What Are Vinegar Valentines?


Quick Answer

As their name indicates, vinegar valentines are holiday cards for Valentine's Day that are much more sour than sweet. These cards commonly feature an unflattering caricature accompanied by mean and insulting verse intended to hurt and shame the recipient rather than show affection.

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What Are Vinegar Valentines?
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Full Answer

The trend of sending these cards, typically anonymously, started in the mid-1800s and lasted until the early to mid-1900s. These valentines typically did not address the recipient by name but rather by what was often an insulting caricature such as "fat woman," "sugar daddy," "old maid" and "poetical poseur."The cutting remarks made in vinegar valentines were typically intended to isolate a specific habit, personality trait or physical characteristic that the sender wanted to insult.

For example, one card from the mid-1900s reads, "You've got more curves than a roller coaster/Your clothes fit like a glove/There's one thing wrong, glamor puss/You've a face only a mother could love.”

The cards could occasionally be political in nature, such as a Civil War-era card that criticizes the recipient for supporting the Confederacy. However, most of these cards were intended to personally insult a person's habits (eavesdropping), job (butcher), appearance (painted doll) or life situation (single woman) rather than his or her beliefs.

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