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Fragments from Forgotten English

September 24, 2012

Looking through my “Forgotten English” calender this morning, (which I have neglected to use for months), I was struck by this on the entry for May 8, which is Furry Day and St. Michael’s Day. It comes from William Henderson’s Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England. He recounts the story of a town called Helston being saved from a fiery dragon, which is the basis of the holiday, and afterwards, almost as an afterthought, adds this: “There was once a fearful contest for the possession of the town between St. Michael, the patron of its church, and the arch fiend.”

Kind of makes you think about the way the Medievals viewed place as opposed to the way we do. It seems that to them, even the smallest village was important enough for saints and demons to fight over. The medievals seemed to view life in a more comic mode than we do, and we would do well to learn from them. I wish I had an impressive Mikhail Bahktin quote to add in here, but, alas, I do not.

Also, the entry for May 10 informs us that the phrase “hanging out the broom” refers to “the good wife being away, the man’s friends and  cronies might come and make merry in the kitchen.” (Edwin Radford’s Encyclopaedia of Phrases and Origins)

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