I have enjoyed very much dipping in and out of Mark Forsyth’s (of The Inky Fool) excellent book “The Horologicon” if you have an interest in obscure and dead terms I advise you to pick up a copy. Over the course of this week it has taught me many new and I must say fascinating words, which although I may not drop into normal conversations it is a pleasure to learn something new. I also have one class of students who like it when I give them three unusual words each week, this book has been kind enough to furnish me with several of them.
As I was cooking a nice piece of salmon this week it massively splattered oil over my trousers as I turned it over, leaving a rather unsightly grease stain just above the knee, which in spite of several washing attempts it stubbornly refused to be removed, it just wouldn’t wash away. It was unwashawayable or to take a term from page 26 of this book, it was illutible. It is really surprising that more words exist to cover situations than perhaps we even knew existed.
Whilst rummaging around the free books on offer online I happened upon what I think is a real gem of a bygone age. The book in question is “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness” which is available for free download on Project Gutenberg. The book is written by American Florence Hartley under the pseudonym Cecil B Hartley. It would be considered terribly political incorrect but it was a different time for better or worse and I think that if we can appreciate what would be considered wrong today we should be able to chuckle a little at the ‘ignorance’ of our forebears.
There re several exerts from this book that are worthy of a mention perhaps I will add some more in a later post but for today I have chosen the passage below from chapter four, Etiquette in the Street. It definitely highlights the attitudes of its time however, I think there is some effort being made towards more tolerant society which sadly even today we are some way off achieving especially with the latest setbacks in the US and the UK.
“A true gentleman never stops to consider what may be the position of any woman whom it is in his power to aid in the street. He will assist an Irish washerwoman with her large basket or bundle over a crossing, or carry over the little charges of a distressed negro nurse, with the same gentle courtesy which he would extend toward the lady who was stepping from her private carriage. The true spirit of chivalry makes the courtesy due to the sex, not to the position of the individual.”