In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 20, 2008 / 15 Iyar 5768

Pajamas for Presidents

By Paul Johnson

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When I was a child of four or five my big sisters told me edifying stories about the rise of the British empire, which then occupied a quarter of the earth's surface. A favourite villain was Tippoo Sahib, Sultan of Mysore, a 'little monster' who was son of a 'big monster', Hyder Ali. Tippoo was known as 'Tiger' (like Stanley Baldwin) and hated Englishmen, and put to death any he captured in fiendish ways. He was finally put down, by the future Duke of Wellington, in the battle of Seringapatam, being killed in the process, leaving behind an immense pile of silver, gold, jewels and toys. Among the last was a mechanical tiger (himself) rending the prostrate body of an Englishman and emitting ferocious growls. It still works and is in the V&A, though the growls have become a bit husky.

More important, however, was Tippoo's wardrobe, which likewise passed into British hands, and included many sets of pajamass. These were then unknown in England, though common in the Orient, especially in Turkey, Persia and India, where they were worn at any time of day, not just at night. The word is Urdu and means foot or clothing, and in transliteration can be spelt in over a hundred different ways. (The Americans always spell it pajamas.) Some English officers found the garments convenient for the hot Indian nights, especially if made of cotton, though Wellington himself always stuck to his nightshirt. Gradually the habit spread. Thackeray, born in India, called them peijammahs and Medwin pigammahs. The first Viceroy to wear them was the Earl of Lytton, chiefly to annoy his wife (Lyttons and their spouses always quarrelled). But Curzon, when Viceroy, refused to follow suit and made the article the subject of one of his sayings: 'Gentlemen never wear pajamass.'

By then, however, at home in England, the pajamas was fast ousting the nightshirt for male nightwear and — an astonishing thing — was even being worn by certain upper-class ladies, such as Lady Desborough and other female 'Souls'. Their daughters, known as the 'Corrupt Coterie', were pajamas girls to a woman, Lady Diana Cooper setting the pace. Of course, once women began to wear pajamass, the awesome — dreadful — possibility opened up of pajamas parties. When was the first? The earliest recorded was given in Chicago by a well-known society hostess there, Mrs Edwin Avon, and duly reported in London by a shocked Westminster Gazette. They spread to England during the war, and were a favourite form of entertainment among the 'Bright Young People' (see Vile Bodies). No one knew what the girls wore under their pajamass. As Lady Anchorage darkly and confusedly put it: 'Pajamass are an excuse for concealed nudity.'

When I was a teenager my mother told me to beware of girls who wore pajamass, as they were likely to be 'bold'. I had no objections to bold girls, actually, but was not going to say so. When I was in my last year at Oxford, I had digs in the Iffley Road, run by a Mrs Norris, a fierce and strict lady always known as Aunt Norris, after the character in Mansfield Park. She would never allow girls in the digs but she made an exception for a pretty friend of mine called Betty Bingley, known as Grable because of her long, beautiful legs. The blonde must have put a spell on Aunt Norris, because when I was working late in the library, she was allowed to come in and wait for me in my room. She would get undressed and put on my pajamass, and I would find her placidly lying in bed, her golden tresses spread over the pillows, reading Thucydides' Peloponnesian War (in Greek of course), usually the bit about the Syracuse stone quarries in Book VII, and sipping a mug of Horlicks supplied by Aunt Norris and liberally laced with brandy 'to keep out the cold'. I suppose Betty was 'bold'.

Girls called pajamass 'pidgies' in those days. They were thought not quite proper at some boarding schools, where nightdresses, or nighties, were de rigueur. On the other hand, some men would not, or did not, wear them either. Churchill, for instance, rejected them, not for the reason given by Curzon but because 'I have such a tender skin that I can only wear silk next to it', and put on at night a vest only, which did not come down to his waist. His doctor, Lord Moran, noted in his diaries while sharing sleeping quarters with Churchill in an uncomfortable bombing aircraft or one of their trips to a wartime conference, that the Prime Minister complained of both the heat and the cold but made no attempt to alter his attire, Moran catching glimpses of 'a large, fat white bottom'.

By contrast, Dr Mousadeq, the postwar Iranian demagogue, the first Persian politician to raise the nationalist flag against Britain's control of the country's oil industry, was an outstanding pajamas man. In those days, the early Fifties, we were not obliged, happily, to take the Iranians too seriously, and Mousadeq was much relished as a delightfully comic figure. He usually made his pronouncements, or gave newspaper interviews, wearing a pair of pajamass. Of course in Persia pajamass were perfectly normal daytime wear, before the adoption of Western suits, but it is not clear that the old boy, who had a long lugubrious nose and melancholy face, and delighted to raise a laugh among Western newsmen, wore pajamass for nationalist reasons. Indeed, he appeared to spend much of his time in bed. His pajamass, moreover, were the thick striped kind worn by English boys at boarding schools — I had identical pairs — and Sir Marcus Sieff, chairman of Marks & Spencer, used to claim that Mousadeq had 'obviously had them sent out from our shop in Oxford Street'. Mr Attlee, then Prime Minister, said that the pajamass were 'remarkably similar to my own'. Eventually the Americans, fed up with British dithering, staged a coup and Mr Mousadeq was forced to run for it, still wearing his pidgies. The Shah took over. I once interviewed him for TV, on his houseboat tethered to a jetty in the Caspian Sea. I looked anxiously for any sign of pajamass, but could see none, though I discovered that the pram in which the infant crown prince reposed had solid gold fittings. The mullah who currently tyrannises Iran wears sombre ecclesiastical nightshirts.

Why Churchill did not wear silk pajamass is a mystery to me. Twenty years ago, my friend Carla brought me back from China a present of a fine silk pair of pajamass. I have worn them ever since 'for best', i.e. going to weekend house-parties, trips to Venice or on cruise liners etc. They are still absolutely perfect, as good as new, and evoke admiration from butlers, grooms of the chambers, chambermaids and others who glimpse them. I also have an amazingly thick pair, of a savage dark red, made of Cumberland wool, which were bought in the Lake District during a Wordsworth conference — the sort of garment worn by John and Roger, I imagine, in Swallows and Amazons, quite possibly by Nancy, too, though I suspect she preferred to sleep naked, for bravado. Today, I'm told, most girls under 25 also prefer to be bare in bed, though they put on sexy nightdresses for special occasions. The lads wear vests like Churchill, though not of silk, and boxer shorts. So pajamass in the West have lasted only 100 years. What is needed is another Coco Chanel, who designed fancy pidgies for men and persuaded even 'Bendor' Westminster to wear them.

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Eminent British historian and author Paul Johnson's latest book is "American Presidents Eminent Lives Boxed Set: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses S. Grant". Comment by clicking here.


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© 2006, Paul Johnson