Alex (yakshaver) wrote,

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busier than a one-armed paperhanger

siderea asks " What's a "one-armed paper hanger", anyway?"

A one-armed paperhanger is a vivid image that is at the root of one of my father's favorite expressions, and one of only two that I picked up from him. The other is both obscene and profane to such a degree that I am unwilling to put it down in writing in such a public forum, but I seem to be on a bit of a campaign to keep "busier than a one-armed paperhanger" alive. The paper in question is wallpaper, which as best I can tell was the most popular home-improvement project throughout America from the late 19th Century through the early 1960s, but seems to have largely died off since. Presumably these days wallpaper is likely to be self-adhesive, but historically, the way you applied wallpaper was to brush on quick-drying paste, grab the paper, apply, unroll, straighten, flatten, redo the bottom where it's starting to curl, redo the top where it's starting to curl, fix the corner where it rolled back on itself and is now stuck together, straighten, flatten, unstick, lather, rinse, repeat....

I remember watching my parents do it when I was little; it's a comical operation (to watch, anyway) at the best of times. Now imagine a one-armed man trying to do it. Hilarity ensues. (Yes, I realize that these days this is a horribly politically incorrect source of humor. Suck it up. I have occasionally shocked people by telling a cancer joke — until I explained that I was a cancer patient: then they laughed. I don't know anyone with only one arm, but I know people with many other disabilities, and they all have perfectly intact senses of humor about their conditions.)

There is some footage I remember seeing as a kid, black and white and, I think, silent, of a (two-armed) man hanging some wallpaper and having every imaginable thing go wrong. I am not generally a fan of slapstick (I once read something on why men love and women hate the Three Stooges and concluded I must be a woman). But this routine is hilarious. If anyone knows what it's from, I'd sure appreciate a pointer.

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