Mustaches of the World to Kick Off Movember

Image 11One of the most fascinating things about language is how quickly it evolves, especially during the Internet Age.  Words that didn’t exist a few years, months, or even weeks ago suddenly become part of the collective vernacular due to viral memes, videos, and social movements  (for example, “twerking,” though I’m still not entirely sure what that is).  Another word that has exploded into being thanks to internet activism and young men’s eagerness to release their inner hipster and experiment with facial hair is the term “Movember.”  Movember, a conjunction of “mustache November,” refers to men devoting the month of November to growing mustaches as a means of raising donations and increasing awareness of prostate cancer.  It has proved a wildly popular and successful phenomenon, and to kick off Movember, I have compiled a list of different terms for iconic mustaches that you might wish to try out for yourself.

First of all, the term “mustache” itself comes from the French moustache, which in turn is derived from the 14th century Italian moustacio.  The original Greek, moustakion, comes from a Hellenistic Greek term meaning “upper lip” or “facial hair.” Unrelated to the English etymology but still a great word is the German schnurrbart (just try saying it… SCHNURRBART!  It literally means “nose beard”).  Mustaches can come in many guises, whether styled or unstyled, such as the Handlebar mustache—the most luscious and aesthetically pleasing of all mustaches, full and luxurious and curling up at the tips, the kind of mustache you’d expect to see on a dashing highwayman, an opera-singing barber, or a vaudeville villain.  Dating back to roughly 1926, the term originated from the mustache’s similarity in shape to the handlebars of a bicycle.  Nothing too far-fetched there.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the Pencil mustache, the thin, weedy strip of hair outlining the upper lip generally sported by conmen, Mafiosi, card sharks, and other creepy types including Vincent Price, Clark Gable, and Steve Buscemi in Fargo.  Its name, of course, derives from the fact that it is thin and pointy, like a pencil, or possibly that it looks like it was scribbled on by a pencil, take your pick.

Image 12Many mustaches are named after men who made them legendary.  The Hitler mustache, a tiny square of hair located right under the nose, was actually known as the Toothbrush mustache before World War II, and was worn by widely loved comedians such as Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy.  The Dalí mustache, named after Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, is the conspicuously thin and curvy mustache in which both ends steeply ascend, almost like the hands on a clock.  Long, drooping mustaches are known as either the Fu Manchu after the villain in the 19th century novels by Sax Rohmer, the Pancho Villa after the Mexican revolutionary, or the Hulk Hogan (also known as the “horseshoe” or the “biker” mustache), after the wrestler, depending on their thickness.

Other historic mustaches that have fallen somewhat out of popularity over the past few decades are the Walrus mustache, big and bushy but meticulously shaped, often covering the mouth completely and comparable to a walrus’s whiskers, famously attributed to Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche, and the Chevron mustache, originally named after the chevron, a stripe worn on the sleeve of a military uniform denoting rank.  History’s most famous and impressive Chevron mustache belonged to Josef Stalin, though now the style is more widely referred to as the “Porn ‘Stache,” due to its popularity among various adult film stars of the 1970s.

A good mustache can provide a sense of mystique, drama, or humor to an otherwise ordinary face, while a poorly done mustache can seem pretentious or worse, so choose your style carefully.  Even women can get involved by growing the ever popular “Frida Kahlo” or by crafting false mustaches out of yarn or cardboard.  To learn more about Movember, or to donate to prostate cancer research, check out their website at http://us.movember.com/

Do you know other bizarre words for mustaches?

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