Today, Susan D. Walter tells us more about female impersonator Julian Eltinge:
That word catches your eye in the ad, doesn’t it? Look at those other names and compare them. Looks a little odd, no? At the very least, it’s unique. It is certainly not a common name. Reading that word, how do you say it? I’m curious. Indulge me and try it out loud:
Since you, dear readers, are literate, and reading this in English, your brain saw that final E, and it probably kicked in your childhood phonics lessons. Did you then make the G soft? In other words, did you actually pronounce that G as J? Betcha you did. Betcha you said “EL-TINJ”.
That is how Fred Astaire’s character, Tony Hunter, spoke it in the classic movie musical The Band Wagon. Returning to New York after a long absence, Tony was frustrated by the changes he found on 42nd Street. He complained: “Why, the first show I ever did was at the EL-TINJ but I don’t even believe that is here any more.” And, a bit later he asks: “Excuse me I’m just a little bit fuzzy, but wasn’t this the EL-TINJ Theatre?” The Band Wagon was produced in 1953, 12 years after Julian Eltinge’s death. The show’s writers were New York based Adolph Green and Betty Comden, who undoubtedly knew how the name should have been said. However, my friend Charlie posits that when this sequence was filmed, Astaire, working from a written script, pronounced it EL-TINJ, and they decided to just go with it.
But now consider the beginning of A Musical Comedy Thought, a poem penned by Dorothy Parker – that master of printed word and light verse from the Algonquin Round Table glory days. She wrote it during the height of Julian’s popularity in 1916. The first line is: “My heart is simply melting at the thought of Julian Eltinge…” To bluntly point out the obvious, she used that word “melting” specifically to rhyme with “Eltinge”. And people in that time “got it”.
But an amazing reality is that now, in 2015, nearly a century later, there is disagreement as to how the name was pronounced. Because, check it out: Nearly all of today’s online websites’ speakers say “EL-TINJ”. Go ahead. Dial up You Tube and listen to how the speakers from this century utter Julian’s surname.
It really bugs me because my research seems to contradict that pronunciation.
Here’s my case:
My first forays had been during 1998, in the community of Alpine, and I had interviewed several people who had lived in Alpine when Julian had resided there. Hazel Hohenshelt, a beloved school teacher in Alpine, pronounced it EL-TING when I interviewed her. So did Carmen Lewis, who had attended a party at Julian’s house. I had noticed their way of saying the name differed from my assumption. And then I interviewed Brian McCall, who was a neighbor to the Sierra Vista Ranch that Julian built. Specifically I asked Brian how to pronounce the name “Eltinge”. His reply was prompt and decisive. He refined the accent, stressing the first syllable. And he was very clear about the last syllable – he told me Julian’s mother – Julia Dalton – had told him that the name should be pronounced EL-ting. The name ended with TING.
Also in my research I found a lengthy article published in the February 17, 1912 issue of the New York Clipper. It features Julian on the cover, and includes the following paragraph (italics mine):
Julian Eltinge in private life is William Dalton, and to his intimates he is “Bill.” He displayed a keen business sense in the selection of a stage name. When he was a schoolboy in Butte, Mont., he had a classmate named Eltinge. It was difficult for the boys to get the right pronunciation of the name and they teased the lad by calling him “Eltingy,” “Eltinjy,” and with other variants of the name. Mr. Eltinge said that he knew that the name of William Dalton would have little significance, so he selected the name of Eltinge for stage purposes, as he was sure that the fact that the name offers so much opportunity for mispronunciation would but serve to fix it more firmly with the public. He was right, as very few get the correct pronunciation. The name should be pronounced with the hard sound of “g,” or as though there was no final sound of “e.”
There was another very important published description on this subject. In 1915 Julian himself published The Julian Eltinge Magazine, a 64 page item filled with photographs of him and various stories, jokes, and advertisements. He sold it at his performances. On page 13 the pronunciation of the surname is addressed. It says: “…Eltinge himself – by the way, he says ‘Elting,’ not ‘Eltinj’…”
That brings us right back to Dorothy Parker’s 1916 rhyming line of “My heart is simply melting at the thought of Julian Eltinge…”
See my point? Aren’t you convinced? Articles written during Julian’s lifetime, people who knew Julian Eltinge in Alpine when he owned the property from the 1920s till his death in 1941, including a direct explanation from Julian’s mother, Julian himself in his magazine he sanctioned, and the pen poetess Dorothy Parker all agree on the pronunciation of “EL-ting”.
Now, it is clear that Bill Dalton, by choosing the stage name Julian Eltinge, chose a really unique pronunciation. Out of curiosity I googled words ending with GE and found a list of some 675. Perhaps excepting one, all of ’em ended with the soft G sound, spoken as J!
ideas! I challenge
you to change
you to divulge
your proof! I urge
to impart on this subject to correct my verbiage!
Send me your messages!
I beg of you, take advantage
of my query! And take courage!
I won’t begrudge
Nor will I take umbrage!
Furthermore, I’ll acknowledge
to anyone who can prove me wrong! Till then, though, I won’t budge!
I say: Pronouncing Julian Eltinge’s name as EL-ting is correct!
Susan Walter has lived in the South Bay for over 30 years. Her interests include ceramics, marine biology, books, and local history. She and her husband Steve are historic archaeologists. They have a daughter Rachael, and son Aaron.