerpt)?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    There's a certain logic to the phrase, since if your glove is wet (you were out in a downpour) it can be difficult to remove it). It sounds like the sort of thing that acts as an in-group marker - modern slang that shows you are up-to-date and "with it". It cold easily have started out with that meaning and ended up as a meaningless catch-phrase accompanying the hand-shaking ritual.
     

    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There's a certain logic to the phrase, since if your glove is wet (you were out in a downpour) it can be difficult to remove it). It sounds like the sort of thing that acts as an in-group marker - modern slang that shows you are up-to-date and "with it". It cold easily have started out with that meaning and ended up as a meaningless catch-phrase accompanying the hand-shaking ritual.
    Velisarius, you probably have not seen post #1 of this thread, second excerpt. It is obvious from it that the expression in question is idiomatic.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In the second excerpt it's hard to tell what the context for the remark is. All the other quotes in the link provided by Packard seem to have something to do with hand-shaking - with or without gloves. I'd say an
    ephemeral catch-phrase rather than an established idiom that for some reason never made it into the dictionaries.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    This example seems revealing. Sullivan (born 1892) is talking about witty repartee from the days of his youth:

    "Persiflage abounded at high-school spreads and similar saturnalia. On shaking hands with a girl, you might wow her with "Pardon my wet glove" or "Slip me five, kiddo."
    Frank Sullivan at His Best
    Frank Sullivan at His Best
     
    I agree with Packard. If the original reference was to a slip of etiquette (not removing wet glove), it evolved to mean
    'pardon my frankness' or 'pardon my making a depressing but realistic reminder'.

    Further, as Velisarius notes, the phrase becomes a kind of banter, meaningless in content.


    I found several references to this when I Googled "pardon my wet glove". The earliest was in Radio Digest in 1932. But none of them give a clear meaning to the phrase. It did not seem to mean faux pas though.

    Google Books prevents any copying so I don't have the excerpts here. Take a look yourself at: Google

    The first on the list links to this thread. The third is
    Nightwood
    By Djuna Barnes, Thomas Stearns Eliot

    And it seems to mean "pardon my being so direct/frank/lacking in tact" to my ears.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    It's been ~45 years since I read Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, but I was under the impression that while a man is always supposed to remove his glove before shaking hands (and to apologise if he is unable to do so), it is always acceptable for a woman to leave hers on.
     
    Well, then the phrase makes sense. She has gotten the glove wet somehow, but is not
    obliged to remove it. So she leaves it on and meticulously and kindly says,
    "Pardon my wet glove."

    It's been ~45 years since I read Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, but I was under the impression that while a man is always supposed to remove his glove before shaking hands (and to apologise if he is unable to do so), it is always acceptable for a woman to leave hers on.
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    I'm going to suggest that at some point in time "Pardon my wet glove" was slang for "I'm sorry if the palm of my hand is damp". In many of the contexts discussed here it's unlikely that gloves would have been worn. That's just a hunch, but for further support I can mention the three examples one can see in google books for "Excuse my wet glove".

    Edit. And by extension it could have come to mean "Excited to meet you".
     
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    AlexanderIII

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Undoubtedly the origination of the phrase has something to do with a real wet glove. Then the phrase could be used without any gloves or handshaking at all. After all Copyright in post #2 was not wrong. Everybody was right. Thank you very much, everone!
     
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