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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: An Ode to and from the Necktie

necktie

If you are going to be a man, be a gentleman. Dressing well may be the first step, but there’s clearly more to it than that. The necktie is a great place to start!

The modern necktie, which is to call it a fashion accessory that is popular in the English-speaking world that is forever envious of French taste, the modern necktie evolved from the cravat, which originated in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). Croatian mercenaries wore identifying ties around their necks that intrigued the French. In naming the new trend, the word “cravat” flowed from a deviation in the seventeenth-century French pronunciation of word “Croates” (French for “Croatian”).

To this day, International Necktie Day is celebrated in Croatia on October 18th.

The necktie brings me to “The Shirt-Collar” (1848), one of my favourite stories by Hans Christian Andersen.

There was once a fine gentleman who possessed among other things a boot-jack and a hair-brush; but he had also the finest shirt-collar in the world, and of this collar we are about to hear a story.

The story takes place after the shirt-collar decides he wants to get married. The chief obstacle that the shirt-collar faces in this endeavour is that he is not a gentleman at all, but a braggart. That, to me, is part of the seriousness of a well-tied necktie. A well-tied necktie shows people you know how to dress well, so that you don’t have to brag about it. A gentleman’s conduct speaks for him, so he has time to listen.

For my poetry class, I was going to write an ode to the necktie, while tying it into Writer’s Quote Wednesday, like I did last week, but I found that someone beat me to it. F.H. published “An Ode To The Necktie” in the Lawrence Journal on 22 August 1945. It was about this time, in the evolution of the necktie, that they started to take on lovely colours, as you can see in F.H.’s description. Still, due to the hot weather, F.H. isn’t happy with his necktie at all and is jealous of women.

Consequently, I’ve thought about the necktie’s reply.

necktiereply

Which brings me to a final point on what it means to be a gentleman: don’t complain. Certainly never try to argue that things are harder for you than they are for somebody else.

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8

Catawampous

catawampous

Catwampous is a hysterical word. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) first places it in an 1840 printing of the Spirit of the Times, which was a New York publication. However, lexicographers guess that the word came about as a British lampoon of the way Americans spoke. It has two alternative spellings: ‘cattywampus’ and ‘catawampus,’ which is chiefly American.

There’s something poetic about Americans taking a word that the British used to make fun of them and spelling it differently.

In the OED, the catawampus (with the American spelling) became a fierce imaginary animal, like a crocodile that could fly. If my imagination could magnify the no-see-ums in Florida, they would look like catawampuses.

noseeum2

American dictionaries define the word as askew, awry. Catawampus is messed up. With an O and a British accent it becomes fierce. I recommend it as an intensifier.

Intensifier. a word, especially an adverb, or other linguistic element that indicates, and usually increases, the degree of emphasis or force to be given to the element it modifies, as very or somewhat; intensive adverb.

However, in this case, I still feel it understates how horrible those tiny invisible bugs in Florida are.

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6

Writer’s Quote Wednesday: Fat Fierce Trust

muchness

I spent all night colouring that publicity photo from an 1898 production of Alice in Wonderland, anticipating that today is Writer’s Quote Wednesday. Clearly, the quote I’ve chosen belongs to Lewis Carroll a.k.a. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Popular culture cycles through a variety of feelings over Carroll as a prominent figure in children’s literature because the relationship he had with children isn’t acceptable today, but his stories were so good.

I chose the quote about muchness because it would take a great artist indeed to draw muchness and I want to challenge myself with the Writing 201 poetry class I’m in, which is a bit of a crap shoot, the way they surprise us with a new prompt, form, and device, every morning. I figured I could throw muchness at any prompt they gave me and incorporate it all into my love of Victorian language.

The prompt was trust; the result thus:

My tubbish trustfulness is endogamous

Un-substatiators underestimate its gameness

Close harmony is key to the corporealization of my queenliness

Humble in my aspirational suchness, passing out

New halos to

Embonpoint

Spunky punk

Spit-cats – affirming the pluckiness of my trustingness.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Carroll’s Hatter ever told Alice that she lost her muchness. I love the line in the film, but it puts new meaning on the word that isn’t part of the Victorian definition. The Victorian “muchness” referred to quantity, or size. In the Tim Burton movie, “muchness” seems to be synonymous with fire, or spunk. One of the points behind the dictionary project is to capture the significance between old and new meanings of words, helping writers make the most of language.

In my poem, my trust had to be fat and fierce to meet the muchness of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter. What do you think of the result? Which Victorian words do you want to hear more about?

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1

Making Demands of the Fisherman’s Daughter

fishermansdaughter

If he wants water

He makes a demand for the

Fisherman’s daughter

About a month and a half  ago, I began participating in WordPress’s blogging university classes. I’ve enjoyed the support and sense of community there so much that I’ve enrolled in a poetry class, just to keep participating. I don’t know how well poetry will work with the dictionary project, but I am willing to give it a try.

Today’s assignment was to compose a water-themed haiku. The literary device we were meant to use was the simile. Fishermans’ daughters don’t seem anything like water to me. I also don’t imagine them as the kind of people who respond kindly to being ordered about. Consequently, I dropped the ball on directly applying a simile to my haiku, and must confess that this is found poetry. It is the example sentence most often sited for the term “fisherman’s daughter,” rhyming slang for “water.”

This sentence was originally composed by D.W. Barrett in Life & Work Among the Navvies (1880). If, after reading this post, you find a use for the term “fisherman’s daughter,” feel free to tell me about it in the comments below.

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3

Victorian Bicycle Slang

hurdling

A great article in the Atlantic today tells us that Presidents Day in the US was associated with the bicycle craze at the end of the nineteenth century. This late nineteenth-century craze also fuelled the women’s suffrage movement, as women cycled, “wheeled,” and “hurdled” their way across landscapes toward more independent lifestyles.

It’s not difficult to imagine how cycling looked like hurdling to eyes that were seeing it for the first time.

As with any culture craze, a slew of new words were invented to speak of cycling, cyclists, and the things with which they surrounded themselves. Here are a few of my favourites.

1. pedal pusher n. this word might be used to describe the pantaloons worn by early woman cyclists, or the women themselves.

pedalpusher

2. wheelman/woman n. a man/woman who rides a bicycle, or tricycle.

headache

3. century n. a ride of 100 miles in 12 hours, or less.

4. bicycle face n. the mythical and unpleasant physiognomy caused by cycling (also a bit of propaganda used to scare people off of bicycles).

BicycleFace

5. scorcher n. one who cycles furiously.

Scorcher

There’s so much more on scorchers and “scorching” here! Scorchers were also called “road hogs” and “sprinters.” The term “road hog” is still applied to cyclists today, usually by motorists, who occupy much more space on the road.

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1

Happy Valentine’s Day: Victorian Etiquette Manuals Reinforced Performative Gender Roles

heteronormative

Roses are red/Gender is performative/Mass Market Romance/Is heteronormative

This little gem started circulating throughout my social network last night and I couldn’t be happier.

“Roses are red” gives it a fun Valentine’s Day theme.

The nineteenth century illustrates how performative gender is even if they didn’t know it yet. The Victorian’s obsession with etiquette famously fuelled manuals on how to properly be a lady, or a gentleman.

Look up “homosexual in the OED Historical Thesaurus and the words begin in 1892 with Richard von Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis. Though they didn’t have the language to express it clearly, Victorian England periodically had homophobic heart attacks, as is evidenced in the case of Fanny and Stella, a pair of flamboyant trans-women.

Cross-dressing was popular in the nineteenth century and naturally part of the LGBT community. Yes, although they didn’t use that term for it, nineteenth-century England had an LGBT community. Women, like Fanny and Stella, were called “Mollies,” by people in the know, and could meet kindred spirits by frequenting “Molly Houses.”

Other words that emerged for homosexuals in the 1890s included: “Uranian” and “invert.” It was more polite to call your gay friend a “confirmed bachelor.” My other blog has more on the sexual orientation of men in the 1890s.

Lesbians were female “companions,” as in the case of the best-selling novelist, Marie Corelli, and her female companian, Bertha Vyver. People didn’t generally start worrying much about what lesbians were doing until the 1920s. Though, “Sapphism” became a thing in the eighteenth century. This term originated with the Greek poet Sappho who lived on Lesbos Island. All the terms related to Sappho can be traced through the Victorian Era and Wonder Woman comics.

Mass-market romance is still heteronormative even if gender-neutral terms of endearment have permeated our language throughout history. I’m happy to say that the digital era is making everything more democratic and entertaining. This Valentine depicts love between the Hulk and the Beast (of Beauty and the Beast). I love this one with Catwoman and Wonder Woman, but who doesn’t love Wonder Woman?

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3

Love Tokens

tokenThis Valentine’s Day, the heroine in the novel you’re writing dutifully cut a lock of her hair and tied it in a bow for her beau. In return, he’s given her some token of his love, but did you know that means he might literally be giving her some token of his love?

Love tokens originated in the 1700s, but were very popular in this sentimental era – especially in the 1880s. The hero in your novel would visit a jeweller, or some other metal worker, and have the coin decorated at the one pictured above. On the reverse, Nellie might find her beau’s initials and the date. To make it more special, Nellie’s beau has included a picture. If he could afford it, he might have embellished her love token further with precious stones, raised enamel, or cut-out designs within the coin.

The tokens might be made of any metal and became souvenirs, or mementos, of a special time. They might be maid out of actual coins, like a nickel or a dime, and they might have a hole punched in them to allow Nellie to wear it on a chain around her neck. The great variety in Victorian love tokens illustrates how they could be given by a beau of any class. One might take a copper coin and engrave it themself.

tokens2

Nineteenth-century Nellie may have given a love token to her best friend, her sister, brother, or any other member of her family. They’re making a comeback and are a popular item on sites that sell handmade goods, like Etsy.

Are you giving someone you love a love token on Valentine’s Day?

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