WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dastardly

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dastardly

I’ll be gadding about the globe off and on for the next six weeks, so the Word of the Week will be scaled down a bit to accommodate my Grand Tour(s). Oh, the places I’ll go and the pictures I’ll take!

This week’s word is one of my favorites. It’s a terrible character descriptor, and has the added bonus of sounding similar to the awful slur against someone’s parentage.

Dastardly (adjective)

“Showing despicable cowardice.” Originally, “dull.” From Middle English dastard + -ly. 1560s.

I discovered some lovely folks at Grandiloquent Word of the Day, who’ve illustrated this week’s word beautifully. Make sure to visit their tumblr and give them a follow.

From Grandiloquent Word of the Day

From Grandiloquent Word of the Day

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Long Meg

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Long Meg

I happen to adore this week’s Word of the Week. I’ve been taller than average since my eight-week, well-baby checkup. I’ve been asked how the weather is up there, to put things up or take things down from high shelves, and I wore flats when I married.

But from whence did this week’s slang arise?

Well … it’s a sobriquet that has no definitive origin, but plenty of definitive documentation. It first appeared in a play, but it’s unclear whether the term was the creation of the writer, or an allusion to a real person. So unlike other words I’ve chosen, this slang term has always been slang. It’s merely been moved from the realm of the written into the physical.

Long Meg (noun)

A very tall Woman [sic]. Also a jeering name for a very tall woman: from one famous in story, called Long Meg of Westminster.

The Admiral’s players (actors Alleyn, Jones, and Singer, supported by Lord Admiral, Charles Howard) premiered “Long Meg of Westminster” on 14 February 1595. Performances spanned the spring and fall seasons and, according to Henslowe’s thorough record-keeping, we know the returned receipts avereaged more than 34s. “Long Meg” returned to the stage sporadically over the next several years before fading into obscurity.

Performance records of the play Long Meg of Westminster from Henslowe's Diary 14 of febreary 1594

Performance records of the play Long Meg of Westminster, from Henslowe’s Diary, 14 of Febreary 1594

The next incarnation of Long Meg turned narrative: The Life of Long Meg of Westminster (1635) is the oldest extant copy of literary Long Meg. The book features eighteen adventures of Meg, “a woman … of late memory, and well beloued, spoken on of all, and knowne of many. This tome is valuable in itself for the fantastic subtitle alone:

“The life of Long Meg of Westminster: containing the mad merry pranks she played in her life time, not onely in performing sundry quarrels with divers ruffians about London, but also how valiantly she behaued her selfe in the warres of Bolloingne”

The Life of Long Meg of Westminster by an Unknown Author, 1635.

The Life of Long Meg of Westminster by an Unknown Author, 1635.

Our next visit from Meg sounds thorough: The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster (1750). Ironically enough, while this edition brings terrific illustrations, there are actually fewer “mad merry pranks.”

Long Meg of Westministe rplay: Meg with her Laundry Paddle.

Long Meg of Westminister, play: Meg with her Laundry Paddle.

Long Meg of Westminster play: Meg beats Willis the Carrier

Long Meg of Westminster, play: Meg beats Willis the Carrier

This incarnation does include the stories from the original stage play, but omits five of her adventures.

The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster, 1750.

The Whole Life and Death of Long Meg of Westminster, 1750.

So we have Long Meg of the written world, but what of the physical?

According to 17th Century English historian Thomas Fuller, the term “Long Meg” is applicable to anything “of hop-pole height, wanting breadth proportionable thereunto.”

Thomas Fuller on the attributive "Long Meg" in The History of the Worthies of England, 1662.

Thomas Fuller on the attributive “Long Meg” in The History of the Worthies of England, 1662.

The large, blue-black marble over the grave of Gervase de Blois is known as the “Long Meg of Westminster Abbey.” According to the site’s searchable database, Gervase de Blois was the natural (i.e., illegitimate) son of King Stephen, and served as abbot of Westminster from about 1137 until he was deposed in 1157. He has no effigy, so I could not find this allegedly tall drink of marble.

The Mons Meg of Scotland, that mightiest of medieval bombard cannons, sits proudly outside St. Mary’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle. “Mons” from the city in Belgium where it was forged; “Meg” from the vertically blessed Long Meg. This siege cannon dates from 1449, when Phillip III, Duke of Burgandy, ordered its manufacture. It has fantastic associated folklore:

When James the Second arrived with an army at Carlingwark, to besiege the Castle of Threave, the McLellans presented him with the piece of ordnance now called ‘Mons Meg.’ The first discharge of this great gun is said to have consisted of a peck of powder and a granite ball nearly as heavy as a Galloway cow. This ball is believed, in its course through the Castle of Threave, to have carried away the hand of Margaret de Douglas, commonly called the Fair Maid of Galloway, as she sat at table with her lord, and was in the act of raising the wine-cup to her lips. Old people still maintain that the vengeance of God was thereby evidently manifested, in destroying the hand which had been given in wedlock to two brothers, and that even while the lawful spouse of the first was alive. (from The True Story of the Mons Meg; link below)

In The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the September 1769 Edinburgh Antiquarian Magazine writes of “Peter Branan, aged 104, who was six feet six inches high, and was commonly called Long Meg of Westminster.” Now that’s and insult!

The Edinburgh Antiquarian Magazine

Finally, in Penrith, Cumbria, we find a circle of 67-77 stones (depending on what year you count them), some up to six feet in height. Off to the southern side, by itself, is a single stone some seventeen feet tall. For the purposes of this post, I won’t speculate on origin, purpose, or potential alien involvement. I’ll simply mention the arrangement has been dubbed Long Meg and Her Daughters.

Long Meg and Her Daughters: Little Salkeld, Penrith, Cumbria.

Long Meg and Her Daughters: Little Salkeld, Penrith, Cumbria.

Long Meg. Little Salkeld, Penright, Cumbria.

Long Meg. Little Salkeld, Penright, Cumbria.

Stand tall, Long Megs! (Pun intended)

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Safe Slang (and art) for Mother’s Day

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Safe Slang (and art) for Mother’s Day

WOW is a day early this week, but it’s Mother’s Day and I’m sure we’ve all wondered, “What Regency cant and vulgar slang is safe to use with Mom?”

Glad you asked.

First and foremost, do not call your mother, a Mother. In Regency slang, you would be calling her a brothel proprietor, the chief bawd, or the abbess. Instant trouble.

Instead, feel free to use any of the following slang. Impress your mother by enlarging yours – and her – vocabulary.

FAIR-ROE-BUCK ~ A Woman in the Bloom of her Beauty.

FRIGOT WELL RIGGED ~ A Woman well drest [sic] and genteel.

GENTRY MORT ~ A gentlewoman.

RUM MORT ~ A queen, or great lady. CANT.

RUM-DUTCHESS ~ A jolly handsome Woman.

RUM-MORT ~ A Queen, or great Lady.

If a thorough knowledge of Regency cant of positive descriptors of women fails to affect goodwill, consider showing her some of the portraits of French artist Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837). She was the first successful female genre painter ever, and produced steadily throughout her life. Her favorite subjects were mothers and children, although she herself never married. Her portraits conveyed an intimacy and beauty not often seen in domestic paintings, likely the influence of her appreciation of the Dutch golden age painters.

Born in Grassé, France, she moved to Paris at age eight to live with her sister Marie Anne, who just happened to be married to storied artist Jean Honoré Fragonard. Under his tutelage, and other masters of their coterie at the Louvre (they lived apartments in the Louvre for thirty years!), she became an artist recognized in her own right by the mid-1780s. After the Parisian Salons were opened to women, she became a regular exhibitor, drawing the attention of and purchase power of the likes of Napoleon and King Louis XVII. She died in Paris in 1837 at the remarkable age of seventy-six.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Premiers Pas (First Steps), oil on canvas, ca. 1788, Marguerite Gérard

Premiers Pas (First Steps), oil on canvas, ca. 1788, Marguerite Gérard

La Leçon de Piano (The Piano Lesson), oil on canvas, ca. 1785-1787, Marguerite Gérard

La Leçon de Piano (The Piano Lesson), oil on canvas, ca. 1785-1787, Marguerite Gérard

La Maternité (Motherhood), oil on canvas, ca. 1795–1800, Marguerite Gérard

La Maternité (Motherhood), oil on canvas, ca. 1795–1800, Marguerite Gérard

La Visite (The Visit), oil on canvas, ca. 1810, Marguerite Gérard

La Visite (The Visit), oil on canvas, ca. 1810, Marguerite Gérard

Maternité (Motherhood), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

Maternité (Motherhood), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

La Lecture d'une Lettre (Reading a Letter), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

La Lecture d’une Lettre (Reading a Letter), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

Madame de Staël et sa fille Albertine (Madame de Staël and her daughter Albertine), oil on canvas, 1803–1808, Marguerite Gérard

Madame de Staël et sa fille Albertine (Madame de Staël and her daughter Albertine), oil on canvas, 1803–1808, Marguerite Gérard

Mutterschaft (Maternity), ca. 1800, Marguerite Gérard

Mutterschaft (Maternity), ca. 1800, Marguerite Gérard

Portrait de la Maréchale Lannes et ses Enfants (The Dutchess of Montabello with her Children), oil on canvas, 1818, Marguerite Gérard

Portrait de la Maréchale Lannes et ses Enfants (The Dutchess of Montabello with her Children), oil on canvas, 1818, Marguerite Gérard

Une famille dans un jeu intérieur avec un chien (A famiily in an interior playing with a dog), oil on canvas, date unknown, Marguerite Gérard

Une famille dans un jeu intérieur avec un chien (A famiily in an interior playing with a dog), oil on canvas, date unknown, Marguerite Gérard

Une femme assise tenant une jeune fille sur ses genoux (A seated woman holding a girl on her lap), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

Une femme assise tenant une jeune fille sur ses genoux (A seated woman holding a girl on her lap), oil on canvas, date unkown, Marguerite Gérard

Dors mon enfant (Sleep my child), oil on canvas, ca. 1783–1786, Marguerite Gérard

Dors mon enfant (Sleep my child), oil on canvas, ca. 1783–1786, Marguerite Gérard

L' allaitement Maternel Mère (The Breastfeeding Mother), date unknown, Marguerite Gérard

L’ allaitement Maternel Mère (The Breastfeeding Mother), date unknown, Marguerite Gérard

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ale Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ale Post

May 1st – or May Day – is the day that ushers in warmer weather, blooming flowers and trees, buzzing bees, and thoughts (and deeds) of love. People emerge from their homes ready to embrace the outdoors and shake off the gloom and chill of winter.

May Day has its origins, as most celebrations do, in Ancient Rome. The Roman festival of Flora was held from April 28th to May 3rd; Flora was the goddess of fruits and flowers. The festival spread within the Roman sphere of influence, with most European countries having some history of commemorating May Day. Maypoles have likely been in England since Hadrian, and most definitely since Elizabeth, as they were documented by historian John Stow. They were banned for a time, as was Christmas, under the Puritan zeal of Oliver Cromwell, but the Merry Monarch returned them in full glory in 1660. Huzzah!

Country Dances Round a Maypole, Francis Hayman, 1741

Country Dances Round a Maypole, Francis Hayman, 1741

The Maypole Dance grew from these May Day traditions. On May Day, a young tree was cut, then stuck in the ground near the village center. Early dances involved circles of people simply twirling around the pole. This later evolved into people festooning the tree with garlands and ribbons. Each person would hold the end of one ribbon, then dance around the pole and each other, weaving the ribbons together and plaiting them against the pole.

Come Lasses and Lads (Traditional, with a good swing), ca. 1670

Come Lasses and Lads (Traditional, with a good swing), ca. 1670, from The Oxford Song Book

The Raising of the Maypole Outside a City Gate Near a River, Dominique Joseph Vanderburch, Christie's

The Raising of the Maypole Outside a City Gate Near a River, Dominique Joseph Vanderburch, Christie’s

Maypole Dancing was once common around England, with many cities saving their pole from year to year. The tallest Maypole in England was said to have towered over 143 feet in London on The Strand in 1661. It stayed there until 1717, when it was purchased and removed by Sir Isaac Newton. Newton sent the Maypole to Wanstead Park in Essex as a gift to his friend, a Reverend Mr. Pound, where it was used as the support for the (then) largest telescope in Europe at 125 feet in length. The object hadn’t been in its new home for long before an enterprising author attached a poem telling the tale of the fair Maypole.

“Once I adorned the Strand,
But now have found
My way to Pound
On Baron Newton’s land;
Where my aspiring head aloft is reared,
T’ observe the motions of th’ ethereal Lord.
Here sometimes raised a machine by my side,
Through which is seen the sparkling milky tide;
Here oft I’m scented with a balmy dew,
A pleasant blessing which the Strand ne’er knew.
There stood I only to receive abuse,
But here converted to a nobler use;
So that with me all passengers will say,
‘I’m better far than when the Pole of May.”

The Maypole was still common enough to be incorporated into Georgian street slang; hence, the word of the week.

Ale Post (noun)

A may-pole.

Round the Maypole We Go. Regency Era games at the Jane Austen Festival, Canberra, Australia

Round the Maypole We Go. Regency Era games at the Jane Austen Festival, Canberra, Australia

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grinagog or The Cat’s Uncle

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grinagog or The Cat’s Uncle

Finishing up our month of fools, we come to the slang term I’ve easily incorporated into my everyday speech. A child up to no good will smile madly in effort to distract you from discovering the new worm habitat in his bedroom.

Grinagog

Also known as The Cat’s Uncle. A foolish grinning fellow, one who grins without reason.

Three people drinking punch as a cure for (from right to left) gout, colic, and phthisis. Coloured etching by James Gillray, 1799, Wellcome Library collections.

Three people drinking punch as a cure for (from right to left) gout, colic, and phthisis. Coloured etching by James Gillray, 1799, Wellcome Library collections.

To use more cant, a Grinagog will use his or her grinders (teeth) to full effect.

A French Dentist Shewing a Specimen of His Artificial Teeth and False Palates. Thomas Rowland, 1811, Tate Museum.

A French Dentist Shewing a Specimen of His Artificial Teeth and False Palates. Thomas Rowland, 1811, Tate Museum.

And there’s nothing like the grin of silly fools in full flirt.

A Long Headed Minuet. 1810, Isaac Cruikshank, GJ Savile Caricatures

A Long Headed Minuet. 1810, Isaac Cruikshank, GJ Savile Caricatures

 

Slang term taken from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

Last week’s word – Cokes – might have been a contraction of this week’s word:

Coxcomb (noun)

Anciently, a fool. Fools, in great families, wore a cap with bells, on the top of which was a piece of red cloth, in the shape of a cock’s comb. At present, coxcomb signifies a fop, or vain self-conceited fellow.

William Combe wrote a vivid and eloquent description of the coxcomb in The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Georgette Heyer, the grande dame and instigator originator of the Regency romance, also illustrated quite vividly the coxcomb in her novel, Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle.

Beside Sylvester’s quiet elegance and Major Newbury’s military cut she had been thinking that Sir Nugent presented all the appearance of a coxcomb. He was a tall man, rather willowy in build, by no means unhandsome, but so tightly laced-in at the waist, so exaggeratedly padded at the shoulders, that he looked a little ridiculous. From the striking hat set rakishly on his Corinthian crop (he had already divulged that it was the New Dash, and the latest hit of fashion) to his gleaming boots, everything he wore seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of making him conspicuous. His extravagantly cut coat was embellished with very large and bright buttons; a glimpse of exotic colour hinted at a splended waistcoat beneath it; his breeches were of white corduroy; a diamond pin was stuck in the folds of his preposterous neckcloth; and he wore so many rings on his fingers, and so many fobs and seals dangling at his waist, that he might have been taken for a jeweller advertising his wares. (Chapter 16)

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

Slang term definition taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Read what romance author Barbara Bettis thought of Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle at The Beau Monde’s Regency Turns 80 celebration article here.

Learn more about Regency coxcombs/dandies and all things fussily masculine at Geri Walton’s unique histories of the 18th and 19th centuries here.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cokes

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cokes

COKES (noun)

The fool in the play of Bartholomew Fair. Perhaps a contraction of the word COXCOMB.

A Pretty Conceit, and worth the finding! I ha’ such luck to spin out these fine things still, and like a Silk-worm, out of my self. Here’s Master Bartholomew Cokes, of Harrow o’ th’ Hill, i’ th’ County of Middlesex, Esquire, takes forth his Licence to marry Mistress Grace Well-born, of the said Place and County: And when do’s he take it forth? to day! the Four and Twentieth of August! Bartholmew-day! Bartholmew upon Bartholmew! there’s the Device! who would have mark’d such a Leap-Frog Chance now? ~Bartholomew Fair, Ben Jonson, Act 1, Scene 1.

The fool part I get. But what is a “Bartholomew Fair?”

It was one of the first Charter fairs – those street celebrations established by Royal Decree. King Henry I granted the land of West Smithfield in London to his former jester and courtier Rahère who, after falling violently ill, had repudiated his sins and made a pilgrimage to Rome, pledging to found a hospital and church for poor men should his health improve. Upon his return to England as a healthy and newly-ordained priest, Rahère established the Priory of the Hospital of St. Bartholomew in 1123, and its resultant fair in 1133.

Rahère, Bouffon de Henry I et de la Reine Matilda (Rahèrem herald to King Henry I), debut 1100, artist unknown.

Rahère, Bouffon de Henry I et de la Reine Matilda (Rahèrem herald to King Henry I), debut 1100, artist unknown.

The original Charter stipulated a three-day event, but by the 17th century it had stretched to a full two weeks; the end of that century saw the time span again altered, shortened to four days. The Fair commenced on August 24th until 1753, when the calendar was changed and the start date moved to September 3.

Bartholomew Fair 1721, publication date estimated 1824, Wellcome Library, London.

Bartholomew Fair 1721, publication date estimated 1824, Wellcome Library, London.

The fair was was both a trading market and entertainment festival. Cloth, food, livestock, and sundry craft items were available for barter or outright purchase. The accompanying displays ranged from the diverting (prize fights, musicians, acrobats, and puppets) to the exploitative (sideshows, freaks, and wild animals).

Advertisement for John Harris's Puppetry Booth, Bartholomew Fair, ca 1700, courtesy Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Advertisement for John Harris’s Puppetry Booth, Bartholomew Fair, ca 1700, courtesy Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Bartholomew fair bill, 1790, courtesy City of London.

Bartholomew fair bill, 1790, courtesy City of London.

Going to Bartholomew Fair sounds as common an occurrence as for those of us in the United States who attend their annual State Fair, or perhaps visit Coney Island in New York. When the appointed time comes, going to the fair is simply what one does – to see and be seen, to witness the extraordinary, to be entertained. Samuel Pepys documented his observations in a diary entry on Saturday the 31st of August, 1667:

… and I to Bartholomew fayre, to walk up and down; and there, among other things, find my Lady Castlemayne at a puppet-play, “Patient Grizill,” and the street full of people expecting her coming out. I confess I did wonder at her courage to come abroad, thinking the people would abuse her; but they, silly people! do not know her work she makes, and therefore suffered her with great respect to take coach, and she away, without any trouble at all, which I wondered at, I confess. I only walked up and down, and, among others, saw Tom Pepys, the turner, who hath a shop, and I think lives in the fair when the fair is not. I only asked how he did as he stood in the street, and so up and down sauntering till late and then home, and there discoursed with my wife of our bad entertainment to-day, and so to bed.

By the middle 19th century, the Bartholomew Fair had become less business expo and more carnival. In 1855 the City of London and Lord Mayor had had enough, and the Bartholomew Fair ended forever, done in by the unruly crowds and rampant crime. It seems the Fair had something for everyone, of every age, and of every walk of life … both legal and illegal.

We could wish, seriously, to caution all young people against a habit of attending fairs. They constitute an assemblage of idle people, where are indiscriminately mixed thieves and pick-pockets, who go from fair to fair; loose women, strolling players, and vagabonds of every description, waiting to plunder the honest part of the people. St. Bartholomew’s fair, from its long continuance, is a school of vice which has initiated more youth into the habits of villainy than even Newgate itself. ~The Newgate Calendar, Comprising Interesting Memoirs of the Most Notorious Characters Who Have Been Convicted of Outrages on the Laws of England Since the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century With Occasional Annecdotes and Observations, Speeches, Confessions, and Last Exclamations of Sufferers, Volume II, by Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, attorneys at law, 1825.

"Bartholomew Fair" from Microcosm of London, 1808-10, Thomas Rowlandson for Rudolph Ackermann, British Library.

“Bartholomew Fair” from Microcosm of London, 1808-10, Thomas Rowlandson for Rudolph Ackermann, British Library.