I spy with my little eye…

something that has polka dots.

polka dot tea towel

I spy it and then, of course, I buy it.

It’s like poetry, really.

polka dot skirt

I wasn’t consciously collecting dotty items, but I like them and a recent scan of my surroundings revealed a preponderance (definition:  more than a grown woman should own without being in some sort of 12-step program) of playful polka dots.  I started to wonder:  what does “polka” have to do with dots?  Why aren’t they just…dots?

But, maybe that sounds too plain for such a fetching sight.

polka dot pyrex

Apparently in the 1840s, the polka was “the dance craze sweeping America”.  Yep, THE POLKA.  It wasn’t just us Oktoberfesters in our Lederhosen and Dirndls who were leaping around (hop left two three, hop right two three, hop left two three, hop right two three) and sweating with the encouragement of a beer-sticky floor and an oom-pah-pah band–a band, by the way, that was inevitably fronted by someone named Herb or Walter.

Who me?  I haven’t done the polka or the bird dance to an oom-pah-pah band.

Okay, maybe I have.

polka dot cup

But, in 1840, I and my Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario polka co-hort were apparently hip.  Who knew that tuba and accordion players were the 1840s equivalent of Justin Timberlake?

So then, that made me think:  what if it had been some other kind of dance craze that had “swept America”?  Like, for instance, the Minuet?  In my classic piano books growing up, those old-timey Beethoven, Bach and Mozart guys were always writing minuets.  Minuet in G was an especially hot number.  It was a bestseller for Beethoven.

polka dot bracelet

Just think:  polka dots could have been:  minuet dots.

Hmmm.

Or tango dots (sounds like some kind of street drug).

Or foxtrot dots (try saying that with a mouthful of crackers).

It could have been line-dance dots or zumba dots or (shudder) chicken dance dots.

polka dot file

But polka it was and polka it still is.    Polka + dots.  Polka dots.  Probably a good thing.  Even though, now it sounds weird because I’ve said it aloud too many times.

Anyway, the polka dance was huge back then and manufacturers, wanting to cash in on the fad (so not much has changed then), started creating all sorts of things and adding the word “polka” to it, to entice consumers.

It was the 1840s equivalent of tacking the words, “acai berry” or “zero carbs” to your product.

Then, some handsome tuba player (probably named Herb or Walter) would flog the items at the local market stall and the mere mention of the word “polka” would have buyers clamouring for the goods and asking Herb/Water for autographs.  But, out of all the polka-infused, pro-polka-biotic and generally polka-fied items, apparently only polka dots made it through the ruthless and fickle consumer trends to survive until today.

polka dot glasses

But, of course they would.  Polka dots are friendly and whimsical.  And, they make me smile.

I  hope you smile too (and stop picturing me in Lederhosen.  It never happened).

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet
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