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.

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