Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday

 

These words are also brought to you by 
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen


Image from this site.
Catherine assented—and a very warm panegyric from her on that lady’s merits, close the subject. (101)


panegyric (noun)
a eulogistic oration or writing, also formal or elaborate praise
Definition found here.

I've seen this word before and always assumed I understood it but I didn't quite grasp it.  I think that the merging of praise and eulogy is interesting and adds a layer of significance I would have overlooked otherwise.  The etymology is especially interested.  It comes from pan meaning "all" and agyris meaning "place of assembly," a variation of the word "agora."   And finding the perfect image for this word was easy.  Naturally, upon reading the full definition, I could not help but think of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.  
Image from here.

I remember too, Miss Andrews drank tea with us that evening, and wore her puce-coloured sarsenet; and she looked so heavenly, that I thought your brother must certainly fall in love with her; I could not sleep a wink all night for thinking of it. (109-110)


sarsenet (noun)
a soft silk in plain or twill weaves; also : a garment made of this
Definition found here.


If nothing else, reading Jane Austen has introduced me to a myriad of different fabrics.  Sarsenet is one that I've never read before.  The problem with looking up a word that defines a fabric is that it rarely gives you a full appreciation of the cloth itself. How it feels between the fingers, how it moves, the weight of it against the skin while wearing it.  When it comes to fabric, I'm extremely tactile and I recognize silk even if I merely brush against it with the back of my hand.  I'm the same ay about wool and can easily tell the difference between 100% wool and a wool blend.


Image of metal and wooden pattens dating from the early 19th century.
Image found here.
Wherever they went, some pattened girl stopped to curtsey, or some footman in dishabille sneaked off. (174)


Wearing pattens.
Any one of various types of wooden-soled footwear, such as a sandal, shoe, or clog, worn to increase one's height or to keep one's feet out of the mud.
Definition found here.


Needless to say, I immediately thought of patent leather shoes but I was mistaken again.  Not that the definition helped a lot.  When I looked at the images, however, I had to laugh.  It makes sense. These pattens would elevate the person which would keep the hem of a woman's dress from skimming the muddy ground.  Still, imagining myself walking in a pair of these things is enough to keep me shaking my head in bemused dismay.


Image found here.
Catherine read too much not to be perfectly aware of the ease with which a waxen figure might be introduced, and a suppositious funeral carried on. (180)


Suppositious (adjective)
fraudulently substituted : spurious
Definition found here.


In context, this quote is hilarious and even ironic.  With that said, the definition didn't surprise me in the least.


Image found here.
She saw a large, well-proportioned apartment, an handsome dimity bed, arranged as unoccupied with an housemaid’s care , a bright Bath stove, mahogany wardrobes and neatly-painted chairs, on which the warm beams of a western sun gaily poured through two sash windows! (183)


Dimity (noun)
Dimity is a lightweight, sheer cotton fabric having at least two warp threads thrown into relief to form fine cords. It is a cloth commonly employed for bed upholstery and curtains, and usually white, though sometimes a pattern is printed on it in colors. It is stout in texture, and woven in raised patterns. Originally dimity was made of silk or wool, but since the 18th century it has been woven almost exclusively of cotton.
Definition found here.


Once again, I was utterly baffled, clueless about what "dimity" is but the word is almost as much fun to say as tuppity.  The image shows dimity cloth in the canopy because the bedspread is clearly chenille.  And I love that bed but our teeny-tiny bedroom would be overwhelmed.

When I was a little girl, I went to summer camp one year and, when I'd come back, my mother had redecorated my bedroom. The walls were a pale blushing pink and I had a frothy white canopy bed.  There were shelves on the wall and, to hide the brackets holding the shelves up, she had cut out felt flowers in bold colors, with large teardrop-shaped green leaves.  It was an amazing bedroom.  We only lived there for another year and the next place we lived, the bedroom was tiny.  Technically, it was the "servant's" room.  It even had it's own half-bath. I assume this was so the servant wouldn't use the master bathroom.  There were two entrances to the apartment as well.  The building had two elevators and one let you out to a small foyer with entrances to only two apartments while the other elevator let people out to a corridor that led to more apartments, including, of course, the ones that were also accessible through the other elevator.  I assume this second elevator was for servants and deliveries.

9 comments:

  1. Satia!! I had missed your posts :) I'm going ot have to find a way to work the word "dimity" into a conversation :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been busier than I had hoped I'd be or I'd have posted more but busy is okay. It's a good kind of busy-ness.

      Delete
    2. Yes good kind of busy-ness is definitely better than "omg I'm gonna need two shots of vodka and a xanax" busy-ness!!

      Delete
  2. Wow! Very thorough and well-written post. It was all interesting, but I can't get over the pattens. One thing that I constantly forget when reading historical fiction (or non-fiction for that matter) is how dirty everything must have been in the old days! Between what the horses leave behind and the unpaved roads and sidewalks...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Reading the definition didn't give me the necessary understanding of what pattens are and when I saw them I just shook my head in bemused appreciation of how far we have come. I wear flats almost all of the time. And love it.

      Delete
  3. Great words! I think I would break my neck if I tried to walk in those wearing pattens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You and me both. I would be housebound every time it rained and for a day or two afterwards until things dried up.

      Delete
  4. Great post Satia. I remember learning lots of words about fabric from Jane Austen too. I came across pattens a year or so ago, they are so astonishing that I've remembered the word- I included them in a WWW post too. Panegyric on the other hand is one of those words that I know I've come across before each time I encounter it, and then can never quite remember it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Louise, I've no doubt that, over time, there will be a redundancy in my words as I look up words a second, third, and even fourth time before I truly have a handle on them. Panegyric feels like one of those.

    ReplyDelete