WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday

It’s Labor Day in the U.S. of A., the first Monday of September. A day dedicated to the American worker and their hard-working contributions to the country. We celebrate by doing as little as possible (at least at our for-pay job) other than grilling, eating, and bidding farewell to summer and white shoes.

Amazingly enough, I found a phrase in my slang bible, the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, that is somewhat akin to Labor Day. The most dedicated supporters of this term even attempted to observe it every single week, in fact.

Saint Monday (noun)

A holiday most religiously observed by journeymen shoemakers, and other inferior mechanics. A profanation of that day, by working, is punishable by a line, particularly among the gentle craft. An Irishman observed, that this saint’s anniversary happened every week.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

Le Grand Saint Lundi (The Giant Saint Monday) – The Patron Saint of Drinkers, Jean Wendling, 1837, Philadelphia Museum of Art. The artwork is surrounded by the lyrics to a popular ballad of fifteen stanzas, one for each person numbered in the print, sung to a well-known tune.

A Dictionary of English Folklore reveals even more about the word of the week.

Not a saint at all, but ‘keeping Saint Monday’ was formerly used to describe the regular practice of staying off work on Mondays, particularly in the shoemaking trade. The custom was already well known in the 17th century, as evidenced by the line in the play: ‘They say Monday’s Shooemaker’s holliday, I’le fall to that trade’ (Dekker, If It Be Not Good, The Diuel Is In It (1612). This gives the lie to a legend, involving a Perth shoemaker and Oliver Cromwell, which seeks to explain its origin (Folk-Lore Record 1 (1878), 245–6). The custom fell into disuse following the gradual spread of more regulated working hours and the introduction of half-day working on Saturdays. There is a French phrase, reported from the 16th century, faire le lundi des savetiers, or ‘to keep the cobbler’s Monday’.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

Saint Monday, or the People’s Holiday, Windmill Hill Gravesend, Illustration for The Illustrated Times, 6 October 1855.

From The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1823:

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Saint Monday ¦ Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds

Saint Monday in the Afternoon, or All Nine and Swallow the Bowl, 1770s etching, British Museum. Nine tradesmen: a weaver, barber, tailor, blacksmith, cobbler, butcher, carpenter, bricklayer, and house-painter playing skittles in a tavern garden, with the wife of the weaver arriving to berate him.

 

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