Mustachioed is one of my favorite words. It may be its closeness in pronunciation to another favorite machismo or the fact that mustaches are incredibly, high concept funny. And because my Viking heritage prevents me from growing a dignified mustache I naturally envy what I can’t have. (Strangely, although I share half my genes with my father he can grow an exceptional soup strainer. I have never known him to be without it, making it least 30 years old.) I envy most mustaches and their supporting adjective. Even if they are out of style.
It seems that the writers over at the Post enjoy a similar appreciation of the word. Behold the little graphic I was able to put together after a little Nexis research…
Outside the few odd spikes and random dips, the overall frequency usage of the word mustachioed has increased since 1980 in the Washington Post. So far, a little more than halfway through the year they’ve only had 12. But I have full confidence in the editors to pick up the slack in the remainder of 2006. They need at least 10 more references to keep the trend going.
Now let’s examine the specifics of my research. I assumed that there would be some particular people who would warrant the use of mustachioed often in the paper. For instance, Saddam Hussein. But there are only three articles that feature references to the former spiderholer and mustachioed:
- His Mustachioed Statue
- The Mustachioed One
- And my favorite “mustachioed popinjay”
Tom Selleck* – There were only 2 examples of describing the Magnum PI actor as mustachioed and they were long after his most famous show ended. However, it is the cancellation of this watershed mustache show in 1988 that I think caused the spike in references that year in my graph. I am of the opinion that the Post writers so mourned the show that the subconsciously filled that hole with more references to lip hair. As you can see once the shock of the cancellation had worn off the chart dips back down to 11, the second lowest for any year.
John R. Bolton – Surprisingly, like Selleck, Bolton and mustachioed only appeared together in the Post two times. One was in July of 2005, shortly before his recess appointment. But the other dated way back in 1988…
Fried, stepping off the elevator, had a ready description of his fellow presidential appointee. "He looks," Fried said of the mustachioed Bolton, "like Zapata."The Brando reference shows that Bolton’s had his cookieduster for at least 18 years, putting him in the same league as my father. (The two share an uncanny and disturbing resemblance to each other. One that several people, including some long-lost friends through surprise email, pointed out during Bolton’s Senate confirmation.)
Swimmer Mark Spitz – once, also referred to as “swashbuckling.”
Craig Stadler – There was a disappointingly zero references to the PGA golfer nicknamed the Walrus.
Alex Trebek, Freddie Mercury, Dr Phil, Charles Bronson, Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock, Boston Blackie of Buffet’s Pencil Thin Mustache fame – 0
In conclusion, outside the few most famous individuals there appeared to be no solid trends in the paper’s use of the word mustachioed. I feel that this is probably for the best. The word hasn’t been diluted by any single writer or story subject, appearing only when it’s the absolutely most befitting to the story. (The Reliable Source almost crossed the line when they used it twice in one week earlier this year, but it was in correcting a mistake thei made in the first reference, so they are forgiven.) Still, Post editors, you only have 5 months to make sure the average doesn’t slip. The Sports section seems like a good place to pick up the slack. May I suggest profiles on the following figures:
The National’s Nick Johnson
That crying Gonzaga basketball player
Or whoever wrote the article on wingmen in the Style section could write a follow up on guys who hope to set themselves apart at bars by having “things.” Like the fellow we saw last week at Buffalo Billiards. His things were: Civil War era Van Dyke facial hair, Sherlock Holmes-style pipe, dressing like he did all his shopping at a Belks black Levis jeans sale. Strange guy, you can only have one “thing” and you had us at pipe.
*Somewhere in the unpublished archives of this site is a huge post on Magnum PI. I was never able to get my head around the whole thing and it had no focus. But one day…