Category Archives: CULTURAL AND SOCIAL HISTORY

The slang in Elizabethan London

The slang in Elizabethan London


Pronunciation of words in Elizabethan English is a complicated matter, since linguistically it rests between the “say what you see” rules of Middle English and the more esoteric pronunciations of Modern English.  It is unreasonable to have the term ‘cider’ pronounced ‘zoiderr’, ‘farmer’ as ‘varmerr’; ‘house’ as ‘hoos’; ‘tea’ as ‘tay’; ‘grass’ as ‘grace’ or ‘graz’; ‘creek’ as ‘crik’.  Also there are regional things to keep in mind, for instance in the East and North counties.

Punishment of women

Punishment of women

For women there were punishments designed to humiliate as well as to hurt. The scold’s bridle took many appearances but in essence each was the same – a metal cage to clamp around the head with a built-in gag. Included  in the design of some was a bell which rang when the ‘scold’ was paraded around the town. Of course, in the streets she was subjected to the jeers of the crowd.

Pictish society

Pictish society

The Romans classified some fifteen tribes in the north and loosely identified the territories they occupied. They also observed that tribal chiefs had a religious as well as a royal function. Women could have such a role, as was the case with Boudicca of the Iceni. The succession of leaders was matrilineal: it mattered more who their mother was than who their father was. Since it is possible that women may indeed have more than one husband, the matter of succession could be complex. later Romantics sometimes regarded this Pictish society as democratic, but it was in fact full of social differentiations.

Civilising the cannibals

Civilising the cannibals

Western visitors to Fiji in 19th century liked to watch what they ate. Traveller John Erskine, for instance, was suspicious about some ‘pork’ he was offered and threw it away, convinced it was human. Similarly, labour recruiter John Gaggin paid close attention to the cutting up of a pig “to satisfy [himself] it was… not a baked boy or girl”.

William Herschel’s new planet

William Herschel’s new planet

After a drink-fuelled night discussing Homer, the medical student John Keats wrote his famous lines comparing his own wonderment with that of  “some watcher of the skies / When a new planet swims into his ken.” Keats was referring to William Herschel, the astronomer who had enlarged the solar system with a seventh planet, now known as Uranus.