stuffed into a boiled shirt

kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear all
Could you please tell me whether it's the tie or the narrator stuffed into a boild shirt in the following context, taken from "The Camera Eye (44)" in "The Big Money" by Dos passos:
Time: 1921
Location: Syria
scarcelybathed he finds himself cast for a role provided with a white tie carefully tied by the viceconsul stuffed into a boiled shirt a tailcoat too small a pair of dresstrousers too large which the kind wife of the kind official gigglingly fastens in the back with safetypins which immeidately burst open when he bows to the High Commissioner's lady
I thinks it's narrator who's been stuffed into the boiled shirt because of the following passage a few paragraphs later:
stuffed into shirts to caption miles lightyears of clipped streamers of newsprint
But I need your confirmation.
 
Last edited:
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think it is the narrator.
    It makes sense that way in any case, and it would be very difficult indeed to have a carefully-tied bow tie stuffed into your shirt.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    I think it is the narrator.
    It makes sense that way in any case, and it would be very difficult indeed to have a carefully-tied bow tie stuffed into your shirt.
    I hadn't realized at all it's a "bow tie" but, thanks to your comment I can see it now (they don't wear ordinary ties with tailcoats I assume).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I assumed a bow tie, but that's an aside really.
    The sentence reads to me as if the narrator is wearing the boiled shirt.
    It fits, in the way of the "sentence", with the other garments.

    cast for a role
    provided with a tie carefully tied by the viceconsul
    stuffed into a boiled shirt

    a tailcoat too small
    a pair of dresstrousers too large which the kind wife of the kind official gigglingly fastens in the back with safetypins which immeidately burst open when he bows to the High Commissioner's lady
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Dont' you think "stuffed into a boiled shirt" suggests that the narrator is depicting himself like a puppet being clothed (stuffed into a shirt) by others?
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    This all relates to the time when men wore evening dress, which consisted of a suit of black tails, (a cut away jacket with the back reaching the knees), a heavily starched white shirt front, with a separate wing collar (boiled in starch to become very stiff), with jewelled studs instead of buttons, and black trousers with a sort of velveteen strip down the outside of the legs. It would be capped with a white starched bow tie; very difficult to tie properly!
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Just to add that a "boiled shirt" meant a stiff dress shirt with a starched front, commonly worn in the early 20th century and 19th. They were much stiffer than the dress shirts worn today and very uncomfortable and designed to make you stand up straight as well as being wrinkle free. It does not just mean an ordinary clean shirt.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/boiled%20shirt?r=14

    Edit; Gasman got there first.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    What confused me was the fact that first visconsul "carefully tied him" with a white tie and then he was "stuffed into a boiled shirt" while in the normal course of the practice they wear the shirt first and then a tie is tied round the collar. Otherwise, please tell me where I'm going off the road?
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    With a wing collar shirt, you are supposed to put the bow tie on first, then slide it up your neck, then put your shirt on and lastly slide the tie back into place. It´s supposed to give a smarter effect as you don´t mess up the wing collar when tieing the bow tie.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    That is the most impressive bit of esoteric knowledge I have seen here! Thank you, Lis. I've filed it under "stuff that might come in handy again some day".
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    hen put your shirt on and lastly slide the tie back into place
    How on earth would you get it over the wings of the collar? They would be in a right old mess by the time you had pushed a stiff tie over them.
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The wing collars were always separate to the shirt for easier cleaning. First the bow tie, then the shirt, then the wing collar. Dear oh dear, the class of people on this forum these days! :D
     

    gasman

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Dear oh dear, the class of people on this forum these days! :D
    I am still unclear how you tie a tie properly and then push it over the collar. I wore enough in my time to realise that, no matter how you tried, the bow would slide. Apart from anything else, trying to get the collar stud to properly fit shirt and collar with a tie in the way, really boggles the mind.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I am still unclear how you tie a tie properly and then push it over the collar. I wore enough in my time to realise that, no matter how you tried, the bow would slide. Apart from anything else, trying to get the collar stud to properly fit shirt and collar with a tie in the way, really boggles the mind.
    Likewise.
    I don't understand how if would work to tie the tie around a naked neck, then put on the shirt, then the collar with studs - under the tie?
    On the other hand, I am happy to bow the the expertise of one more practiced in the art of donning and doffing wing collars :)
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I´m trying unsuccessfully to visualise what I am trying, badly, to say and am inclined to agree that it doesn´t work. I just remember seeing my dad do it. But I have found a supporter online of my theory, so I´m not the only crazy one!
    "If you are using a wing-collar shirt, put your tie on first. Then slide it up your neck, put your shirt on, and slide the tie back into place."
    http://www.ehow.com/tips_2649.html
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Dont' you think "stuffed into a boiled shirt" suggests that the narrator is depicting himself like a puppet being clothed (stuffed into a shirt) by others?
    It doesn't suggest that to me, K. The situation was forcing him to wear uncomfortable borrowed clothes, but I don't think anyone else was dressing him in them.

    Bow ties are pretty difficult things to tie (Lis will no doubt be shocked to hear that MrL uses ready-tied ones:D). The fact that this one was tied by the vice consul may indicate that the narrator was not accustomed to tying bow ties, or it may simply imply the vice consul was a nice helpful chap.
    What confused me was the fact that first visconsul "carefully tied him" with a white tie and then he was "stuffed into a boiled shirt" while in the normal course of the practice they wear the shirt first and then a tie is tied round the collar.
    I don't think we've got a sequence of actions here: it's more like a visual top-down description. I see (here) that the description finishes with a reference to "patent leather pumps".
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    scarcelybathed (bathed in a hurry) he finds himself cast for a role (expected to dress or act in an unfamiliar, perhaps even uncomfortable, manner) provided with a tie carefully tied by the viceconsul stuffed into a boiled shirt (the narrator is wearing a laundered shirt too small for him) a tailcoat too small a pair of dresstrousers too large (the coat is too small and the trousers too large) which the kind wife of the kind official gigglingly fastens in the back with safetypins which immeidately burst open when he bows to the High Commissioner's lady
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Are you sure bibliolept about "boiled shirt" meaning a "laundered shirt too small"? because as far as I know, also supported by other posts, "boiled shirt" means a shirt with a starched front and this conforms with the bow tie and the tailcoat and other facts.
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is actually a white (bow) tie that is mentioned in the text and a white tie event is of course very much more formal wear than the more normal black(bow) tie event.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    It is actually a white (bow) tie that is mentioned in the text and a white tie event is of course very much more formal wear than the more normal black(bow) tie event.
    You're more than right dear Lis and I'm awfully sorry for my mistake.
     
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