fleer

This word makes me think first of chewing gum. I used to buy two-cent little square pink Fleer Dubble Bubble gums, and each one was wrapped with wax paper within which, wrapped around the gum, was a comic strip: Fleer Funnies starring Pud. Pud was the name of the kid featured in them. He wore red and white stripes on his shirt and cap. He did not have anything to do with puddings or animal paws (two meanings of pud), nor did he seem to have peptic ulcer disease (PUD). He was also not given to fleering. Or, for that matter, to fleeing. Nor, one hopes, were the baseball heroes featured in Fleer baseball cards – which I did not collect.

Fleer can, after all, mean “someone who flees.” But the verb fleer, which has also produced a noun fleer, refers to impudent laughter, a mocking smile, a sneer. It is thought to have come from the Scandinavian languages originally. It seems a suitable enough word for the purpose; it starts with the flippant flap of the fl, and then follows with the eer seen also on sneer as well as queer, bum steer, jeer, and of course a number of words with less negative tones. Those two e‘s could be mocking mouths or perhaps a pair of sloe eyes. Or they could simply be chewing on bubble gum, which was first successfully manufactured by Fleer, which was founded in 1885 by Frank Fleer. Which seems apposite enough – I would think that blowing a bubble and popping it in someone’s face (as for instance the girl does to the principal in the arcade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) could be seen as a rather frank fleer, if it were done mockingly.

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