Friday, April 13, 2007
The greatest single employment of a word in an American pop song is surely Carly Simon's use of the word "apricot" in "You're So Vain": "Your hat strategically dipped below one eye/Your scarf it was apricot." Never has a single world so quickly defined its subject; the song could have ended right there, and we'd have gotten the point. "Apricot" is as pungent and distinctive a word as "gavotte," with which it is rhymed, but apricot has the virtue of being immediately understandable, whereas most people probably still don't know what "gavotte" means, and think they are mishearing that lyric.
It's not just that Carly is singing about a man who would wear a scarf that is the color apricot --which is some kind of mixture of salmon and orange, I guess, although I haven't seen the inside of a lot of apricots lately -- but that the gentleman in question would describe said scarf as being apricot. If I had a scarf that was apricot, and someone asked me what color it was, I'd probably say, "I dunno, some kind of mixture of salmon and orange." This scarf was certainly bought from some ultra-chic boutique on Madison Avenue, and cost upwards of three figures, no doubt. Even back in 1972, you couldn't get an apricot scarf for any fifteen dollars.
In an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show from that same era, Gavin MacLeod at one point sports a bright yellow scarf tied around his neck (not at the WJM offices, of course; this was at a party he and Marie hosted at the house), completely oblivious to the fact that it made him look like the gayest thing ever. This points up the narrow line being walked by Ms. Simon's protagionist: a yellow scarf will look absolutely ridiculous, while an apricot scarf while ensure that your horse will naturally win at Saratoga.