On the Ten Twenty Thirty

The F. Scott Fitzgerald story “Head and Shoulders” features this unfamiliar phrase, spoken by a young actress who, through an unimportant plot contrivance, invades the study of a bookish progeny:

“I knew a girl,” said Marcia reminiscently, “who went on the ten-twenty-thirty when she was sixteen. She was so stuck on herself that she could never say ‘sixteen’ without putting the ‘only’ before it.”

I had to Google this phrase to make sense of it. Here’s a perfectly plausible explanation, from a comment posted on languagehat

I don’t know this story, but ten-twenty-thirties were stage melodramas for the masses in the days before movies, so called because admission was ten, twenty or thirty cents, within reach of working people. So it would mean she was acting in a second rate touring company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *