WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Valentine

Guess what happens this week!

If you guessed Valentine’s Day, you’re only partially correct. I was shooting for the day after Valentine’s Day, when candy goes on sale for half-price or more. Now that’s something to celebrate, amiright?!

Anyway. On to the Word of the Week.

The observation of St. Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival. That celebration involved lots of naked men running around the city spanking women’s bottoms, which was thought to increase their fertility. Ahem.

And like all good pagan rites of yore, Christians swooped in and usurped the pagan’s place in the festivities; after the death of Christ, February 14th became a date associated with the martyring of three different saints, all coincidentally named Valentine (or Valentinus, in the Latin of the day).

Now, the first documented association of Valentine’s Day with romantic love came with the publication of Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382:

Ye knowe wel how, Seynt Valentynes day,
By my statut and through my governaunce,
Ye come for to chese — and flee your way —
Your makes, as I prik yow with plesaunce.

History also reveals a Frenchman (but, of course!) holds the honor as first to send a Valentine, although under tragic circumstances. After his capture following the Battle of Agincourt, the duc D’Orléans wrote a missive to his wife from his cell in the Tower of London. He addressed her as “my sweet Valentine.”

Poem from Charles, duc D’Orléans, to his wife in 1415. Photo courtesy BBC; original document at the British Museum.

Shakespeare brought the concept of Valentines and Valentine’s Day to the masses when  he penned Ophelia’s mournful song for Hamlet (Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5).

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,
And dupped the chamber door.
Let in the maid that out a maid
Never departed more.

The idea of sending notes specifically on Valentine’s Day took off in England, so much so that a how-to book was published in 1797, The Young Man’s Valentine Writer. The rampant popularity naturally meant the term would be adopted into the vernacular.

Hence this week’s timely slang term.

Valentine (noun)

The first woman seen by a man, or man seen by a woman, on St. Valentine’s day, the 14th of February, when it is said every bird chuses his mate for the ensuing year.

Early Valentines were personal and hand-made, specific to the tastes and feelings of the sender and recipient. Witness this lovely Puzzle Purse Valentine from 1816. The squares are numbered so that the message can be read in order as each section is opened. The final message or illustration takes the center spot. Who wouldn’t love to receive one of these?

Valentine Puzzle Purse, 14 February 1816. Image courtesy Nancy Rosin.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Nug

It’s February.

It may still be cold and wintry, but love is in the air, so things are heating up, of a fashion.

February hosts the most loved and despised of holidays – Valentine’s Day. Every year, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold across the United States. Heck, even 9 million people buy something for their pets. But take a stroll through social media anywhere near February 14th to find out what your single friends think of the so-called “love month.”

They just need to find themselves a Word of the Week.

Nug

An endearing word: as, My dear nug; my dear love.

Oh! Listen to the Voice of Love, James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

And here’s one’s dearest nug…at least prior to marriage.

Harmony Before Matrimony, James Gillray, 1805, British Museum.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Galligaskins

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Galligaskins

Slang term + video of period clothing illustrating term = terrific Word of the Week!

Galligaskins

Breeches.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, galligaskins were leggings or loose-fitting breeches worn by sailors. Think puffy, knee-britches. But by the late 18th century, and certainly the Regency era, as tight-fitting breeches had replaced the loose ones, the term galligaskin had come to be derogatory slang for just how tight those new breeches were, and poked delicious fun at how little they left to the imagination.

Mr. Timothy Long is now the Director and Senior Specialist of Couture at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in Chicago, Illinois. Formerly, he was the Curator of Fashion and Decorative Arts at the Museum of London, and he posted some fabulous short videos of collection discoveries with typed-up captions explaining the more fascinating aspects of the pieces he profiled. The videos are buried in his twitter feed, and are everything that is lovely and wonderful. Of course I found one of impeccable galligaskins, circa 1810. Make sure to click the link, because my screen shots don’t do the trousers justice.

1810 Galligaskins

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clan

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clan

Short and sweet again this week. I’m on the road to recovery, but the four-seasons-in-one-week-weather of Texas is not exactly helping to speed along my progress. Thanks for your patience in indulging my whimsical posts.

Clan

A family’s tribe or brotherhood.

I found a pretty funny – and pretty accurate – video on YouTube explaining the Georgian era. And since this week’s word is clan, and the vid is about the Georgians, the family must be those wild and crazy Hanovers. Of course we Regency nerds are most familiar with George III. Who said it was Byron, and not His Majesty, that was mad, bad, and dangerous to know?

The host’s demeanor when naming said clan gave me flashbacks to Pip Torrens introducing the Bennet ladies at Netherfield when they came to collect Jane in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Again, it may be the Elderberry syrup that heightens my entertainment capabilities.

Please enjoy It’s All a Bit Silly — Georgian Era, this week. (Fair warning: the language is occasionally not completely safe for work, so ear buds in public)

 

Slang word taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clinomania

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Clinomania

I’m still waylaid by the croup, so I thought a visit to Grandiloquent Word of the Day would be diverting.

I was not disappointed.

Their currently featured word fit my situation perfectly. When you’re too sick and tired for Netflix, you really are tired. How pitiful.

Check out Grandiloquent while I take another swig of Elderberry Syrup. It’s not half-bad.

Grandiloquent Word of the Day ~ Clinomania.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Lushey

I hope everyone had a Happy Twelfth Night!

It’s a holiday that goes largely unnoticed in the United States, so in case you missed it, consider reading up on it and possibly practicing it a few days late. That way, you’ll be ready for it next year! And you won’t fall into the wassail bowl like this week’s word.

Twelfth Night by Isaac Cruikshank, 1807, British Museum.

Lushey

Drunk. Example: The rolling kiddeys hud a spree, and got bloody lushey ~ the dashing lads went on a party of pleasure, and got very drunk.

First came the ancient Roman holiday Saturnalia, the December celebration of the god Saturn, and making of all things debauched and merry. As little gods were gradually swapped out for one single God, the old customs centered around the winter solstice morphed into traditions and customs of a Christian nature, that of the birth of the single Savior. The ‘Birthday of the Unconquered Sun‘ became the Birthday of Christ by the Medieval era.

Twelfth Night festivities resulted in response to the 40 days of Advent the preceded Christmas. And what better way is there to break a fast than with tons of food, drink, and a bit of frivolous mayhem? The Advent fast would break on Christmas day; partying continued for twelve days and ended with a Twelfth Night feast the evening before January 6th, also known as Ephiphany.

True devotees of Twelfth Night fun would appoint a Lord of Misrule. It was his job to organize all the feasting and fun. Selection of the Lord was also part of the entertainment and entirely up to chance: a bean was baked inside a cake. Receive the slice with the bean and be crowned Lord of Misrule, you lucky devil. The Tudors even included a pea in their cakes, to be crowned Queen of the Pea. I’m not sure of her honors beyond that dubious title.

Traditional Porter Cake for Twelfth Night, made with Porter Ale, courtesy Historical Foods.

By the Regency era, beans and peas were replaced by silver trinkets and charms, and Twelfth Night traditions became purely secular in practice. The Victorians gilded the lily by wrapping their cakes in crowns.

I knew about the infamous Twelfth Night Cake, but not so much about the drinking. It’s time for recipes! And for authenticity’s sake, they’re metric!

Buttered Beere

Forget whatever Harry Potter drank. This here be Tudor buttered beere. The kind that puts hair on your codpiece. (That sounded better in my head.)

Tudor Butterbeer Recipe
(‘Beer’ means what today in the UK is called a ‘real ale.’ It is not a lager, or German-styled beer.)

Recipe Ingredients:
1500 ml (3 bottles) of good quality British ‘real ale’
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
200g demerara (brown) sugar (adjust to taste)
5 egg yolks (yolks only are needed)
120g unsalted butter (diced)

For The Chilled or Warm Milk Version:
1500 ml of chilled or warm butter beer (as above).
1500 ml of cold or warm milk to mix with the butter beer

Authentic Recipe Method:
Pour the ale into a saucepan carefully (without exciting it too much) and stir in the ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg. Gently heat this mixture to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat – the frothy ale will now clear. If this butterbeer is for adults then only simmer it for a few minutes on a low heat; for any younger adults, heat the ale like this for 20 minutes at 140C, (use a cook’s or jam thermometer). This will burn off almost all of the alcohol.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. You may need to make this drink for the first time and then decide on how sweet you like it (if it comes out too sweet for you, make it again using less sugar next time). However the amount of sugar stated is from the authentic recipe, (if later blending with milk, then it is the perfect amount).

Once the spiced ale is simmering, remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolk and sugar mixture, stir constantly, and return to a low heat, (you must stir constantly) until the liquid starts to thicken slightly. Be careful not to let the saucepan get too hot again or the egg yolks will scramble and the sugar will burn on the bottom before dissolving. Simmer at this low temperature for 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the diced butter until it melts. Then froth the Butterbeer mixture with a hand-whisk until it looks like frothy, milky tea – you can also follow the Tudor advice and pour the Butterbeer from serving jug to serving jug to froth it up (like Mr. Carson would pour wine from decanter to decanter to aerate it and let it breathe). Allow to cool to a warm, drinkable temperature, pour into small glasses or small tankards, and serve immediately.

Authentic buttered beere of 1588, served warm in small pewter goblets. Photo courtesy Historical Foods.

Traditional English Wassail

This is not hot, mulled cider. Let’s just get that misconception tossed in the rubbish bin straight out. It is hot, and it is mulled, but it’s closer to beer than any cider you’ve ever had. To be fair, we’re talking Medieval recipes here. Apples were involved, although more as a garnish. Slices of bread even factor into the ingredient list; original wassail had toast in the bottom of the pot, with hot wassail poured over.

Perhaps the association of wassail and apples came from the tradition of wassailing the apple trees, that of pouring leftover wassail around the roots of apple trees to ensure a good harvest the following year.

<insert your own joke here about how many people you know who ‘wassail their trees’ after a night of exuberant drinking at a party>

Lambswool (Hot Wassail)

1.5 Litres (3 x 500ml bottles or about 6 1/2 cups) of traditional real ale
6 small cooking apples, cored (Bramley apples)
1 nutmeg freshly grated
1 tsp ground ginger
150g (3/4 cup) brown sugar (demerara)

Ingredients for lambswool wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Preheat the oven 120C. Prepare the apples in advance and time it so that they are ready about half an hour before you want to put them into the Lambswool to serve. Core the 6 apples fully, getting rid of the pips. Lightly grease a baking tray, then place the apples on the baking tray about 6cm apart (they will swell up a little). Bake the apples for about an hour or so.

Now, while those are baking, grate yourself some nutmeg. In a large, thick-bottomed saucepan (they make the rockin’ world go ’round – still with me? Yes, it’s late and I should be in bed, and yes, I’ve taken my bronchitis cough syrup already.) with high sides, add the sugar. Cover the sugar in a small amount of the ale and heat gently. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved, then add in the ground ginger and the nutmeg. Stir, and keeping the pan on a gentle simmer, slowly add in all the rest of the ale. Leave for 10 minutes on a gentle heat as you deal with the apples.

Take the baked apples out of the oven to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Break open the apples and scoop out the baked flesh into a bowl, discarding the skin. Either mash them with a fork or purée them in a food processor until smooth, but not liquid. Think thick, dry applesauce. Add the apple purée into the ale – which is now called Lambswool – mixing it in with a whisk.

Let the saucepan continue to warm everything through for thirty minutes, on a very gentle heat, until ready to drink. When warmed through, use the whisk again for a couple of minutes (or use a stick blender) to briskly and vigorously froth the drink up and mix everything together. The apple and light froth will float to the surface, and depending on how much you have whisked it, the more it looks like lamb’s wool.

Ladle the hot Lambswool into heat-proof mugs or glasses, and grate over some nutmeg (to taste, because a little goes a long way). Or, pour the drink into a communal bowl (with several thick pieces of toast in the bottom if you want to be completely authentic) to pass around if you happen to be wassailing the local apple orchard.

Traditional Lambswool Wassail. Photo courtesy recipewise.uk.co.

Cheers!

 

  • Slang term from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • You can learn a lot about Twelfth Night at the more specifically-titled A History of the Twelfth Night Cake.
  • The Guildhall Library Newsletter also tells much about Twelfth Night in a post entitled merely Twelfth Night Cake.
  • Find the Porter Cake Recipe at Historical Foods. A cake from the Tudor era made with 300ml of Guinness? Yes, please!
  • Here’s the link to the Buttered Beere recipe from 1588 from ‘The Good Huswifes Handmaide.’ There’s also a link to the 1664 version from ‘The Accomplisht Cook.’
  • The Lambswool Wassail recipe came from Oakden, and my brother’s kitchen right before we bid farewell to Auld Reekie. Yum-o.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Humbug

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Humbug

It’s finally the Christmas season, and I’m finally getting into the Christmas spirit. I’m not one who subscribes to Happy HallowThanksMas, and can’t abide the appearance of Santa next to jack-o-lanterns and horns of plenty. I’m perfectly fine with those who decorate their homes early; I’d just prefer not to be assaulted by skeletons and candy canes on the same end caps at grocery stores in September each year.

It’s also that time of year when I discover words that do not mean exactly what I think they mean. Bah, humbug!

Humbug

To deceive, or impose on one by some story or device. A jocular imposition, or deception. To hum and haw; to hesitate in speech, also to delay, or be with difficulty brought to consent to any matter or business.

Humbugging, or Raising the Devil by Thomas Rowlandson, 12 March 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My association with the word humbug of course comes via Ebeneezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843), which has absolutely no relevance to the slang definition above. Mr. Scrooge’s exclamation ‘bah, humbug!’ is itself its own slang expression that conveys “curmudgeonly displeasure,” according to dictionary.com.

What I discovered, much to my surprise, is that humbug also refers to a confection. Wikipedia dates the first record of a hard boiled sweet available in the United Kingdom in the 1820s. And as any historian will tell you, by the time something shows up in the printed record, it has likely been in existence for many years; that means many of our Regency friends likely enjoyed a humbug or two.

The sweets are striped in two different colors, and were traditionally flavored with peppermint, although many varieties are available today. They can be shaped as cylinders with rounded ends, or tetrahedrons with rounded ends (rounded ends seem to be the common denominator here). The candy made its way into pop culture, having been featured in the televised version of The Adventure of the Six Napoleons by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When Dr. Watson offers Inspector Lestrade some of the sweets in the midst of an investigation, Holmes scolds, “Watson, this is no time for humbugs!”

That one time arsenic got into the humbugs

In studying 18th and 19th century England, one finds that arsenic gets into the darnedest things: clothing, beer, and now candy. In 1858, the Bradford Sweets Poisoning involved the accidental poisoning of over 200 people – and death of twenty – when sweets were accidentally made with arsenic. It sounds suspicious, until one realizes that the high price of sugar often lead distributors to cut the amount of sugar in half or thirds, and mix in cheaper substances to sell the product to the working classes. These cheaper substances, such as limestone and plaster of Paris, were known as ‘daft’ and, while not palatable, were perfectly safe for consumption.

An operator of a sweet stall in Bradford, known to locals as “Humbug Billy,” purchased his daft from a local druggist. Due to a mistake in labeling, and the fact that the powdered daft and arsenic powder resembled each, Humbug Billy left his supplier with 12 pounds of arsenic trioxide. Even though the finished confection did look different from the usual product, the mistake still wasn’t caught during manufacturing. Forty pounds of peppermint humbugs were produced; each humbug contained enough arsenic to kill two people.

Humbug Billy began selling his sweets that night. Within a few days, the mistake was known and deaths and illnesses were rampant. All involved in the Bradford poisoning were charged with manslaughter but none were convicted; it truly was an accident in every sense of the word. The Bradford poisoning scandal did lead to new legislation to prevent future tragedies. The 1860 Adulteration of Food and Drink Bill changed the way ingredients could be used, mixed, and combined. The UK Pharmacy Act of 1868 tightened regulations on the handling and selling of poisons and medicines by druggists and pharmacists.

 

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • Need some humbugs? There are no doubt sweet shops on this side of the pond that make humbugs, but here are two I can personally vouch for across the pond: Jenny’s Homemade Sweets from Scotland (also try Edinburgh Rock and Puff Candy!) and Mrs. Beightons Sweetshop in Haworth, West Yorkshire (also try their yummy Lemon Bon Bons!).
  • Read all about Dying for a Humbug, the Bradford Sweets Poisoning 1858 at Historic UK.
  • If you’re a tweeter, be watching for the date of our #livetweet of A Christmas Carol at the end of this month. @JaneAustenDance and I live tweet various Jane Austen movies throughout the year, but thought Christmas called for this beloved classic. We simply cue up the movie, pop some popcorn, and all watch and tweet our observations together. It’s great fun!