Squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face

Postcard reads: “Are you in the jam, dearie?” “No! Mother, I’m just squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face.”

I found this antique postcard (I think it’s from the 1930s) at an estate sale a couple months ago. I had to get it because . . . it’s just so weird. Why would someone make a postcard like this? And, what kind of person would actually send it to someone?

Then I got to wondering whether there is another meaning of blackhead that I didn’t know. Certainly, I thought, there couldn’t be a big market in the 1930s (or any time, I hope) for cards about facial secretions.

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of blackhead is: any of various birds with more or less black about the head.

It gives the example of a scaup duck, which looks like this:

Webster’s (unabridged online) gives the second definition as: comedo. This is where I learned way more than I wanted to about facial blemishes. Comedo is the proper term for blackhead. Webster’s describes comedo as: a collection of dead cells and oily secretion that plugs a hair follicle and duct of an oil gland and is usually covered with a black dot.

Because I know you want to know more about comedo, here is the Online Etymology Dictionary’s explanation of the origin of comedo: Comedo in Latin means “glutton,” which comes from the Latin comedere, which means “to eat up.” Comedere is an old name for worms that “devour the body.” It came to be used in a medical sense because it was thought that blackheads resemble these worms.

Yeah, gross. But where does this leave us with our creepy postcard?

I hope the blackheads the child mentions refer to “birds with more or less black about the head.” Otherwise, if the child means the other sense, that’s just disgusting.

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6 thoughts on “Squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face

    • I totally forgot about cat acne. Actually, one of my cats has been diagnosed with it, now that I remember; so, I know it’s a real thing.

      I revised my date assumption to 1930s after you read it. I based it simply on other antique postcards I’ve collected. But, I definitely am no specialist. The earliest postcard I have is from 1910–but that didn’t look like the ones I have from that era, and I didn’t think it looked like it belonged in that group. I would love it if someone more knowledgeable could give a better estimation.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  1. Pingback: Happy birthday, Grammar Party! | Grammar Party

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