Everything Old is New Again: Pick-Up Lines

Long before Atkins, there was Banting. The first low-carb diet was the creation of William Banting’s doctor. A pamphlet about it titled Letter on Corpulence, published in 1864, was a huge best-seller. The verb to banting meant to diet.

And long before The Game — albeit less well-known for teaching pick-up lines — there was Jane Austen. The lessons of The Game were a subplot of a recent episode of Ugly Betty in which Betty interviews an author of a similar book that says the best way to get a woman’s interest to follow praise with criticism. Later in the episode, we see this advice in action: Henry tells a woman that she has a lovely face — “your doctor did an excellent job.”

Here’s Austen, from Northanger Abbey:

“I have sometimes thought,” said Catherine, doubtingly, “whether ladies do write so much better letters than gentlemen! That is — I should not think the superiority was always on our side.”

“As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”

“And what are they?”

“A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.”

A little later:

“And pray, sir, what do you think of Miss Morland’s gown?”

“It is very pretty, madam,” said he, gravely examining it; “but I do not think it will wash well; I am afraid it will fray.”

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