Thursday, July 31, 2014

etymology of lace and saints

I follow this blog which is great for my etymological bug. Fortuitously, a recent word of the day had a hagiographic connection; an interesting story about St. Æthelthryth of Ely.

tawdry: The meaning of today's word reflects undeserved shame on its eponym. Etheldreda, the queen of Northumberland in the 7th century, rejected the pomp and circumstance of her station and moved to the Isle of Ely near Cambridge, where she established a convent. As she lay dying of a throat tumor in 679, she declared her malady divine punishment for the vanity of her youth, when she was overly fond of neckwear. She was canonized as St. Audrey and the city of Ely established an annual fair in her honor. In time, this fair became known for its cheap, frilly scarves, called St. Audrey lace. This expression eventually contracted to t'Audry (lace), which came to be used as an adjective, ultimately to be respelled as today's word.

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