Sunday, 12 April 2009

Aetheldrida the Tawdry

It's been all stations go round here (hire cars, catportation, trans-quadruped encounters in the bosom of parentville, No Time to Blogge).  I return briefly to the internet right now (from the bosom of parentville, on the parental 'puter) to relay to you important news gleaned  from a senior parishioner of St Aetheldrida Anglican Church, Harrietville, which senior parishioner I met today in the course of my duties as a citizen and offspring.

The important news is this: the word "tawdry" derives from "St Audrey", the Anglicised version of the Saxon St Aetheldrida. The senior parishioner said something about dodgy saint's medallions, but yon trusty OED offers me this:

"As to the origin of the name, it is told, originally by Bæda (Eccl. Hist. IV. ix.), and after him by Ælfric in the Life of St. Æelryth, Virgin (Ælfric's Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, 1885, XX. ll. 49-60), that St. Audrey died of a tumour in her throat, which she considered to be a just retribution, because in her youth she had for vain show adorned her neck with manifold splendid necklaces, ‘foran e ic on iuoe frætwede mine swuran mid mænifealdum swurbeaum’. In the 16th century, N. Harpsfield, Archdeacon of Canterbury under Philip and Mary (died 1588), after relating the story in his (Latin) Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica (Douay 1622), adds ‘Our women of England are wont to wear about the neck a certain necklace [torquem quendam], formed of thin and fine silk, perchance in memory of what we have told’. See also, more particularly, quot. 1674 below. Skinner in his Etymologicon (licensed 1668), explains Tawdry lace as ‘Ties, fringes, or bands, bought at the fair held at the fane of St. Etheldreda, as rightly points out Doctor Th. Henshaw’. There is no discrepancy between the two statements. ‘St. Audrey's laces’ would naturally be largely offered for sale at her fair, and though this did not give the article its name, it doubtless made it more widely known, and led to the production of cheap and showy forms for the ‘country wenches’ (see Nares s.v.), which at length gave to tawdry its later connotation."


genevieve said...

I am glad you did not dawdle with that important information from Harrietville, LH. And happy Easter, with or without neck ornamentation.

lucy tartan said...

Magnificent, and shows that the 'bras give you breast cancer' type of meme has been doing the rounds for far longer than one would have imagined.

Jayne said...

Country wenches, be damned, and tighten those laces as you see fit! ;)

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

Bras give you breast cancer? I thought it was tofu. I'm triply doomed now.