WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mort

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Mort

That moment when the French and Latin word for death becomes Thieves’ Cant slang for woman.

Yikes.

Mort

Woman or wench; also a yeoman’s daughter; when used by itself, denotes a girl or woman of loose morals; canting jargon of unknown origin from at least 1560s.

Maybe the connection to the word for death has something to do with the morality, or lack thereof, associated with this slang. Loose morals usually meant a worker in the sex trade, which usually meant an unfortunate association with mortality – early death. No matter the derivation, it’s not a flattering term in the least.

Well, just as we discovered with cove for gentlemen, when you add the right adjective, the character of women called mort becomes more apparent:

autem mort ~ a married woman; also a female beggar who hired or borrowed children for larger gain

Jane Gibbs – Mrs Gibbs the Notorious Street Walker and Extorter by James Gillray, 1799, National Portrait Gallery.

bingo mort ~ a female dram drinker; one who spirituous liquors in small amounts

bleached mort ~ a fair complexioned wench

dimber mort ~ a pretty wench

The Graces in High Wind – a Scene taken from Nature in Kensington Gardens by James Gillray, 1810, British Museum.

filching mort ~ a woman thief

gentry mort ~ a gentlewoman

Following the Fashion – St James’s giving the TON a Soul without a Body – Cheapside aping the MODE, a Body without a Soul by James Gillray, 1794, British Museum.

kinchin mort ~ a young girl, usually an orphan, trained as a thief

nazy mort ~ a drunken woman

DIDO, in Despair! by James Gillray, 1801, British Museum.

queer mort ~ a diseased strumpet; also queere mort

rome or rum mort ~ a queen or great lady

Launching a Frigate by James Gillray, 1790s, Public Domain.

strolling mort ~ beggar or peddler pretending to be a widow

mort wap-apace ~ a woman of experience, or very expert at the sport of copulation

Female Curiosity by James Gillray, 1778, National Portrait Gallery.

 

Words and definitions taken from the Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Frigate

Fashion is amazing.

I admit to being a blue jeans and t-shirt connoiseur myself, but I do pay attention to Fashion Week each  year, and gawk at what celebrities are wearing on award show red carpets. I understand nothing of the inspiration, vision, or sheer artistry behind the creativity of the designers of each new trend. I cannot fathom how an artist goes from making a-line skirts and coats one season, to sheer bandeaus and capris the next.

So while it makes no sense to me, it’s however no surprise that the gravity-defying pompadours and wider-than-doorway panniers of the late 18th Century gave rise to simple and straight empire gowns and natural hair – fashion evolves in mysterious and myriad ways. Since the styles of mothers from the era of George III dressed vastly different from their Regency-reared daughters, I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast two styles. And since caricatures and fashion plates are vastly more entertaining than mere portraits ….

Frigate (noun)

A well-dressed wench; a well rigged-frigate.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads "Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai." Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Fashion Plate #43 in Galerie des Modes for 1778. Caption reads “Jeune Dame de Qualité en grande Robe coëffée avec un Bonnet ou Pouf élégant dit la Victoire Dessiné par Desrai.” Translated means Young Lady in high quality cofeée dress with a hat or stylish pouf designed by Desrai.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Mlle Des Victoire coiffure à la Grenade, 1779 (Miss Victory Hair Style à la Grenada). French propaganda print satirizing the big hair.

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

Launching a Frigate, 1790s, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

The Finishing Touch, James Gillray

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Tight Lacing, or Fashion before Ease, by Bowles and Carver after John Collet, London, ca. 1770–1775. From the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

The Fashions of the Day -or- Time Past and Present. Respectfully dedicated to the Fashionable Editors of La Belle Assemblé Le Beau Monde &c., &c. 1807, Charles Williams.

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

Parisian Ladies in their Winter Dress for 1800, Isaac Cruikshank, 1799

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

The Rage or Shepherds I have lost My Waist, 1790s, Isaac Cruikshank

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

High-change in Bond Street -ou- la Politesse du Grande Monde, James Gillray, 1796

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Fashion Plate: A Lady of Hindoostan, 1809, Los Angeles County Museum of Art