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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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Yawning

By Henry Shinsky, '32

The Magpie, January 1932, v. 33, n. 1, p. 53.

The yawn insists upon obstinately selecting the most inconvenient times and places for its occurrence. In this respect the yawn is not unique, sharing this prerogative with its cousins, the cough and the sneeze.

How many times in a movie thriller has the quavering, hiding hero or heroine been betrayed into the hands of the villains by some dastardly sneeze? How many times has an involuntary cough given embarrassment out of all proportion to its intrinsic value?

But the yawn is different, a creature apart, distinctive, with an impish cunning all its own. The yawn is silent, not noisy like the other pains-in-the-neck; but it can do damage. Oh, yes, it certainly can!

For instance:

You come to school on the first day of the term. You are anxious to make a good impression on all your teachers. Unfortunately, your first period is History. You succumb to the soporific influence of a droning voice which reminds you of the bees on your summer vacation. You catch yourself in the midst of a good old-fashioned yawn. You try to suppress it. Too late. Your quick glance upward meets the baleful stare of your seething teacher. With sinking heart you realize that you'll never get more than a 98 at the end of the term. This ruins your whole day.

Or take a more consequential situation. You are visiting your new girl friend's home for the first time. She gets out the family album and shows you Uncle Ephraim, Aunt Mathilda, and little Willie, (isn't he cute?). Soon you feel a yawn coming on. You fight it. You wrestle with it, you squirm, you exert all the muscular power of your jaws, but in vain. Your lips reluctantly part, gather momentum, your mouth springs wide, stays there and refuses to close. The sweet young thing glances at you. She turns away hurriedly and snaps the book shut. That night, at home, you sadly cross her name out of your address book.

And so on ad infinitum with these cases. But the yawn has a good use: as a weapon. A well-timed and well-executed yawn is a most devastating and merciless attack for certain cases. For instance, if your friend wants you to listen to the composition his teacher called excellent the other day, a yawn after the first paragraph will stop him more effectively than all your entreaties. Cool disdain has never found a more efficacious combination than raising the eyebrows and yawning, meanwhile patting the mouth languidly with the back of the hand and the yawn must be accompanied by a half-articulate "Oh, dear!"




The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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