Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Martha's Sweet and Sour Tongue

Beware what you write in your high school yearbook.

In 1937, the ditty accompanying a young Martha Beall’s picture went like this:

I love its gentle warble,
I love its gentle flow,
I love to wind my tongue up
And I love to let it go.

Let it go, she did. She earned the unenviable moniker “The Mouth of the South” due to her penchant for calling reporters to let her tongue run all over her husband John Mitchell’s role in the Watergate scandal. Didn’t she know that loose lips sink ships?

Cruel fate is bittersweet, however. After claiming she had been held hostage and sedated to keep that mouth shut, no-one believed her. Her name has since been used to describe the “Martha Mitchell Effect,” where a psychiatrist fails to believe extraordinary claims a patient makes which are nonetheless true.

At least her nickname wasn’t “Deep Throat.”

The Watergate Cookbook (Or, Who’s In The Soup?), N.Y. Alplaus, 1973
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