by Woody Allen

Now, we all know when someone is very dressed up, we say he looks “spiffy.” The term owes its origin to Sir Oswald Spiffy, perhaps the most renowned fop of Victorian England. Heir to treacle millions, Spiffy squandered his money on clothes – it was said that at one time he owned enough handkerchiefs for all the men, women and children of Asia to blow their noses for seven years without stopping. Spiffy’s sartorial innovations were legend – he was the first man ever to wear gloves on his head – and because of extra-sensitive skin, his underwear had to be made of the finest Nova Scotia salmon, carefully sliced by one particular tailor. His libertine attitudes involved him in several notorious scandals, and he eventually sued the government over the right to wear earmuffs while fondling a dwarf. In the end, Spiffy died a broken man in Chichester, his total wardrobe reduced to kneepads and a sombrero.


Woody Allen, who today turns 73, is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, writer and actor. His six sentences are excerpted from "Slang Origins," a New Yorker piece originally published in Without Feathers.