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Word change in "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" from "42nd Street"


_Broadway_
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I was re-watching the "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" number from 42nd Street (1933) and I recalled something I have always been curious about. Maybe someone here can offer some insights!

When Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel are singing sarcastically, Ginger has a verse that goes "He did right by little Nelly with a shotgun at his b--" and Una's character flashes her a concerned glance, so Ginger quickly says "tummy" to finish the lyric. It is clear Ginger was about to say "belly," which would make sense and would rhyme. But I don't understand why the word was changed. The characters behave as if there was something wrong about saying the word "belly." Was the word "belly" somehow inappropriate back then?

The below video should start at the verse in question:

 

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2 hours ago, _Broadway_ said:

I was re-watching the "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" number from 42nd Street (1933) and I recalled something I have always been curious about. Maybe someone here can offer some insights!

When Ginger Rogers and Una Merkel are singing sarcastically, Ginger has a verse that goes "He did right by little Nelly with a shotgun at his b--" and Una's character flashes her a concerned glance, so Ginger quickly says "tummy" to finish the lyric. It is clear Ginger was about to say "belly," which would make sense and would rhyme. But I don't understand why the word was changed. The characters behave as if there was something wrong about saying the word "belly." Was the word "belly" somehow inappropriate back then?

That is odd.      Now if the line was "He did right by little Paul with a shotgun at his b--" I would understand!

 

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Interesting. It seems you aren’t the only one to notice and wonder about it.

 
It is touched on in the book Damn! but the author doesn’t really know why the tide turned to make words such as belly become shameful.
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Wow, what a great find! Thank you for sharing, GalacricGirrrl! I never knew such words were considered inappropriate in those times. I enjoyed reading about the other rather silly examples of "bad" words in that same section of the book. Fascinating stuff!

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This entry from Wikipedia on the word "midriff" has a possible explanation.  Seems like it would be a fairly innocuous word... 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midriff#Etymology

The word was revived in 1941 by the fashion industry,[3] partly to avoid use of the word "belly" which genteel women considered undesirable in reference to their bodies, as it has connotations of obesity.

In addition, "belly" was a word which was forbidden to be used in films by the Hays Office censors; for instance, in the 1933 film 42nd Street, in the song Shuffle Off to Buffalo, Ginger Rogers is about to sing the line "with a shotgun at his belly", but stops after the "B" of "belly" and sings "tummy" instead.)

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I noticed that line in 42nd Street the first time I saw the film.

When I was growing up in NYC, there were a lot of stores called "Appetizing" stores. They sold many items, but the main draw was smoked fish. The two types of smoked salmon on offer were Nova Scotia Lox and Belly Lox, sliced to order, never packaged.  I remember as a kid, hearing the occasional grand lady ask for "Stomach Lox." But most people said Belly, and still do.

I think it was considered common to say "Belly." it wasn't considered smutty, or anything like that. 

0002338410102

 

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