WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ To Couch a Hogshead

This week’s word (or rather, phrase) is the second post brought to you by my incessant fascination with James Gillray. Like I mentioned last week, I love to look at James Gillray prints, and the National Portrait Gallery has 881 items on file.

It’s a huge time suck and and I highly recommend it.

So this week I took inspiration from the second in his two-part series from 1806, Fast-Asleep.

Fast-Asleep by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 November 1806, National Portrait Gallery.

This gentleman is out, spirits and tobacco forgotten, puffing a snore as his periwig flies at half-mast. Some have coined the phrases “sleep like a baby” or “sleep like the dead,” but perhaps this painting conjures a new expression: “sleep like a Regency gentleman.”

To Couch a Hogshead

To lie down to sleep. Cant.

Gillray’s painting made me wonder at slang terms for sleeping, and To Couch a Hogshead was too evocative to pass up. And because my granddaddy was Scottish, I know a hogshead is a type of barrel used to age scotch. Like Sherlock, this made me retreat to my mind palace and surmise that the cant phrase likely represented those who climbed into a barrel to catch some winks after a long hard day (and night’s) worth of disreputable behavior. And as the engraving below shows, a Hogshead held just about anything, including sugar and unruly children.

The Sugar Hogshead From the Original Picture in the Possession of M.W. Collins, 1846, British Museum.

The Hogshead, or “hoggie,” actually refers to the size of the barrel, meaning it holds 53 Imperial Gallons. The Scots age their elixir in oak that is preferably between 100-150 years of age, which makes the barrels rather as precious as their cargo. When casks begin to leak or need repair, coopers break them down into individual planks and reassemble the stalwart ones into new Hogsheads.

It’s a beautiful thing.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Betwattaled

James Gillray really is all that and a bag of chips.

I was minding my own business in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery when I stumbled upon a two-part series of Gillray’s from 1806. The first just screams, “Go forth and find a Regency slang term that describes my expression.”

So I did.

Wide-Awake by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 1 November 1806, National Portrait Gallery.

Betwattled

Surprised, confounded, out of one’s senses; also betrayed.

Also when I saw the Gillray picture above, I thought about how much he looked like Mr. Bennet in form but how his expression resembled that of Mrs. Bennet. So off to the interwebs I went in search of the betwattled looks of Pride and Prejudice circa 1995.

And the pièce de résistance of surprised looks …

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Postilion of the Gospel

I live in the American south, where the unofficial motto is God, Guns, and Gravy (and not necessarily in that order). Gravy is a food group rather than a condiment, guns are fashion accessories, and there’s a Baptist church on every corner. If one is absent from church of a Sunday, rest assured they are at Lakeside Baptist (i.e., fishing) or Bedside Baptist (i.e., sleeping), or NASCAR or the Dallas Cowboys are on TV.

But I joke.

Sort of.

One thing you’re least likely to find in the south is the Word of the Week. If you’re in church, you’d better have on comfy shoes, a pocket full of peppermints, and possess the ability to refrain from clock-watching. The sermon has at least three points, they all start with the same letter, and none of them have to do with beating the Methodists to Cracker Barrel. The only way you’re getting out early is — well — you’re just not getting out early.

The Country Politicians by James Gillray, published by William Richardson 7 March 1777, National Portrait Gallery.

The Country Politicians by James Gillray, published by William Richardson 7 March 1777, National Portrait Gallery. The engraving above the parson’s head in the top middle reads, “The Parson, Barber, and the Squire, Three Souls who News admire.”

Postilion of the Gospel (noun)

A parson who hurries over the service.

I tried to find a clip of everyone’s favorite Georgian parson, the insufferable and toadying Mr. Collins, just to illustrate the very opposite of being  Postilion of the Gospel.

Mr. Collins to be sure was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome… Pride and Prejudice, Volume 1, Chapter 22

Alas, I could not find one … but I did run across this gem. Just try watching Pride and Prejudice in the future and see if you don’t hear this song every time you see Mr. Collins. Happy Monday!

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bleeding New

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bleeding New

Happy New Year!

Or as Colonel Potter said on M*A*S*H: Here’s to the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one.

This week, I commemorate all things new, with the help of a few creations of my dear favorite, James Gillray.

New Morality; -or- the promis'd installment of the high-priest of the Theophilanthropes, with the homage of Leviathan and his suite by James Gillray, published by John Wright 1 August 1798, National Portrait Gallery.

New Morality; -or- the promis’d installment of the high-priest of the Theophilanthropes, with the homage of Leviathan and his suite by James Gillray, published by John Wright 1 August 1798, National Portrait Gallery.

Bleeding New

A metaphor borrowed from fish, which will not bleed when stale.

In other words, may 2017 remain fresh the whole year through . . . and never get glassy eyed or stink.

Charles James Fox (Design for the new gallery of busts and pictures) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 17 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

Charles James Fox (Design for the new gallery of busts and pictures — “and so far will I trust thee gentle Kate”) by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 17 March 1792, National Portrait Gallery.

This is one of my favorite Gillray etchings. There is so much commentary, both subtle and blatant, that it’s a study to try to find it all. Gillray depicts the interior of a portrait gallery with busts of frowning Demosthenes against Æschines and Cicero against Cataline flanking Charles Fox. If you’ve ever seen The Madness of King George, actor Jim Carter (Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey) looks uncannily like Fox. Anyway, hanging on the wall above are two prints showing Catherine the Great of Russia; in Justice, she is about to stab a sultan, while in Moderation, she is throwing arms wide open to greedily embrace the Danubian Provinces (Moldavia, Bessarabia, and Wallachia). Note the strategic placement of the royal placard hanging above the bust of Fox: the crowned circle contains a noose and reads “Conjugal love [-] A cure for the Haemerroidical Cholic.” The whole creation is captioned, in five columns, with the following:

“The Grecian Orator of old,
“With scorn rejected Philip’s Laws,
“Indignant spurn’d at Foreign Gold,
“And triumph’d in his Country’s cause

A foe to every wild extreme,
‘Mid civil storms, the Roman Sage
Repress’d ambition’s lawless scheme
And check’d the madd’ning people’s rage,

Domestic Peace, external fame,
With Patriot zeal their Patrons sought
And Rome’s or Athen’s sacred name,
Inspird & govern’d every thought,

Who then, in this presumptuous hour,
Aspires to share th’ Athenian’s praise?
The tool confess’d of foreign pow’r,
The Æschines of modern days,

What chosen name to Tully’s joind
Is now announced to distant climes ?
Behold to lasting shame consign’d
The Cataline of later times.

Scientific Researches! New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! -or- an experimental lecture on the powers of air by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 23 May 1802, National Portrait Gallery.

Scientific Researches! New Discoveries in PNEUMATICKS! -or- an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 23 May 1802, National Portrait Gallery.

How can you not love Gillray?! Insightful political commentary on the previous work, risqué and off-color humor in the next. This image may document an actual event said to have occurred at the Royal Institution of Great Britain during a lecture entitled New Discoveries in Pneumatics. Professor Thomas Young allegedly performed the depicted experiment on a fellow society member, Sir John Coxe Hippsley. Sir John was said to have inhaled nitrous oxide gas as Mr. Young held his nose, with the -er- end result. Chemist Humphrey Davy works the gas bellows with a decided look of satisfaction. Whether Gillray witnessed the event with the other luminaries in the audience (we see Count Rumford, William Sotheby, Frederica Augusta Locke, and Issac D’Israeli) is unknown. And unlikely.

It’s always good to start the New Year with a hearty laugh.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

Just like last week, we’re once again in the realm of gaming; specifically, cards. This post is a bit longer than my usual WOWs, but that’s because it will need to tide you over until 2017. The next two weeks will find me tucked away with my family making all things merry! I wish you warm cocoa, warm fires, and warm hearts this holiday season!

Blocked at Both Ends

Finished. The game is blocked at both ends; the game is ended.

There is an aphorism that I consider half-right: it is how you play the game . . . but it’s also fine to say winning is usually the hoped-for outcome. To wit: if you want to win at Regency parlor games, you’ve got to know how to play.

I first read about Regency card games in Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter. I knew nothing about the game, yet Heyer’s deft and focused touch kept the details interesting and understandable. I was never lost by the maneuvers and machinations.

So in case you need a new game to play whilst stuck indoors with too much food (and perhaps too much family) this holiday season, let’s learn the basics of play for some Regency parlor games.

Cassino (also, Casino; there is actually controversy about the spelling, according to Pagat)

Cassino made its first documented appearance in London at the end of the eighteenth century. The main objective of the game is to capture cards from a layout of face up cards on the table. A card is captured by playing a matching card from the player’s hand. It is also possible to capture several cards at once if their values add up to the value of the card played. Captured cards are held by the winner and scored at the end of the play. Two to four players make up each game.

Italian deck of cards for Cassino.

Italian deck of cards for Cassino.

Commerce (also, Thirty-One, Whisky Poker, and Bastard Brag)

I grew up playing this game (we played for M&Ms and Skittles and thought we were So. Cool.) so I’ll simply explain it like I play it. A game can have three to ten players; one deck of cards is used and Aces are high. Players contribute equal stakes to the pool, then receive three cards from the dealer. Three cards are then dealt face up on the table to form the “widow.” The dealer can swap out 1-2 of his cards with the widow to “make his hand.” Once the dealer is satisfied with his hand, players may look at their cards. There are usually as many rounds as there are players, and a fresh card is added to the “widow” at the beginning of each round. Once a player is satisfied with his cards, he knocks on the table; play stops once two players have knocked. Players then show their cards and the holder of the best combination receives the stakes deposited in the pool; the player with the worst hand puts in one counter called “Going Up.”

  • Tricon – three of a kind
  • Sequence – three cards of the same suit, in order
  • Flush – three cards of the same suit (the highest wins)
  • Pair – two similar cards (highest pair wins)
    Point – cards added up by their face value (Ace 11, Kings 10, etc.)

They all spent the evening together at Thorpe’s. Catherine was disturbed and out of spirits; but Isabella seemed to find a pool of commerce, in the fate of which she shared, by private partnership with Morland, a very good equivalent for the quiet and country air of an inn at Clifton.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 11

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends. Pictured, "Doings In A Hell."

Faro

This is the game your mother warned you about. It ruined smarter, better, and wealthier people than you. What began as the politest of card games in Italy and France under the name Basset became quite different when its ancestor was outlawed. Faro was the overwhelmingly tempting open secret of gaming halls and private card parties alike. A suit of cards was glued face-up, Ace to King, on an oval of green baize known as the board. The dealer was called theBbanker, and players were known as Punters. Punters laid stakes on one of the 13 cards on the board. Just to complicate the issue, Punters could also place side bets on multiple cards by laying their wagers between or on card edges. Bets ranged from one to one hundred guineas (or more) upon a single card. There are myriad rules on payout and further play that I will explain via the Seinfeld example: yada-yada-yada, the bank wins big and the gamblers lose.

Fun fact: after migrating to the United States in the mid-1800s, it swept that country with the speed of western expansion and the zeal of the gold rush. Criminal cases concerning faro were even argued all the way to the Supreme Court (United States v. Simms, 1803 and Ex parte Milburn, 1835). Mark Twain declared:

A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to us than the 99 which we had to work for, and the money won at Faro or in the stock market snuggles into our hearts in the same way.

Faro's Daughters, or the Kenyonian blow up to Gamblers by Isaac Cruikshank, 16 May 1796, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.

Faro’s Daughters, or the Kenyonian blow up to Gamblers by Isaac Cruikshank, 16 May 1796, Digital Collections, Yale University Library. Ha! I see what you did their, Georgette Heyer.

Loo (also, Lanterloo)

A minimum of five players use all 52 cards. Each is dealt 3-5 cards (gamers choice) and after looking at their hand, they can drop out without charge or elect to stay in, paying to play. Committing to play requires the player to win at least one trick (thereby winning one-third or one-fifth of the total pool). Fail this, and pay a penalty amount equal to the whole pot – you’ve been “looed.” The pot carries forward and increases with each hand: great for the winner, potentially ruinous for the loser.

Loo in the Kitchin or High Life below Stairs by Isaac Cruikshank, published by Rudolph Ackermann 25 June 1799, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.

Loo in the Kitchin or High Life below Stairs by Isaac Cruikshank, published by Rudolph Ackermann 25 June 1799, Digital Collections, Yale University Library.

Piquet

Here’s the card game I’m determined to play this holiday. It seems so terribly refined yet cutthroat at the same time. I love that the English pronounce it “Picket” rather than the French “P.K.” Two players, 36 cards (Aces to Sixes), with each hand divided into five parts:

  • Blanks and Discards
  • Ruffs
  • Sequences
  • Sets
  • Tricks

The dealer is called the Younger while the player is called the Elder. Each player is dealt twelve cards, in groups of 2-4, depending on the part, with the remaining twelve cards lying in a stack between the opponents. The first player to score 100 is the winner. The rules on scoring for each part are lengthy but actually seem relatively straightforward. You can find a thorough explanation of them, with illustrations, at Historic Card Games.

Pope Joan

Something about the name of this game makes me feel like I’d be getting away with something sacrilegious if I were to play it. Or that I’m making light of something that could lead to my eternal damnation. Hmm.

Pope Joan is considered a Victorian card game because of its widespread popularity during that time, but we know it was played as early as 1732, courtesy the Oxford English Dictionary. Dickens even referred to it as an “old fashioned card party” in Chaper 6 of The Pickwick Papers.

Up to eight players may play, using a standard 52-card deck, but also a circular playing board resembling that of Roly-Poly or E-O. The board is divided into eight compartments: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Pope 9, Game, Intrigue (trump Queen + Jack), and Matrimony (trump King + Queen). Each player “dresses” each compartment with two counters, which could be anything from farthings to guineas. The object is to win counters by playing out cards corresponding to the labelled compartments on the board, and to be the first to run out of cards. The rules are again lengthy but manageable, and expertly explained by Dave Parlett at Historic Card Games.

Pope Joan board, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX.

Pope Joan board, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX.

Pope Joan board detail, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX

Pope Joan board detail, courtesy Ruby Lane Antiques of River Oaks, Houston, TX

Speculation

All of the card game rule sites state “several” may play Speculation, so that could possibly mean as many as your table will seat. Honestly, play for this game is the simplest of all I’ve study so far. Each player begins the game with the same number of markers – fish – from which to ante at the beginning of each hand.

Fish markers for the game of Speculation. They are also called chips. I swear this is not my attempt at a bad pun.

Fish markers for the game of Speculation. They are also called chips. I swear this is not my attempt at a bad pun.

Players are each dealt three cards, face down; after all have cards, the dealer turns the next one face up to determine the trump suit. This card belongs to the dealer (if he turns over an Ace, he’s won, and play ends before it began). If it is a high enough trump, players may offer to buy it. Players then turn over their cards, one at a time in progression around the table from the dealer’s left. If a higher trump card is revealed, the possessor may sell or keep it, and any player may make him an offer. Players may also offer to buy or trade for any face-down cards, sight unseen, at any time.

All trading and auctioning is done in pursuit of acquiring the highest trump card. Cards rank from Ace high to 2 low. The game ends when all cards have been revealed or when somebody turns the Ace; the owner of the highest trump wins the pot.

Jane Austen wrote of Speculation in Mansfield Park:

In the evening it was found, according to the predetermination of Mrs. Grant and her sister, that after making up the whist-table there would remain sufficient for a round game, and everybody being as perfectly complying and without a choice as on such occasions they always are, speculation was decided on almost as soon as whist; and Lady Bertram soon found herself in the critical situation of being applied to for her own choice between the games, and being required either to draw a card for whist or not. She hesitated.
Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 25

Speculation card deck.

Speculation card deck.

Vingt-et-un (also, Vingt-un, Twenty-One, or Pontoon)

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends. Pictured, Georgian gamblers.

Any number of people may play; a standard 52-card deck is used, although with six or more players, two decks would be combined. Money or markers are used for wagering. The value of the cards is the same as their pip, with face cards worth ten; the Ace can be worth one or eleven, player’s choice. The dealer gives each player two cards, and the player may hold with these or add as many as he wishes. The object of the game is to form a hand whose total value is at or near twenty-one, without going over.

Whist

Whist arose from the game Ruff and Honours – how great a name is that?! – as reported by Charles Cotton in The Compleat Gamester, 1674. It is a plain-trick game without bidding, with four players in fixed partnerships of two and seated across the table from each other; it is strictly forbidden for partners to “talk across the table” or remark on their cards or play in any way. Cards rank from Ace highest to Two lowest, with trumps determined by the final card laid down by the dealer after having dispensed the rest of the cards. He placed the trump card in the middle of the table and play then began to the dealer’s left. The first player may lead any card in his hand, with play proceeding clockwise order, following suit of the card led. A player with no card of that suit may discard (play a card of another suit) or play a trump. The trick is won by the highest card of the lead suit or by trump. The winner of the trick leads the next round, and play continues until all thirteen tricks are played. When finished, the score is recorded. Think Spades or Pinochle today.

Two-Penny Whist by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 11 January 1796, National Portrait Gallery.

Two-Penny Whist by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 11 January 1796, National Portrait Gallery.

In conclusion, for your further reading pleasure – and to get a glimpse into contemporaneous gambling – trek over to Susanna Ives‘s internet home to read a Sad Tale of Gambling Woe from 1804.

 

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Blocked at Both Ends

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat Call

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cat Call

I’ve finally watched episode one of Series Two of Poldark – no spoilers! – and the audience in the court scene made me think of a word for this week whose meaning has stayed essentially same through the years…except that it is no longer acceptable for use in the theatre, but rather everywhere else. Especially in broad daylight on busy sidewalks in metropolitan areas.

Sadlers Wells Theatre by Thomas Rowlandson, published by Rudolph Ackermann 1 June 1809, National Portrait Gallery.

Sadlers Wells Theatre by Thomas Rowlandson, published by Rudolph Ackermann 1 June 1809, National Portrait Gallery.

Cat Call (noun)

A kind of whistle, chiefly used at theatres, to interrupt the actors, and damn a new piece. It derives its name from one of its sounds, which greatly resembles the modulation of an intriguing boar cat. 1650s, a type of noisemaker (Johnson describes it as a “squeaking instrument”) used to express dissatisfaction in play-houses, from cat (n.) + call (n.); presumably because it sounded like an angry cat. As a verb, attested from 1734.

Covent Garden Theatre by Thomas Rowlandson, published by Henry Brookes 20 July 1786, National Portrait Gallery.

Covent Garden Theatre by Thomas Rowlandson, published by Henry Brookes 20 July 1786, National Portrait Gallery.

A diary entry concerning cat calling:

Dr. Adams was present the first night of the representation of IRENE, and gave me the following account:

“Before the curtain drew up, there were catcalls whistling, which alarmed Johnson’s friends. The Prologue, which was written by himself in a manly strain, soothed the audience 2, and the play went off tolerably till it came to the conclusion, when Mrs. Pritchard, the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled upon the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow-string round her neck. The audience cried out “Murder, murder.” She several times attempted to speak, but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the stage alive.” ~From The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

I found an interesting take on the contemporary cat call, to see how far it’s evolved, for lack of a better descriptor. It’s interesting to hear the audience response and how it hearkens back to the original definition of a cat call – the interruption of the actor – minus the intent to damn. The audience clearly appreciates the effort of this modern balladeer: its snaps and hoots are accolades of a most affirming nature.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Durgeon

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Durgeon

We’ve all probably done it.

Gone to the internet to diagnose a symptom, feeling, or injury … just to see why we felt a certain way, or if we needed to seek a medical professional. But what started out as curiosity about a scratchy throat or thorn-pricked finger quickly escalated into an armchair diagnosis of typhus or lockjaw, all with a few simple keystrokes.

The Gout by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 14 May 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

The Gout by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 14 May 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Step away from the computer, take a fortifying breath, and thank dear Francis Grose that there’s a Regency slang term for our nonsense.

Taking Physick by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 6 February 1800, National Portrait Gallery.

Taking Physick by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 6 February 1800, National Portrait Gallery.

Hum Durgeon (noun)

An imaginary illness. He has got the hum durgeon, i.e. nothing ails him except low spirits.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the 'Tisick' by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 13 July 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Punch Cures the Gout, -the Colic, -and the ‘Tisick’ by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 13 July 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

Would it be possible to talk about Regency era hypochondria without mentioning the lady who defined the art of summonable malaise? Witness her creator’s own description:

She [Mrs. Bennet] was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.
Chapter 1, Pride and Prejudice

 

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

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