Quote:Breathe in, girls Jan 11th 2007From The Economist print edition For two thousand years men have written about ladies with small waists SOME gentlemen may prefer blondes, but almost all seem to like a waist to hip ratio of between 0.6 and 0.7. Breasts and bottoms should be substantial; waists should be slim. It should be the case all over the world and throughout human history. That, at least, is the prevailing theory among evolutionary psychologists. The ratio in question correlates with hormone levels promoting maximum female fertility and health, so men who prefer curvy women will have more children. Devendra Singh, of the University of Texas, in Austin, has proved the point in the past by measuring the vital statistics of Playboy models. He found that centrefolds vary in weight but not in their hourglass shapes. Playmates' shapes, however, reveal only the psychology of Playboy's mainly American readers—and do so only since 1953, when Marilyn Monroe appeared in the first issue. To make a stronger case for the theory, Dr Singh and his colleagues have turned to historical descriptions of beauties in the literature of Britain, China and India. It is hardly poetic to write about a knockout's two-thirds ratio, nor equally appropriate across cultures to scribe complementary descriptions of bosoms and behinds, so the analysis focused on romantic references to female waists. Among the results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, all 66 entries about waist size in the sample of British literature from the 16th to the 18th centuries described the waists as small or narrow—even though there were nearly four times as many romantic references to ladies who were plump overall, than there were to slim women. Similarly, every beauty portrayed in first- to third-century Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and in Chinese sixth dynastic Palace poetry, had a slender waist whenever that part of the body was mentioned. This is not proof, but it adds weight to the idea that men have been predictable since the beginning of time.