2007-04-15 18:22:24 UTC
now of an age when one wants to begin crossing things off of one's "to-
list, it is time for me to get this question answered.
In 'Brave New World", Huxley uses the word "pneumatic" in a clearly
sense, but his meaning is a mystery to me. From Chapter 3 of Brave
"Oh, she's a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic."
But she was really too pneumatic. Whereas Fifi and Joanna were
absolutely right. Plump, blonde, not too large...
"I think she had yellow hair. Anyhow she was pneumatic,
and so throughout the entire book.
This usage is not idiosyncratic to Huxley. From T. S. Eliot's poem,
"Whispers of Immortality":
Grishkin is nice; her Russian eye
Is underlined for emphasis;
Uncorseted, her friendly bust
Gives promise of pneumatic bliss.
where the erotic meaning is even clearer than in Huxley.
According to the dictionary definition, "pneumatic" means having to do
air, or gas. E.g., a pneumatic drill, or pneumatic tires. I do not
discern the connection between gas and a woman's charms (the term
be applied only to women, but that may perhaps be only because all the
writers are men). I have formed two theories.
Theory 1: The Brits are sexually aroused by flatulent women.
The problem with this theory is that it implies that the Brits are
different from you and me. I have always believed, and so far my
has not been disconfirmed by experience, that people are pretty much
same all over the world. I know about James Joyce and Nora, but I
figured that Joyce was a pervert, and not characteristic of Brits in
general (besides, Joyce was an Irishman, not a Brit, and if he left
Ireland and never returned to it that was only in order better to be
to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his
Now, it could be that Huxley and Eliot were also abnormal, and in
same way that Joyce was, but the flaw in this hypothesis is that
the word "pneumatic" expecting their readers to know what they are
talking about and to sympathize with it, whereas, even if Huxley and
Eliot were both statistical outliers, which is conceivable, they
nonetheless know that they were statistical outliers, and not expect
their readers to share the same tastes.
Theory 2: The term is derived from "pneumatic tires", which were
recent novelties during the time that Huxley and Eliot were writing,
by extension, describes a firm but yielding tactile sensation which
characteristic of pneumatic tires, and is considered to be a
quality in the feel of a woman's breasts.
The problem with this theory is that a woman's breasts do not feel
pneumatic tires (it is well known that they feel more like two bags
sand). Perhaps, it may be argued, this sensation may be obtained
from the healthiest, fittest, and most desirable of women, and
consequently many men have never experienced it. However, I have
pneumatic tires in my hand, and the sensation has brought me no
pleasure. And there is a sound epidemiological basis for my belief
these tastes are typical of my sex -- because if pneumatic tires
good to most (or even many) men, you would see men employing them
erotic purposes, and you do not.
Both these theories, then, have flaws which render them implausible,
am left with an unanswered question: What is the erotic meaning of
"pneumatic" in Huxley and Eliot? If you prefor to answer me directly,
not post a message of limited interest to the entire discussion group,
may contact me using any of the means indicated below. I thank you in
advance for your replies.
Jay F. Shachter
6424 North Whipple Street
Chicago IL 60645-4111
***@m5.chi.il.us (jay "at" m5 "dot" chi "dot" il "dot"