The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 11 (June 1, 1930)
The Way We Go Ins and Out of Life
Of course the vast majority of rumours are unconfirmed, because they are concerned with rather delicate or intimate personal matters. Attempts to confirm many of these rumours would greatly increase the world's production of black-eyes, battered noses, and broken sconces.
* * *
Years ago it was believed that the unconfirmed rumour—passed on through the town in “strictest confidence”—had a bigger run among women than men, but it is rumoured that as femininity has become a little more masculine in outlook and masculinity to-day has a feminist tendency, it would need a double Royal Flush Commission of extraordinary power and courage to determine which sex is the busier creator or distributor of unconfirmed rumours.
* * *
Many thousands of journalists, the world over, remember the lure of the unconfirmed rumour in their early days of reporting. How rosy it looked on the wild tree! What a fruity thing to hand to the public! The editor had given the traditional warning: “When in doubt, leave out.” The young Sherlock Holmes had tried hard to find out, but it was not possible to clear away every speck of uncertainty. So, after much cogitation, he decided to chance it. “One more wild shot like that,” the editor said next day, sternly, almost fiercely, “and you may look for another job. This is a solid, respectable, newspaper office, not a bureau for issuing guessers' licenses.”
* * *
Barbers' shops have been claimed as the sources and spreaders of many unconfirmed rumours, but the full responsibility must not be thrust upon the barber. If customers could sit about smoking in grocers' shops, waiting for their turn, these mild places would have their share of the wild rumour business, but not so much as the barber's boudoirs where the atmosphere is more conducive to gossip. The barber, as the recipient of the city's chat, simply passes it on to successive occupants of the chair.
* * *
A much-quoted saying, attributed to the late Barnum, who specialised in the collection and exhibition of freaks, was something like this: “The public like to be humbugged.” Yes—but only once in a while. They will pay cheerfully now and then to be humbugged now and then, but they will not agree to pay all the time to be humbugged all the time.
Here, then, is a pretty problem for some merchants of humbug. When and how do the people like to be humbugged? For the man who picks the right time and place for bamboozlement, the public has a bouquet, but a bucket of very cold water for the person whose mock-oranges are grown out of season. It is very, very difficult, my masters.
* * *
More nonsense is thought, spoken, and written about the public than about economics or the balance of trade. The great joke of the business is that there is no public at all, in the sense in which the word “public” is commonly used. Every so-called “public” in the world consists of innumerably small and large publics within the big public (which is ever changing its constitution). There is a general sound public opinion about the need of fresh food, but not about the need of fresh air. Even in the matter of fresh food there is not unanimity, for some page 35 folk have no interest in game or cheese until those things delight their eyes and noses with variegated hues and far-ranging odours.
* * *
Within the public of New Zealand come many publics, dividing and subdividing until even a single tavern has its own public (subdivided also), making and unmaking policies for anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere.
It is much more easy to make or shape public opinion to-day on national, political or social questions than time before the evolution “movies,” and radio — but more easy to unmake it same arts and crafts are available to the breaker as to the maker. The public is not more changeable at present than it was in the past. The difference is that long ago, when distractions were fewer, people could think more solidly about their own welfare. If they took a long time to make up their minds about anything, they also took a long time to unmake them. To-day the demands on public attention are so many and varied that the public mind must feel like a whirligig. An opinion about anything is here to-day, gone to-morrow, and back the day after.
Travelling En Prince On The New Zealand Railways.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
An interior view of one of the luxurious lounge cars recently introduced on the “Daylight Limited” Expresses on the North Island Main Trunk Line. These cars, for which a small additional charge is made, afford parlour-like comfort in train travel, and their introduction has thoroughly justified the Department's enterprise.
It is hard to write anything new about sex. Poets, dramatists, novelists, uplifters, and others are trying to be original on this question, to the great amusement of the world's women and some of the men. But, then, who can say or write anything new about anything? (See Ecclesiastes 1, 9d.) However, as everybody is always forgetting what others have said about the world, the flesh, and the devil, one can put a change of dressing on old bones and flourish the figure as a new creation. The only scope for originality now is in the new turns of world-old thoughts, and—but that can wait for another day.
Here is a girl (alias young woman, alias young lady) on a tennis court, playing singles against a young man, sturdy and agile. The girl has bare brown arms, supple and strong, and she is fast on her feet. The man begins gallantly, true to the traditions of chivalry, he thinks. He feels that he controls the game, and sends over “soft stuff” which is slammed back out of his reach. Onlookers laugh, and the man thinks it will be well to harden his play. He does, but the girl goes a little harder. Once more the laugh is against the man—again and yet again.