A Mystery Partially Solved

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, April 27, 1912:  Yessir, I really went to Milton this morning. Nor did I forget to take my Ma along.  After a trying time I got a hat that I thought would do. It is trimmed in light brown ribbon and red roses. I got a white dress, a pair of tans and some other gigger-mer-rows.

Amazingly, one of the drawings featured in an article on hats in the June, 1911 issue of Ladies Home Journal was a hat with roses and a brown ribbon. Maybe that was just a popular style a hundred years ago.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

We finally have at least a partial answer to what Grandma was talking about in several recent diary entries—Grandma needed to go hat shopping.

The past Sunday Grandma wrote that she wished she had her new hat; and, the previous day she’d written that she hoped it won’t be raining the next day because “the hat question had become a serious problem.”

My guess is that “a pair of tans” refers to stockings. I think that gigger-mer-rows is archaic slang for small items.

Many things that seem important a hundred years later are only mentioned in passing in the diary (or not mentioned at all). Yet something that seems very minor—buying a hat—was discussed day after day.

Maybe teens haven’t changed–then and now they want to have nice outfits and look good.

21 thoughts on “A Mystery Partially Solved

  1. Whooo Hooo … how wonderful!!! Yep, A typical teenage girl’s mind taken up with new clothing. So, not concerned about getting her new hat wet but worried the rain would hamper her shopping expedition. Wondered what was special about Saturday. Love ya, Miss Helena :-)

  2. That is amazing how you found a hat matching your grandma’s description of her new hat! Looks like she was keeping current with fashion trends! :) A whole new outfit – Yessir! :)

    1. I do, too. I feel like I have a vague, fleeting memory of someone (Grandma??) using that term occasionally when I was a child. But I asked my father and he never heard of the word–and my husband who grew up nearby also never heard it–so it probably is just my imagination.

  3. Looking good, always important to a teenager. I wonder if the gigger-mer-rows were a pair of earrings, handkerchief, gloves…

  4. One mystery solved and another opens up! “Giggermer-rows” would be a very good word to submit as a question as to its familiarity, meaning, and origin to Michael Quinion on his site worldwidewords.org!

  5. I read up a little about the fashion of the day. In the early 1910’s, skirts were becoming narrower, but hats were wide (sometimes out past the width of the shoulders), and had a lot of embellishments and adornments. Even the “average” American woman would have had a hat that was adorned in some manner.

    The styles, as always, were about to change though. In about another year or so, hat brims would start going smaller.

    I wonder if the term gigger-mer-rows had some specific meaning, or if it was her version of whatcha-ma-call-its.

    I’m glad she was able to have her day out shopping! :)

    1. It’s interesting how styles regularly changed a hundred years ago just like they do now. I want to think that gigger-mer-row is some sort of archaic slang, but I sure can’t find the word anywhere I’ve looked.

  6. Sorry Sheryl, I’ve TRIED to stop obsessing over the meaning of “gigger-mer-rows”… :-) but just had to mention that an elderly relative (almost 90years old), here in South Australia, suggested it may have been a “delicate” euphemism for “bras” … especially as, from memory, Grandma also purchased “a pair of tans” (stockings) at the same time as the “gigger-mer-rows” … that satisfies me :-) :-) :-) … well,I hope so, & bet you do too.

    1. Your elderly relative’s suggestion works for me. When I was a child we used to call underwear “unmentionables.” Gigger-mer-rows would be a great euphemism for unmentionables. :)

  7. I’m glad Catherine (previous commenter) became obsessed with what “ginger-mer-rows” were, as I Googled it, and it led me back here! Lol. I’m sure her 90 year old relative would have a better idea than any of us would.

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