July 30, 2007

Tawdry

Tawdry - Gaudy and cheap in nature or appearance

The word now pretty uncommon has a charming story to go with its origin. In the 7th century, Etheldreda, the queen of Northumbria, decided to renounce her husband and her royal position for the veil of a nun. She died of a throat tumor in 679. She blamed this growth on her love of wearing necklaces in her youth and claimed that it was sent as a punishment. After Ethelreda's death, she became a patron saint and her name was simplified to St Audrey . She was paid tribute to every year on the 17th October when a fair would be held in her name. In honour of Saint Audrey - and her fatal fondness for necklaces - ribbon and lace were sold at this fair to adorn the ladies' necks. These were called 'St Audrey's lace' which by the 17th century had become altered to 'tawdry lace' . Eventually tawdry came to be applied to all the cheap knickknacks, jewelery, and toys sold at the fair.

Sources: The Merriam-Webster Book of Word Histories
Pic: www.intimelyfashion.com

8 comments:

yogsma said...

As I saw the word, the thing which came to mind was about St. Audrey , I have read about her somewhere else also..don't remember exactly where..and indeed the trivia was about St. Audrey..awesome...The trivia is too good.

AlterinG Abhishek said...

wow!
super trivia..
its amazing where you pick all this from and how you have a brain wave!!

:)

suramya said...

I loved the name Etheldreda, hmmm is that the portrait of the saint?rather ironical tawdry being derived from the name ofa saint

Moi said...

Yogsma: for me there's only one Audrey ..Ms Hepburn ....loved her in My fair Lady and Roman Holiday and Breakfast in Tiffany ..and thank u for the lavish praise, kind sir :)

AA : thank u and am glad u enjoyed this one..i found it charming :)

Su : i liked the name too ...and i find the name Audrey very charming too.....the pic is not that of saint, i put it up here to showcase " tawdry lace" ....and ironical, for sure :)

666 said...

good post. knew of the origin from st. audrey but old age had whisked away the exact etymology. good one.

PS: Etheldreda would be a decent nickname for u

Moi said...

666 : i like the ethel part in it ....dreda sounds a tad too dread-inducing .....I reject the idea!!! :)

Jas Bhambra said...

I would never have imagined that this word was derived from a person's name, let alone a word meaning cheap and gaudy evolving from a saint's name!

Moi said...

jas : nor could have i ....and somehow deep down i feel a bit disappointed for a name as beautiful as Audrey to come to a version that means something cheap ....