Is Mae West a palindrome? On!

Or, Paisley Rekdal’s compounding entendres

Only a halfwit could miss the double entendres in Mae West’s one-liners.

The sultry starlet laid it on thick and on purpose — as a playwright, she carefully crafted her persona and never, ever broke character. She was the sexpot, both on and off screen, and if you didn’t read something suggestive into her every utterance, you weren’t paying attention.

And so her quips were like the Empress’ New Clothes: If you missed the meaning in “You’re never too old to get younger” or “She may be good for nothing, but she’s not bad for nothing,” it was on you.

This sort of wicked wordplay was what made Mae West a figure of fascination for the pawky poet Paisley Rekdal. She doesn’t recall her exact introduction to West’s work, but:

There are pictures of me as a child accompanying my mother to the grocery store, dressed in high heels and a feather boa, one arm raised while I nasally drawl at the produce clerk to peel me a grape.

Rekdal deeply internalized Westisms, and the results are some great poems. In her 2013 “Self-Portrait as Mae West One-Liner,” she writes:

I’m no moaning bluet, mountable
linnet, mumbling nun. I’m
tangible, I’m gin. Able to molt
in toto, to limn. I’m blame and angle, I’m
lumbago, an oblate mug gone notable,
not glum. ...

Every phrase is both smutty and silly — you can see her read it aloud here — and thus a perfect invocation of West. Any palindrome is a pal o’ mine, as she didn’t say. Better still is 2011’s “Mae West: Advice,” which turns a series of precociously prurient phrases into wisdom like:

Be colonel not cadet, concede nada to doc,
date a cad and canoodle, be eclat on a cot.

Did I mention that Rekdal is the poet laureate of Utah? Doesn’t that just make you want to move to Salt Lake City? The general aim of this newsletter is to find useful tips amid the quips, but in the case of Mae West, Paisley Rekdal got there first and made it rhyme. So please, take her glittering advice:

Be oded, caboodled, be beacon and lect.
Don’t be a noodle: be cool and collect.


Quick quips; lightning

Some more Mae West classics:

She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.

He who hesitates is a damn fool.

To err is human, but it feels divine.

He’s the kind of man a woman would have to marry to get rid of.

I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.

That’s the 47th issue of Get Wit Quick, a weekly refusal to omit elan. In Elements of Wit: Mastering The Art of Being Interesting, Mae West was declared the queen of the trouble entendre. Another great Rekdal line: “Untangle me, tangelo.” Don’t be a noodle: There’s nothing unseemly about touching the ♥️ below — or is there?