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Vinegar Valentines
February 13, 2013 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Hating Valentine's Day may be popular these days, but back in back when, Valentine's Day was a chance to hate on other people.
posted by jacquilynne (38 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
HORSE FACE

(Stamped in red on those little candy hearts.)
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:56 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nowadays the internet fills our societal need for anonymous passive aggression.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2013


Mocking alcoholics was considered socially acceptable, even in the 1940s, as this Panoco/Doubl-Glo card shows.

Hmmmm. Yes, obviously this card was produced before the invention of ironic overstatement in late 1957.
posted by yoink at 11:01 AM on February 13, 2013


YOU ARE A NERVE-DESTROYER.
posted by maryr at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I love these. But in the article, the interviewee keeps saying that sending one of these cards would have been a serious and grave insult: There are a lot of the comic cards produced now, but they are not meant to be taken seriously. That’s why you can call somebody a bitch in a card, because you don’t actually think they’re a bitch. But in the Victorian valentines cards, it seems that you would send it to somebody who you’d actually have a serious problem with. That’s how I read them, anyway. But I didn't necessarily get that impression from reading them. Couldn't they have been a form of playful ribbing instead? Why assume they were serious?

(Also: Collector's Weekly has seriously awesome articles on a regular basis.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:06 AM on February 13, 2013


But I didn't necessarily get that impression from reading them. Couldn't they have been a form of playful ribbing instead?

Yeah, I picture this person standing in front of a contemporary birthday card rack and reading all the "over the hill" joke cards for people's 40th birthdays and thinking "wow, who knew there was such a market for people who want to send hate-cards to people turning 40?" Most of these are clearly meant to be jokes. I do wonder about the "saleslady" one, though. It seems weirdly specific.
posted by yoink at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I know this guy.
posted by maryr at 11:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Roses are red
Violets are blue
This is just to say
i hate you.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh poster who posts but never reads,
How tired we are of uninformed screeds,
All year must we suffer your hem and bray,
But get ye' stuffed this Valentine's day!
posted by codacorolla at 11:15 AM on February 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I do wonder about the "saleslady" one, though. It seems weirdly specific.

Not at all. Early 20th century humor is FULL of hating on sales staff and a few others (such as beauticians) for being snooty. I gather the idea then was less "the customer is always right" and more projecting an air of classiness and distinction to invoke aspirational buying.
posted by DU at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why assume they were serious?

If they were habitually sent anonymously, that implies they were serious. Although I sometimes send my family slightly mocking birthday cards, I sign my name to them so we can all laugh together.

Well, okay, I didn't sign my name when I sent my mother flowers on her 60th birthday gently mocking her age and her habit of telling people she was 21 and a few months old, but in that case, I knew she'd know they were from me.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2013


Not at all. Early 20th century humor is FULL of hating on sales staff and a few others (such as beauticians) for being snooty.

Oh yes, I realize that; what I meant was that it's hard to picture a friendly way to use that card--or, at least, it's hard to picture that very niche market (boyfriends of sales clerks who have a bit of a black sense of humor?) as being large enough to warrant the production of this card.
posted by yoink at 11:26 AM on February 13, 2013


If it was good enough for the Royal Navy, it's good enough for my Valentine's day: Rum, Sodomy & the Lash.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:29 AM on February 13, 2013


yoink, the article states these were generally not sent to ones lover. I think the 'saleslady' card might show up inside a shop or be found pasted to the door, for example.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:31 AM on February 13, 2013


Oh wait, you knew that. Sorry, I misread.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2013


They used to be called "comic valentines", and to describe someone as looking like a comic valentine was to insult them.

Mainly they were just intended for some harmless fun and ribbing. I remember enjoying a passage in What Katy Did at School, by Susan Coolidge, in which it was described how a certain much disliked teacher, Miss Jane, who was known to be engaged to an African missionary, received a Valentine purportedly from a cannibal who had eaten her fiancé. The cannibal reported that her beloved had been quite tasty and included the recipe used.
posted by orange swan at 11:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of all the perfunctory little valentines that everyone in my classes gave each other (elementary school in the 80's...lots of He-Man and Smurfs), my favorite would be what I'd consider a vinegar valentine. I think it's from 3rd grade.

It was from a boy that I thought was gross - of COURSE he was gross, he was a boy - but besides that, he was inoffensive. He gave me a Garfield valentine and Garfield is saying "I think you're great!" The boy crossed out "great" and wrote "okay" above it. Although "okay" is a downgrade from "great", he cared enough to personalize my valentine. He didn't do this to any of my friends' valentines. Clearly, we were meant to be together. I had a crush on him until we moved on to 4th grade and wound up in different classes. I don't think I ever found the guts to talk to him though. I still have the valentine to this day.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


I sent my mother flowers on her 60th birthday gently mocking her age and her habit of telling people she was 21 and a few months old

When I was little, my mother would always tell my siblings and me that she was "21 plus". She gave up the habit when we started saying, "Yeah, 21 plus 21 plus 21 plus 21....".
posted by orange swan at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2013


I GOT TIME FOR YOU.
posted by resurrexit at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


A couple months ago I had never heard of Vinegar Valentines.

Then, at a local auction house, my wife bought a box of "Edwardian? postcards??" for about £30.

Inside this box we found 20 different Vinegar Valentines, all from about the 1870's. All large and unique and beautiful. They were mostly mocking professions - a milkman, a postman - but also lovers, bikers, drinkers - all sorts of different society types as well.

We realized we couldn't really keep them. So my wife has been slowly selling them to museums. The postman one, for example, went to the British postal museum. Some medical ones are going to the Wellcome collection, etc. I'll see if she has scans I can post here...

It does strike me that these were made to sell in limited quantities. But the person/type attacked is also weirdly specific. Did lots of people have these same set of types that needed mocking? If you sent it to the guy who dumped you, wouldn't it be difficult to be truly an anonymous sender?
posted by vacapinta at 11:58 AM on February 13, 2013


I think I know this guy.
posted by maryr at 3:11 PM on February 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


...so does asavage, it's clearly Jamie Hyneman
posted by leotrotsky at 12:08 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, looking through some of ours, they really are horrible. I don't know how they could have been sent in jest. There's one to a butcher that talks about feeding his heart to dogs. And, then there's this xenophobic one that I scanned.

This page at the Brighton museum has more background:
Condemned by the press on both sides of the Atlantic, comic valentines were described in tones of moral outrage and variously labelled as 'filthy' and 'nauseating'. Such cards were blamed for a degree of moral depravity and anti-social behaviour including, in the New York Times on February 15th 1866, the unlikely assertion that they encouraged 'a fearful tendency to the development of swearing in males of all ages'. There were also more serious consequences to the sending of insulting cards, most significantly and sadly in the case of the ‘fatal valentine’ of 1847, where a woman in New York City overdosed on laudanum after receiving a mean valentine from a man who had led her to believe that he was interested.

If these are typical, this might be a tradition that we best forgot.
posted by vacapinta at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Roses are gay
Violets are gayer
Fuck this bullshit
and listen to SLAYER
posted by Renoroc at 12:21 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was little, my mother would always tell my siblings and me that she was "21 plus". She gave up the habit when we started saying, "Yeah, 21 plus 21 plus 21 plus 21....".

The card on those flowers I mentioned? It read "468, to be exact".

I like to periodically calculate the number of months, just to keep her honest. I could practically hear the gears turning in the florist's head while she took down the information, but I applaud her absolute professionalism in not asking me what that meant. She just wrote it down, exactly as I requested.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:35 PM on February 13, 2013


Roses are red
Violets are blue
I'm happily married
and you're miserably alone
posted by Burhanistan at 12:38 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


These could be mean, but if everyone was doing them (and of course they were anonymous) I can see this being something that wasn't traumatizing. Sure you could get nasty ones, but you could send them too. It's kind of like April Fool's in that way, a sort of license to be impolite.
posted by emjaybee at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2013


I read these articles this morning and they fascinated me. I'm printing out copies of the "bookworm" ones for framing; they will no doubt end up in my office somewhere.

I'm also very close to changing my mefi name to "Vinegar Valentine."
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:14 PM on February 13, 2013


I wonder if the modern equivalent are more in the self-mockery vein?
posted by maryr at 1:27 PM on February 13, 2013


roses are red

violets are red

tulips are red

bushes are red

trees are red

oh god my gardens on fire
posted by orme at 1:52 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Roses are red
and so is the state
Let us be comrades
because you are great
posted by dlugoczaj at 1:59 PM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Here's a valentine for you, you insensitive clod!!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:08 PM on February 13, 2013


roses are red

violets are red

posted by martinrebas at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Modern Valentines Are So Romantic
posted by The Whelk at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Roses are red
and so is my state
Let move northeast
where people are more evolved
posted by theora55 at 9:05 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish I knew who to send that possum one to. My sister, maybe?
posted by maryr at 9:18 PM on February 13, 2013


You think your links are the utmost
And cry when mods remove your post
In truth, nobody likes your squawking
Especially when you're MetaTalking!
posted by xingcat at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2013


Three from Britain:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Deep fried horse leg for lunch,
And for dinner, donkey stew.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Now they've found sheep meat,
We've all consumed ewe.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
My lasagne now neighs,
But it used to go moo :(

...and one from the Taliban:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
We will ban poetry,
Death to America.
posted by Wordshore at 12:44 PM on February 14, 2013


'Vinegar' is the perfect descriptor of the Cerebus Valentines - a satirical 'celebration' of that lunatic anti-feminist Dave Sim.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:39 PM on February 14, 2013


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