Painless dentists

Posted by Bob on January 14, 2004

In Reply to: Painless dentists posted by Jean-Luc on January 13, 2004

: Hi,

: I'm trying to understand the expression "a painless dentist" as in the following sentence:
: "The man had a little, pointed, brown and grey beard, like that of a painless dentist." O Henry.

: Thanks

: Jean-Luc
In the late 19th century, when O. Henry made this little joke, anesthesia was still relatively new, and being a "painless" dentist was still a distinction. His description paints a picture of a small, somewhat officious practitioner. It's the cliche look, much as we might picture a psychiatrist (with the obligatory beard) today.