Figure 1. Thomas-Wetterau monument. Nisky Hill Cemetery, Bethlehem, PA. Photo: author.

I refuse to take the opportunities offered by this monument, a cliché among taphophiles, raised by William H. Thomas to his wife Emma on the occasion of her death in 1917. I will categorically not note that it is shaped like a phallus; nor indeed will I make any allusion—however vague—to it being sheathed by a condom, that condom being “ribbed for her pleasure.” I will and shall not do it.

I will and shall not state that the monument was ‘erected’ for Thomas’s wife, Emma. I will make no reference to “screws.” “Willie” as a sobriquet for Thomas will not pass my lips. I will not lament the fact that the erector was William Thomas rather than John Thomas. I will forbear to employ double entendre by telling you it would give me great pleasure if I could erect a monument even half that size for my wife. “No, no, no, no” (to quote Shakespeare), I will not touch that with a 10-foot pole!

Figure 2. Thomas-Wetterau monument. Nisky Hill Cemetery, Bethlehem, PA. Photo: author.

No, that is all low-hanging fruit much beneath the dignity of Syngrammata.

However, if I will not do those things, I cannot do much to tell you what Thomas did intend by this spiral which looks like an upside-down prairie dog burrow, or some stylized machine part. Were the monument not manifestly from the earlier parts of the twentieth century, I should have said that it imitates one of Doc Edgerton‘s high-speed photographs of a bullet emerging from a barrel of a gun (pointed, up, of course).

What I can tell you is that the little ‘slot’ between the two names is an inset hyphen in the same style as the names themselves. I think I’m on fairly safe ground finding a design source (for the whole) in Art Nouveau.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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