WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

I could have danced all night
I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things
I’ve never done before

My Fair Lady, I Could Have Danced All Night, music written by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, published 1956.

Contra Dance

A dance where the dancers of the different sexes stand opposite each other, instead of side by side, as in the minuet, rigadoon, louvre, &c. and now corruptly called a country dance.

Those of us familiar with the Regency era are well acquainted with dancing at balls and the obligatory appearance(s) at Almacks for a young marriage-minded miss, and we’ve heard the terms ‘minuet,’ ‘highland reel,’ and ‘quadrille,’ but what about those other dances mentioned by the estimable Mr. Grose?

Contra Dance

Popular since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the contra dance consisted of couples lining up opposite each other with men on one side and ladies on the other. The dance began at the top with the first couple, and they worked their way down the lines, weaving in and out. They were followed by the next top couple, until all couples had worked the line. As everyone had the chance to be the lead couple, the set could last a long, long time. A beautiful (albeit abbreviated) example of the contra dance is Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot from the cinematic version of Emma, 1995.

Minuet

Whether the dance as it was during the Regency period derived from the Italian or French versions, the minuet was so named due to its small steps. It was danced by couples in three-quarter time. This set opened balls as everyone knew how to navigate its steps, despite the fact the footwork was intricate. The dance was steeped in tradition and held with near reverence by the older crowd, likely because it quickly displayed a person’s grace (or lack thereof). It’s popularity began to wane in the Regency as the waltz gained popularity and eventual acceptance. (On a side note, the good Regency historian remembers that the waltz during this time was nothing like the waltz of the Victorian or current eras. This is the Viennese Waltz, with couples not dancing in the closed position, but rather semi-closed, side-by-side, then facing each other, as seen in the following illustration. Couples are very much embracing, but not tightly, bosoms brushing, as some might wish.)

Earl Waltz Steps from Thomas Wilson’s Treatise on Waltzing, 1816.

But I digress. A beautiful example of the minuet is presented by the Jane Austen Society of Florence and L’Atelier de Danse at the Grand Napoleonic Ball in Florence, in May of 2010, at the Villa del Poggio Imperiale, imperial residence of Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi from 1809 till 1814 while she was Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Rigadoon

This dance stumped me until I discovered it is a version of a more well-known dance group, the cotillion, which came to England from France in the mid-18th Century. The cotillion was another lengthy dance and the rigadoon was merely one step variation that could be showcased by the hostess. The rigadoon was a set a continuous steps and swirls with the pattern increasing in difficulty as the set progressed. I found a beautifully executed version of A New Rigadoon based on Mr. Isaac’s Rigadoon of 1706, performed at the 2012 Ottawa English Country Dance Ball.

 

If your map-reading and deciphering skills are especially acute, please feel free to interpret the original sketches of Mr. Isaac, the Rigadoon, from 1706. They are beautiful, and beyond my ken.

Mr. Isaac, The Rigadoon, 1706, plate one.

A Supplement of Steps by Raoul Auger Feuillet and translated by John Weaver, Orchesography, 1706.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louvre

This is actually a “nickname” for the Aimable Vainqueur Danse, a ballroom dance choreographed by Louis Pécour that premiered in December of 1700. It’s also documented with the ‘Loure’ spelling, making it somewhat difficult to discover in the depths of Google. It became one of the popular historical dances to include at balls through the early 19th Century because of its stately movements and traditional elegance. Once again, the steps are intricate and the pace is steady without any breaks, very similar to the Allemande. Giovanni-Andrea Gallini’s A Treatise on the Art of Dancing in 1778 states the Louvre and Minuet as the two dances most in fashion throughout Europe, and that the Louvre “pleases particularly” with the “just concert of motions” exhibited by the couple. It’s important again for the Regency historian to remember that dance was also another language of diplomacy, and that the most exclusive balls and routs would feature dances that all the European ambassadors and attachés would know well. A very baroque example of this dance is performed by Thomas Baird and Suzanne Paterson for La Belle Danse, exhibiting the original 1701 choreography by L.G. Pécour. The tune is from André Campra’s 1700 opera Hésione.

 

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 ~ Dandy Grey Russet

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dandy Grey Russet

Spring has sprung here in Texas, and the colors are phenomenal this year. We’ve had enough early season rain to make everything go supernova on the color spectrum.

Colors during the Regency period were no less fantastic, and had the names to match. From the pale watercolors of the young misses to the vibrant primaries of waistcoats and married ladies gowns, there was no shortage of shades and hues to drape the beau monde (although this term was likely not use in Regency England, but it sounds pretty and fits the context, so I’m going for it).

1807 Le Beau Monde plate

Dandy Grey Russet (noun)

A dirty brown. His coat’s dandy grey russet, the colour of the Devil’s nutting bag.

A few years ago, author Collette Cameron penned A Regency Palette – Colors of the Regency Era, a definitive list of fabric tints and pigments of the Regency, at Embracing Romance. Names like Jonquil and Cameleopard are far more evocative than mere yellow and beige. Even the dirty brown of the Word of the Week sounds spiffy when given the thieves’ slang treatment.

Behold the colors of the Regency.

Jonquil: yellow (daffodil)
Primrose and Evening Primrose: shades of yellow
Puce: a purplish pink (for some reason I always think puce is green)
Pomona Green: a cheery apple green

1816 Gothic-influence, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Coquelicot: sort of a poppy red
Emerald Green: a bluish-green, almost aqua
Cerulean Blue: a muted, almost grayish blue – but not popular during the Regency era (ack!)
Blossom: a light pink
Bottle Green: just like it sounds
Mazurine Blue: a mixture of indigo and violet
Slate: a mix between gray and lavender

London, June 1799 fashions, plate no. 16, printed for R. Phillips

Other Popular Regency Colors

Apollo: bright gold (1823)
Aurora: chili-colored (1809)

1805-6 Pelisses, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Aetherial: sky blue (1820)
Azure: sky blue (1820)
Barbel: sky blue (1820)
Cameleopard: French beige (1825)
Clarence: sky blue (1820)

1804 Walking Dress with Pelisse, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Devonshire Brown: mastic (1812)
Dust of Ruins: squirrel (1822)
Egyptian Brown: mace (1809)
Esterhazy: silver grey (1822)
Isabella: cream (1822)
Lavender: between heliotrope and parma (1824)
Marie Louise: calamine blue (1812)

1812 Pelisse and Carriage/Walking Coat, via Ackermann’s Repository.

Mexican: steel blue (1817)
Morone: peony red (1811)
Princess Elizabeth Lilac: Alice blue (1812)
Russia Flame: pale mastic (1811)
Spring: Cossack green (1810)
Terre D’Egypte: brick red (1824)
Parma Violet: violet (1811)

1809, Half-dress, via Ackermann’s Repository.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mung

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mung

Silly post this week. Well, silly and yet also distasteful. *shudders*

Some words sound nastier when said, but their definitions reveal them to be fairly benign. Some words, however, are a twofer and sound just as awful as their squicky meanings.

My trigger words: flaccid, juices, veiny, seepage, squirt, panties, spew, ointment, moist.

This week, I’ve compiled a list of historical vulgar terms that give me a case of the icks. It’s the words that make you go, “ew!”

Mung

To beg.

Snaggs ~ Large teeth; also snails.

Flabby ~ Relaxed, flaccid, not firm or solid.

Dumplin ~ A short thick man or woman.

Pucker Water ~ Water impregnated with alum, or other astringents, used by old experienced traders to counterfeit virginity.

Rumpus ~ A riot, quarrel, or confusion.

Smear ~ A plasterer.

Maggotty ~ Whimsical, capricious.

Giblets ~ Ahem. To join giblets; said of a man and woman who cohabit as husband and wife, without being married; also to copulate.

Fart ~ He has let a brewer’s fart, grains and all; said of one who has betrayed his breeches.

Belch ~ All sorts of beer; that liquor being apt to cause eructation.

Cheeser ~ A strong smelling fart.

Twiddle Diddles ~ Testicles.

Shanker ~ (Sorry!) A venereal wart.

Chummage ~ Money paid by the richer sort of prisoners in the Fleet and King’s Bench, to the poorer, for their share of a room.

Hash ~ To flash the hash; to vomit.

Barnacle ~ A good job, or snack easily got: also shellfish growing at the bottoms of ships; a bird of the goose kind; an instrument like a pair of pincers, to fix on the noses of vicious horses whilst shoeing; a nick name for spectacles, and also for the gratuity given to grooms by the buyers and sellers of horses.

 

All slang terms taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Wife in Water Colours

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Wife in Water Colours

They are often written as a foil to the heroine: vain, overblown, and vengeful. They often have some skeevy characteristic such as malice, possessiveness, or extreme avarice that only manifests itself (or seems unattractive and potentially problematic) to the hero after he meets and/or falls for the heroine. In nearly half the novels in which they make an appearance, they don’t take dismissal by the hero with a thank you, but rather use it as kindling in the formation of a plot to harm the heroine.

Beware the ides of Mistress.

The Amorous Courtesan by Pierre Subleyras, 1735, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Wife in Water Colours (noun)

A mistress, or concubine; water colours being, like their engagements, easily effaced, or dissolved.

I know many Regency gentlemen kept mistresses, and I have no problem reading of their accounts in contemporaneous resources and historical texts. I don’t, however, want to read about them in flagrante delicto with the hero in my historical romance. The hero may visit her off-page, give her her congé, or even offer assistance toward a more respectable direction; I don’t want to read about them engaging in energetic discourse of a horizontal nature.

The Jersey Smuggler Detected; – or – Good cause for (separation) Discontent by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 24 May 1796.

Once a male character in a novel becomes clearly identifiable as the hero, I want him to remain committed to the heroine. He may fight with her and against his attraction for three-fourths of the story, but he may not visit another’s bed. Author Susana Ellis wrote several posts about what she called “Historical Romance Deal Breakers,” and adultery was number two. I concur.

Now, turn the mistress into the heroine … well, I’m all for that. I like a good underdog story.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • Want to learn more about courtesans and mistresses in Regency England? Head to The Culture Concept Circle.
  • Someone else agrees with me about adultery being a no-no in historical romance. Read what Susana Ellis has to say about it.
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.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Apple-Pye Bed

I am not getting sick.
I am not getting sick.
I am not getting sick.

I hope.

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Apple-Pye Bed. Pictured, Hugh Laurie as Prince George in Blackadder the Third.

As I lay here half puny, half slug-a-bed, I feel the need to be amused by great British television. The program I selected, Blackadder the Third, put me in mind of a diverting term for this week, and also provided a few graphic illustrations. The term is an oldie-but-a-goodie prank still around today. The illustrations aren’t necessarily germane to the Word of the Week, but they are period-ish.

Obstinate Headstrong Girl author Renée Reynolds ¦ WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Apple-Pye Bed. Pictured, Hugh Laurie as Prince George in Blackadder the Third.

Apple-Pye Bed (noun)

A bed made apple-pye fashion, like what is called a turnover apple-pye, where the sheets are so doubled as to prevent any one from getting at his length between them: a common trick played by frolicsome country lasses on their sweethearts, male relations, or visitors.

Perhaps Prince George's bed hath been apple-pyed.

Perhaps Prince George’s bed hath been apple-pyed.

Just for chuckles and, again, because it’s barely apropos to the Word of the Week posts yet still entertaining, may I present a clip from the Blackadder the Third episode “Ink and Incapability,” followed by the episode in its entirety for those who have extra time on their hands. What could be more fitting to share on a blog about words than an episode of Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, and Robbie Coltrane – Blackadder, Prince George, and Samuel Johnson – scheming about just that: words.

For your delectation.