WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ditto

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ditto

Take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
Polonius to Laertes, Act 1, Scene 3, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

The last line above, from Hamlet, is often misquoted as “clothes make the man.” It can also be said that clothes betray a man: within the first few paragraphs of Persuasion, Jane Austen has revealed much about Sir Walter Elliot.

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliot, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion.
Chapter 1, Persuasion, by Jane Austen

A man so accustomed to the observation and worth of appearances would have never been so unseemly nor unfortunate as to fall victim to this week’s word.

Ditto

A suit of ditto; coat, waistcoat, and breeches, all of one colour.

The Regency era gentleman who dressed in ditto was likely no gentleman at all; those of means, and especially those with valets, wore the height of fashion, and that meant a variety of colors and patterns. So much so that I couldn’t find any contemporaneous examples of men in a suit of ditto, save vicars.

The Vicar of the Parish Receiving His Tithes by Thomas Burke after Henry Singleton, 1793, British Museum.

Caricature on the evils of drink, courtesy Jane Austen’s London post The Agonies of Gout.

And one entertained bystander of a distressed dandy.

An Exquisite Alias Dandy in Distress! 1819, Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

The Encyclopedia of Fashion reveals that by the mid-1800s, the Ditto Suit became the “dominant form of Western men’s dress clothing of the next century.” It was also called the sack suit, and was generally worn on more informal occasions, such as travel or street wear. Perhaps this more staid – and some might say lazy – style of dress was in reaction to and rebellion from the stylish, Brummelesque designs in demand (and all the crack!) earlier in the nineteenth century.

I did manage to find one example of a self-made gentleman dressed all a-ditto, albeit for a movie (although I think his waistcoat is actually a deep green rather than unrelieved black/navy).

Captain Wentworth, portrayed by Rupert Penry-Jones, Persuasion, 2007.

And he looks rather charming all dandified, too.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, 2007.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobberdehoy

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hobberdehoy

I think we all know someone who needs to act their age rather than their shoe size (to paraphrase Prince). This week’s word may be more a literal reference to age rather than behavior, but it’s easier to illustrate the latter, so I beg your indulgence of my interpretation.

Hobberdehoy (noun)

Half a man and half a boy, a lad between both.

For the ultimate Regency boy-man, I of course thought of the Prince Regent, the patron saint of leisure, fashion, and food, and extravagance in all three. He was criticized as selfish, careless, and inconstant, offering no direction to the country during his father’s incapacitation or the wars with Napoleon and America. His legacy is self-aggrandizement for all things frivolous and profligate.

George IV by Thomas Lawrence, 1822, Chatsworth House Chintz Bedroom.

George IV by Thomas Lawrence, 1822, Chatsworth House Chintz Bedroom.

The remaining behavioral visual aids for Hobberdehoys may be fictional – but they fit my thematic rendering rather well. And of course they came from the inspired mind of Jane Austen. Upon examination, I found a Hobberdehoy in each of her novels.

Do you agree with my choices?

Allesandro Nivola as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, 1999.

Allesandro Nivola as Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, 1999.

Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill in Emma.

Rupert Evans as Frank Churchill in Emma, 2009.

William Beck as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, 2007.

William Beck as John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey, 2007.

Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, 2007.

Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, 2007.

Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility, 1995.

Adrian Lukis as George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

Adrian Lukis as George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, 1995.

 

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