Sheiks and Shebas

sheikie It’s one of those
unique cultural
colloquialisms
that has completely
disappeared from
contemporary
language –

yet,
for a period
of about 25 years
centered around
the 1920’s, it was
part of the
every day
vernacular
of a flourishing
‘flapper’
subculture –

the ‘Sheik’
and the ‘Sheba’.

Although these
expressions had
already come into
use by 1919,
two movies at the
turn of the decade
were certainly
influential in these
terms gaining
wide-spread
popularity :

” The Queen of Sheba “,
a 1921 Fox production
starring a very scantily
clad Betty Blythe,
and
Paramount’s ” The Sheik “,
starring Rudolph Valentino,
from the same year.

Young people coming
of age in that era were
less inclined than
previous generations
to adhere to a rigid
social code, particularly
when it came down to
their relationships;

— but the use of these
terms not only implied
more liberality of
association, but of
lifestyle as well.

Sex appeal, open
-mindedness, and
a free-wheeling
nature was a must –

and no self
respecting Sheik
could expect his
Sheba to spend
a quiet evening
at home – when
there were parties
and nightlife –
prohibition
notwithstanding.

They didn’t call it
the ‘roaring 20’s’
for nothing, you know.

A ‘Sheba’ differed
from a ‘Flapper’ in
an important way –
although some
women enjoyed
the term being
applied to them
and took to using
it themselves, it was
generally a label
used by outsiders,
(pejoratively or
otherwise),
whereas ‘Sheba’
and ‘Sheik’ were
terms people
inside the subculture
would use to describe
themselves or their
friends.

The tensions, stresses,
and economic difficulties
of the Great Depression
and the darkening clouds
of war eventually put an
end to the light-hearted
spirit of the flapper and to
their patois, but traces of
it and them are still to be
found here on the
Muscleheaded Blog.

!!! HOY !!!

Betty Blythe in ” Queen Of Sheba ” , 1921

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