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Monday, March 1, 2010

How Not to Get Weeded.

While weeding and making my way through the Library Commission’s extensive collection of books on costumes, I came upon M. Channing Linthicum’s Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (1963). I believe serendipity led me to open this book at page 85, which contained definitions of the following two words:

Puke and Rash.

How do puke and rash relate to Shakespearean drama, you ask? Besides being some people’s reactions to being forced to read Hamlet in ninth grade English class, “puke” is a dyed-in-the-wool cloth, once described as very “fyne” but later mostly worn by middle class folk. Just think: you could be wearing puke right now!

As for “rash,” it’s also a type of fabric, this time a silk and wool blend. Some of the other fabric types have such glamorous names. I think some of these would be good cat names, such as buffin, chamlet, kersey, mockado, motley, russet, and tawny.

There is a chapter on costume colors, which I also found amusing and informative. Green, I found, symbolized youth and joy, “and was therefore, as Shakespeare said, ‘the colour of lovers’” (31). Some of the varieties of green--and believe me, I am quoting here--are as follows: willow (as found in the weeping willow, and therefore representing sorrow); sea-green (self-explanatory); popingay (a blue-green, found in the parrot); and last but certainly not least, goose-turd green. Let me quote at length:

Goose-turd, probably an importation of the French merde d’oie, was a yellowish-green. It does not occur, seemingly, in extant English wardrobe accounts or mercers’ inventories, but it was mentioned by Harrison among the ‘phantasticall colours’ in use in 1577. Jonson named it in Bartholomew Fair as a colour of starch, and again in the Alchemist, and Marston used it to describe unclean teeth, but it seems to have been avoided by other dramatists of this period (33).

Hmm. I wonder why.

The section on red slso contains some lovely varieties, such as Catherine pear, maiden's blush, gingerline (another good cat name--comes from the French zinzolin and has nothing to do with ginger), horse-flesh, and peach-flower. Sigh. I love this book.

Special message to all the other books on the shelf that are looking for ways not to get weeded: have interesting/hilarious nuggets like these to offer! And make sure your pages automatically open to funny words to catch the weeder’s eye.

Linthicum, M. Channing. Costume in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. New York: Russell and Russell, 1963.

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