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Posts Tagged ‘1579’

Spic And Span

Posted by Elyse Bruce on June 14, 2010

Most of us know “Spic and Span” to be a well-known cleaning product that’s been around since 1933 when two housewives — Elizabeth MacDonald and Naomi Stenglein — came up with the formula in Saginaw, Michigan.  It’s been said that Naomi referred to her spotless home as being “spick and span” and with that, the two women decided to drop the “k” from the word spick and to market their product as “Spic and Span.”

However, the term “spic and span” dates back more than  400 years, to Sir Thomas North‘s translation of Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes” in 1579:

They were all in goodly gilt armours, and brave purple cassocks apon them, spicke and spanne newe.

This term combined two nouns that are now obsolete:  spick, which was a “nail” or “spike,” and span, which was a “wooden chip.” In the 1500s, a sailing ship was considered “spicke and spanne newe” when every spike and chip was brand-new.

Spicke and spanne newe” later became simply “spicke and span” and first appeared in the diary of Samuel Pepys  in 1665 where he wrote:

My Lady Batten walking through the dirty lane with new “spicke and span” white shoes.


Posted in Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Heart On My Sleeve

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 10, 2010

This phrase was spoken by Iago in Othello (Act 1, scene 1) written by William Shakespeare in  1604.

In complement extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve.
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.

When knights fought each other, beginning in the Early Medieval Ages, they would oftentimes dedicate their performance to a woman of the court — usually someone with whom they were in love. To let their feelings be known to all, the knights publicly displayed cloths, handkerchiefs or ribbons belonging to the woman by tying it to one of his sleeves prior to his jousting match. 

English chronicler, Roger of Hoveden (fl. 1174 – 1201),  described jousting tournaments as “military exercises carried out, not in the spirit of hostility (nullo interveniente odio), but solely for practice and the display of prowess (pro solo exercitio, atque ostentatione virium).”   The first recorded tournament was staged in 1066 when a chronicler of Tours in the late twelfth century recorded the death of an Angevin baron named Geoffroi de Preulli in 1066.

The sport did not gain widespread popularity until the 12th century and maintained its status as a popular European sport until the early 17th century.  That being said,  Georg Rüxner’s book  Thurnierbuch (1579) details the tournament laws of Henry the Fowler, King of Germany (919-936).

Posted in Idioms from the 11th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »