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In Oscar Henry's short story “The Trimmed Lamp”, Nancy describes why she declined a potential suitor who appeared to be a rather rich (or “swell”, as they refer to the rich in the story) individual:

And he’s got dactylis on him. Give me the real thing or nothing, if you please.

Google says “dactylis” is a type of plant, and I couldn’t find anything else. Does anyone by any chance know what’s “dactylis” in this context, and why Nancy considered it to be negative? Sources would be greatly appreciated as well :)

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The paragraph in which the quote from the question can be found goes as follows:

"Him?" said Nancy, with her coolest, sweetest, most impersonal, Van Alstyne Fisher smile; "not for mine. I saw him drive up outside. A 12 H. P. machine and an Irish chauffeur! And you saw what kind of handkerchiefs he bought--silk! And he's got dactylis on him. Give me the real thing or nothing, if you please."

The dactylis in this passage is not the plant itself but a perfume. According to the website parfumo.net, Dactylis was a perfume by Colgate & Company created in 1901:

Dactylis is a perfume by Colgate & Company for women and was released in 1901. The production was apparently discontinued.

Apparently, Nancy thinks the man is not the "real thing", i.e. the sort of millionaire she is looking for, because he wears a perfume for women.

  • Impressive detective work! I tried to make sense of that sentence for quite a bit, and even pulled up a Russian version of the story, which had “dactylis” changed for “a signet ring”, which didn’t make awfully lot of sense to me (perhaps, it does to someone). Thanks for the edits! – MutomboDikey Dec 27 '19 at 16:45

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