WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Queer Prancer

Y’all, I am worn out.

This first full week of December nearly killed me. At least one event each night, at least one appointment during daylight hours, plus everyday-ness like school, household chores, and errands.

‘Tis the season to be jolly…or so I’m told. I’m feeling much more like the Word of the Week. But I will say Merry Christmas with a smile!

Queer Prancer

A bad, worn-out, foundered horse.

Whilst searching for illustrative caricatures, I stumbled upon Thomas Rowlandson’s series Horse Accomplishments. The second, third, and ninth plates of the series obviously fit this week’s definition of bad, worn-out, and/or foundered, but I thought to include the rest because they are delightfully wonderful. And the titles!! command!! your attention!!

Enjoy!

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 1, An Astronomer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 2, A Paviour!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 3, A Whistler!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.


Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 4, A Devotee!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 5, A Politician! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 6, A Time Keeper!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 7, A Civilian!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 8, An Arithmetician!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 9, A Loiterer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 10, A Minuet Dancer!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 11, A Land Measurer! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

Horse Accomplishments, Sketch 12, A Vaulter!! by Thomas Rowlandson, 1 August 1799, Christchurch Art Gallery, New Zealand.

 

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

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cannikin

A pestilence has descended upon my house. On me, specifically. Not nearly as dire as the cant definition of this week’s word, but enough to get me down, watching Netflix and using Kleenex faster than gossip travels through a small town.

Please forgive my brevity and, as usual, enjoy some Rowlandson and Gillray illustrations of the recordings of Mr. Grose.

Cannikin

In the canting sense, the plague. Otherwise, a small can.

Ague & Fever by Thomas Rowlandson, 29 March 1788, British Museum.

From the description in the British Museum:

The patient sits in profile to the left with chattering teeth, holding his hands to a blazing fire on the extreme left Ague, a snaky monster, coils itself round him, its coils ending in claws like the legs of a monstrous spider. Behind the patient’s back, in the middle of the room, Fever, a furry monster with burning eyes, resembling an ape, stands full-face with outstretched arms. On the right the doctor sits in profile to the right at a small table, writing a prescription, holding up a medicine-bottle in his left hand. The room is well furnished and suggests wealth: a carved four-post bed is elaborately draped. On the high chimney-piece are ‘chinoiseries’ and medicine-bottles. Above it is an elaborately framed landscape. Beneath the design is engraved: “And feel by turns the bitter change of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce.” Milton.’ 29 March 1788. Hand-coloured etching.

Hands-down the best description I’ve ever seen and read of illness. Fierce extremes, indeed.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Comfort

Every cloud has its silver lining.
It is what it is.
Call it even and go home.
Six of one, half dozen of another.
But did you die?

There are quite a few ways to simply say “it could have been worse.” Last week the term was Dutch Feast, meaning the host went into a drunken stupor before his guests. This week, I found another term with Dutch in its name. I need to take a stroll down a rabbit trail or three and find out why the Dutch were a favorite slang adjective.

But it’s nigh on December and that means writing, parties, concerts, plays, shopping, and myriad other deadlines are nipping at my heels, so deep diving into Google is not on the agenda. I think I’ll just claim this week’s word for the whole month.

Very Slippy-Weather by James Gillray, 10 February 1808, The Trustees of the British Museum.

Dutch Comfort

Thank God it is no worse.

Miseries of Travelling by Thomas Rowlandson, 1807, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The inscription reads:

Just as you are going off with only one other person on your side of the coach, who you flatter yourself is the last- seeing the door suddenly opened and the L and lady coachman guard [illegible] craning shoving buttressing up an overgrown puffing, greazy human Hog of the bucher or grazier breed. The whole machine straining and groaning under its cargo from the box to the basket- by dint of incredible efforts and contrivances the Carcase is at length weighed up to the door where it has next to struggle with various obstructions in the passage.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the ability to travel by coach rather than foot? Even if another adult sits in your lap the entire journey?

Matrimonial-Harmonics by James Gillray, 25 October 1805, The Trustees of the British Museum.

From the British Museum description:

The couple torment each other in the breakfast-room. A round table is drawn close to a blazing fire. The lady has left her seat to thump on the piano, singing loudly, with her back to her husband, but turning her eyes towards him. He sits in the corner of a sofa, crouching away from her, his hand over his ear, food stuffed into his mouth, reading the Sporting Calendar. The pages of her open music-book are headed Forte. Her song is: ‘Torture Fiery Rage \ Despair I cannot can not bear’. On the piano lies music: Separation a Finale for Two Voices with Accompaniment; on the floor is The Wedding Ring – a Dirge. She wears a becoming morning gown with cap, but has lost the slim grace of early matrimony and her soft features have coarsened. Behind the piano a boisterous coarse-featured nurse hastens into the room holding a squalling infant, and flourishing a (watchman’s) rattle. On the lady’s chair is an open book, The Art of Tormenting, illustrated by a cat playing with a mouse. Her sunshade hangs from the back of the chair. On the breakfast-table are a large hissing urn, a tea-pot, a coffee-pot, &c., a bottle of ‘Hollands’ (beside the woman’s place), and a full dish of muffins. The man’s coffee-cup is full and steaming. He wears a dressing-gown with ungartered stockings and slippers. An air of dejection and ill-nature replaces his former good-humoured sprightliness. Under his feet lies a dog, ‘Benedick’, barking fiercely at an angry cat, poised on the back of the sofa. A square birdcage high on the wall is supported by branching antlers. In it two cockatoos screech angrily at each other, neglecting a nest of three young ones. Beside it on the left is a bust of ‘Hymen’ with a broken nose, and on the right a thermometer which has sunk almost to ‘Freezing’. On the chimney-piece is a carved ornament: Cupid asleep under a weeping willow, his torch reversed, the arrows falling from his quiver. This is flanked by vases whose handles are twisted snakes which spit at each other.

Is there any Dutch Comfort to be taken in the fact that the single life is firmly behind them, that they will never be alone – or left alone – again? Or in the fact that each can have only one spouse to torment? And that there is only one squalling infant?

At least the dreaded mother-in-law is not also in residence.

 

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

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

This week’s phrase comes courtesy the dedicated thief who’s in it for the art of the deception, with the Rube Goldberg-esque planning and implementation of the steal.

Dining Room Post

A mode of stealing in houses that let lodgings, by rogues pretending to be postmen, who send up sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage, go into the first room they see open, and rob it.

Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown, The Samuel Courtauld Trust at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

As we all know, however, crime rarely pays, or at least fails to pay for the long run. It can be argued that the Regency era gave rise to the (more) modern  and organized police man. During this time, criminals were pursued by constables, the night watch, thief-takers, and Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police themselves were formed in 1829, a few years removed from the Regency but during the reign of George IV (the former Prince Regent). These various officials of law enforcement were notoriously tough and dogged in their pursuit of criminals (or at least the payment at the end of the pursuit). Some lawmen were fresh from lives of crime themselves, and used their considerable knowledge and connections to ferret out criminals.

The Night Watchman Picking Up a Wayward Girl by Thomas Rowlandson, Bonhams, New York.

Interestingly, when searching for period graphics to illustrate this post, the majority I found were of women being arrested rather than men. I’m not sure if there’s a less-than-subtle message to be inferred here, but at least one engraving by Thomas Rowlandson showed they didn’t all go down quietly.

Attacking the Night Watchman by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Knight of the Rainbow

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Knight of the Rainbow

The Flower must not blame the Bee —
That seeketh his felicity
Too often at her door —

But teach the Footman from Vevay —
Mistress is “not at home” — to say —
To people — any more!
~Emily Dickinson, 206

They were to be tall, handsome, young, strong, and silent. They were to be seen and admired, but not heard. They were there for the heavy lifting (of tea trays, trunks, and whatnot).

They were there to pester the maids.

The Jealous Maids by John Collett, published by Robert Sayer and engraved by Robert Lowery L.aurie on 2 March 1772, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Observe the elaborate livery worn by the male servant, a froth of lace at his throat, his waistcoat  and facings festooned with gold. Even his buttons are gold!

Knight of the Rainbow

A footman: from the variety of colours in the liveries and trimming of gentlemen of that cloth.

Many others have gone into great detail on the lives, both personal and professional, of male domestic servants. I won’t rehash the particulars, but will include links below for those of a researching mind. Instead, I propose to show some prime examples of those noble Knights of the Rainbow.

Unlike female domestics, males were arrayed in a variety of fabrics and colors, with no shortage of embellishments and gee-gaws to ornament their costumes. The more public the servant, the more ostentatious and ornate his livery. Colors and style were as distinctive to families as was the crest on their carriage.

Footman Livery, made for the attendants of the 3rd Earl of Ashburnham of Ashburnham Place, Sussex, in 1829 for his installation as Knight of the Garter, at Manchester Art Gallery.

From the Manchester Art Gallery label:

Coat: Light blue-green cloth trimmed with red cloth and wool braid with uncut pile woven with coat of arms and coronet in red, yellow and black on white; lined with red glazed twilled wool; high standing collar; fronts each in one section, fastening at chest with 2 hooks and eyes, 17 metal buttons on right edge from neck to hem, cord imitating buttonholes on left, pocket at waist each side with shaped flap over three buttons; back in two shaped sections with centre back vent; long sleeves in two sections lined with white cotton, collar and turned-back cuffs of red cloth, strip of red cloth each side of front and centre back opening; braid on all edges and seams, outlining pockets and in chevrons down outside of sleeves; two loops white, red and yellow silk cord with metal points attached to right shoulder under crest embroidered in coloured silks on red cloth;
Breeches: Red cloth; shaped waistband lacing over gusset at centre back, fastening at centre front with 3 plain buttons under flap fastening with two buttons on waistband and one of centre front buttons; pocket each side with small button at corner on hip; narrow pocket in waistband on right of centre front; horn buttons for braces each side front and back; legs fastening at outer knee with four buttons and coloured silk braid kneeband with slot for buckle.
Waistcoat: red cloth lined with white cotton; front and skirt faced with red glazed wool; fronts each in one section fastening to waist with small metal buttons, buttons continue above and below fastening, high standing collar, fronts cut away at angle below waist, pocket each side of waist with shaped flap over three buttons; back in two sections, centre back vent; two pairs of linen tape ties at waist; collar, fronts and pockets edged with same braid as coat.

Footman’s Livery Uniform circa 1840-1860, via Manchester Art Gallery.

From the Manchester Art Gallery label:

Coat; Made from a dark blue cloth. Front edge curved out over chest fastening with hook and eye, slit pocket inside left front. Six brass buttons with crest of rampant lion on right edge, braid imitating buttonholes on left. Low standing collar of yellow cloth. Centre sections extending to form centre back skirt, open at centre below waist. Side sections padded and lined black cotton satin. Long sleeves with turned-back cuffs of yellow cloth. Edges outlined wool braid with uncut pile with geometric pattern in blue and yellow. Collar and cuffs trimmed smaller button.
Breeches: Made from yellow wool plush, partly lined twilled cotton. Straight waistband lacing at CB over gusset. Fastening at CF with three plain buttons under flap the whole width of front fastening with four buttons on waistband. Slit pocket each side of fastening under flap. Long narrow pocket in right front waistband. Buttons for braces at side front and CB. Legs fastening at outer knee with three brass buttons and kneeband with small brass buckle.
Waistcoat: Made from yellow cloth, unbleached linen back, lined with cream twilled cotton. High neck with low standing collar. Fastening with five brass buttons. Pocket shaped flap each side of waist.

Livery Coat circa 1875-1890, via Manchester Art Gallery.

From the Manchester Art Gallery label:

Coat: Blue wool, embroidered with braid and frogging. Purple blue cloth, braid-embroidered, lined dark blue twilled wool; fronts each in one section to waist extending to side back, fastening edge to edge at centre front with 6 hooks and eyes to v-neck with high standing collar; converging row of 6 silk-covered buttons each side of front; skirt fronts in one flared section extending to side back, side back edge stitched down onto back section under stitched-down pleat headed with button; false pocket each side of waist with shaped flap over three buttons; back in two shaped sections extending below waist to form centre back skirt, open below waist at centre; long sleeves in two sections, separate cuff sections, lined glazed linen; all edges, collar, cuffs, and side back seams outlined with wool braid in two shades of blue with diamond pattern in uncut pile; narrow blue silk braid in elaborate scrolling designs forming borders round the wider braid and frogging round buttons from neck to waist; lining padded and quilted on shoulders and under arms; pockets in lining each side of skirt and left breast.

Random specimens of livery

There is often a glut of information (and mis-information) on the internet, and the following costumes came without descriptors. But they were too pretty to pass.

Livery, early 19th Century, Italian, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Livery, early 19th Century, Italian, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sleeved livery waistcoat, early 19th century.

Ceremonial livery, Court Footman, late 19th Century, Hermitage Museum.

Ceremonial uniform of the Chief Chamberlain, late 19th Century, Hermitage Museum.

Not everyone was impressed by the finery and frippery, however.

Country Characters. No. 4: Footman by Thomas Rowlandson 30 August 1799, Royal Collection Trust.

Thomas Rowlandson and his well-honed satire: A conceited and “dandy-fied” Town footman stands admiring himself in a mirror, much to the disapproval of the country housemaid and butler. He is sure his charms and posy of flowers will win him the admiration of the country chits at the local pub; the monkey on a chain, imitating the footman, is certainly awed.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Billingsgate Language

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Billingsgate Language

We’ve just wrapped up another presidential election cycle here in the good ol’ USA, but I don’t think we’re going to be lucky enough to wrap up the ill will, hurt feelings, and fears that our continued march into the 21st Century is bringing. This is a politics-free zone here, but I’d be lying if I said that the verbal diarrhea of bleating clodpoles, both red and blue, didn’t inspire this week’s word.

Billingsgate Language (noun)

Foul language, or abuse. Billingsgate is the market where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their dealings and disputes, they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good manners a little on the left hand.

Billingsgate is one of the twenty-five wards of London whose location was on the northern bank of the Thames, just west of the Tower of London. It was the city’s original water gate and the busiest harbor in the city, where corn, coal, iron, wine, salt, pottery, miscellaneous goods – and most importantly, fish – were bought and sold.

But Billingsgate was also known for another commodity – rough language. The hawking cries of the fish vendors were loud and crude. The women, in particular, took no prisoners with their tart tongues.

A New Catamaran Expedition!!! by Isaac Cruikshank, published by William Holland 1805, Library of Congress.

A New Catamaran Expedition!!! by Isaac Cruikshank, published by William Holland 1805, Library of Congress.

In the above drawing, catamarans loaded with fishwives are dispatched to France to terrorize the enemy. The wives’ speech balloons read “We’ll pepper you scoundrels”, “Give it ’em well, my hearties.”, “Yea ye dirty Blackguards we’ll soon be with you.”, and “Look at our ammunition, you poltroons.”

Hans Turbot Quarrelling With a Fishwoman. at Southampton in Presence of Count Cork Screw by William Austin, 1773, British Museum.

Hans Turbot Quarrelling With a Fishwoman. at Southampton in Presence of Count Cork Screw by William Austin, 1773, British Museum.

Considering the gentlemen characters have closed mouths, I’m not sure how much arguing is going on. The fishwoman is pretty rough-looking, tattooed, and giving a right scolding to all present.

Title and author unknown.

Title and author unknown, from Georgian Gentleman Mike Rendell.

We don’t even need a title to figure out the story to this little gem. The fishwoman – evidently so angry and agitated that her chemise fell down – is putting some hurt on the Frenchie, much to the shock of his compatriot and delight of hers. Another fishwoman is also in danger of losing her top, but will not be deterred from her patriotic duty of putting a lobster on the bare buttocks of the enemy. As you do.

I’ll close with the lyrics of The Bloody Battle of Billingsgate, sung to the tune of The Orange, from the English Broadside Ballad Archive. Brace yourselves: this is Billingsgate.

Beginning with a Scolding bout between two young Fish-women, Doll and Kate.

One morning of late, hard by Billingsgate,
There Dolly she happen’d to meet with young Kate,
They Quarrel’d and Fought, and made a sad Rout,
And if you wou’d know, Sirs, what it was about,
I will tell ye.

Last Wednesday night, young Kate did invite
The Husband of Dolly, her Joy and Delight,
And merrily they, did Frolick and Play,
A whole Winter’s night, till the morning next day;
was it fitting?

Doll.
You’re Impudent grown, shall I lye alone,
And you have delight, while his poor Wife has none;
You saivry young Sow, I will not allow
Such doings, but here I will pummel ye now,
ye bold Strumpet.

Kate.
Marry gap, Mistress Gill, my mind to fulfill,
I’de have you to know he shall come when he will,
And yet not by stealth, ye impudent Elf,
I have as much right to the Man as your self,
he’s no Husband.

Doll.
I’de have ye know before I do go,
That I can a Lawful Certificate show;
Thus I am his Wife, the joy of his life,
But you have between us created much strife,
ye bold Strumpet.

Kate.
A Twelvemonth ye Whor’d, then he did afford
A Marriage, by leaping twice over a Sword,
Your Shams I degrade, for Robin he said,
That under a Hedge-Row that Writing he made;
hopeful Marriage.

Ye pittiful Trull, I never did gull
Like you, the poor Drummer, last Summer, at H[ul]l
An impudent Stock, went breaking his Lock,
And stole the man’s Shirt, for to make ye a Smock.
ye bold Strumpet.

Kate.
Slut this is a Lye, she then did reply
But here is one truth, which you cannot deny,
Ye pittiful Punk, last week ye were Drunk,
Four men had ye home, and they told me ye stunk
like a Pole-Cat.

Kate.
Are you not a shame, to all of your name?
All honest good people against you exclaim:
You left your poor Brats, and went to the t[?] [?]ats
There lay with a Man for a bushel of Sp[yri]ts,
out upon ye.

Doll.
I’ll make ye to smoak, for what ye have spoke
Since you do so often my patience provoke,
What flesh can forbear? besides I declare,
Your Neighbors knows all well enough what you are
Mistress Trinkets.

Kate.
She gave her a thrust, and said, do your worst,
If you have much Money that does lye and rust,
W[h]y then go to Law, I won’t stand in awe;
With that down her Face she her Tallents did claw,
with a vengeance.

The other she flew, and gave her her due,
First tore off her Hood, Quoif, and Filleting too:
They fight and did Scold, and both kept their hold,
At length in the Kennel together they roll’d,
like two fat Sows.

The Women and Men, soon parted ‘um then,
And bid them be Friendly and quiet agen:
Their words did prevail, together they Sail,
And drank up two quarts of hot Brandy and Ale,
in good Friendship.

FINIS.

Based on the pictures of riots and bleeping of soundbites on the streets of America, Billingsgate Language and behavior is neither relegated to history nor confined to the fish market.

 

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.