Nighthawks on New Year’s

A memorable New Yorker cover for the New Year: an Owen Smith parody of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (one of a great many such parodies):


Three things: Nighthawks parodies, Owen Smith, and party hats.

On the parodies, see my 12/29/18 posting “Nighthawks in search of an artist”, which has an inventory of Nighthawks parodies on this blog.

On Smith, who’s new to this blog, see the entertaining piece on The Daily Beast site, “Owen Smith, The ‘New Yorker’ Illustrator Who Killed Christmas: Owen Smith, designer of 19 ‘New Yorker’ covers, subway images, street murals and sculptures, talks about the challenge and future of illustration …” by Tim Teeman on 5/26/18 — with this pulp-noirish New Yorker cover, which one reader angrily protested had “killed Christmas”:


And then there are party hats. I have no idea when conical hats (usually made of paper, with chinstraps to hold them on) became part of the festive regalia for various celebrations: birthdays, Mardi Gras, and New Year’s, in particular. New Year’s party hats for men come in many forms — top hats, fedoras, derbies — but the, if you’ll excuse the expression, canonical party hat is conical (and can be worn by either sex, as in #1). In bright colors, as in #1, or here with bright colors on black:


Black, silver, and gold seem to be associated with New Year’s in the world of American commerce:


Lexicographic note: it seems that most dictionaries don’t have an entry for the N + N compound party hat, presumably on the grounds that it’s semantically transparent — just a Use compound, referring to a hat to use at parties. But it’s more specialized than that: its use at parties is for guests to wear as a sign they are celebrating the event of the party; it’s only used at certain kinds of parties; it’s playful, often fancifully decorated; and its canonical form is conical (and some styles of hats and caps are just out: berets, turbans, cowboy hats, hardhats, baseball caps, among them).

So it’s no surprise that the compound has eventually made it into the OED. From OED3 (June 2005):

noun party hat;  a brightly-coloured (frequently comical) hat made of paper, plastic, etc., worn by guests at a party. [cites from 1961, 1978, 2002]

2 Responses to “Nighthawks on New Year’s”

  1. [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky has an enjoyable rumination starting from a Owen Smith parody of the Edward Hopper painting Nighthawk on the cover of The New […]

  2. Hopper, Woodstock, & LaBelle | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] from 1/2/19, in “Nighthawks on New Year’s”, an Owen Smith […]

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