Points

In the post about aglets, I mentioned that according to the OED, in earlier eras, aglets were called points. According to the AHD, under definition 35 for point, a point is “A ribbon or cord with a metal tag at the end, used to fasten clothing in the 16th and 17th centuries.”

The following bit from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Act 1, scene 5, between Feste the Jester or “clown,” and the maid Maria, refers to points. Feste has returned, late, long after he was expected:

Maria Yet you will be hanged for being so long absent; or,
to be turned away, is not that as good as a hanging to you?
Clown Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage; and,
for turning away, let summer bear it out.
Maria You are resolute, then?
Clown Not so, neither; but I am resolved on two points.
Maria That if one break, the other will hold; or, if both
break, your gaskins fall.

Twelfth Night I. 5. 14–21

Feste is making a bawdy pun regarding a good hanging, meaning both “lynched,” and well, “well hung.” He says he is unconcerned about being “turned away,” or fired, and will let “summer bear it out” because summer time, when it is warm, won’t be so terrible to be homeless and jobless. Maria asks if Feste is “resolute,” and again, Feste makes a pun on being “resolved, ” in the sense of being “sure, and in the sense of “finding a solution” to a problem—he is “resolved on two points,” again, making another pun on points as in definition 17 “A significant, outstanding, or effective idea, argument, or suggestion,” and, 36 “A ribbon or cord with a metal tag at the end, used to fasten clothing in the 16th and 17th centuries.” As Maria knows, gaskins or breeches were held up by points.

All that from part of a shoelace

Aglet

An aglet according to the AHD is

1. A tag or sheath, as of plastic, on the end of a lace, cord, or ribbon to facilitate its passing through eyelet holes.
2. A similar device used for an ornament.

The OED s.v. aglet offers:

a. A tag attached to the end of a lace, originally of metal and now also of plastic, intended primarily to make it easier to thread through the eyelet holes, but also developed as an ornament.

The aglet is that small plastic sleeve on the end of your shoelace. Sometimes aglet refers to ornaments at the end of a lace, especially on shirts or other items of clothing. You see this use in the N-Town mystery cycle play # 26 when the Devil describes the clothing he will offer followers:

Hosyn enclosyd of the most costyous cloth of crenseyn; Thus a bey to a jentylman to make comparycyon, With two doseyn poyntys of cheverelle, the aglottys of sylver feyn (Play 26, Conspiracy; Entry into Jerusalemll. 70–72)

The hose have two dozen points, with fine silver aglets at their ends, serving both to protect the ends of the leather points, and as an ornament. (I’ll take a look at points in the next post.) Etymologically, Modern English aglet descends from Middle English, via Anglo-Norman and Old French aguillette, diminutive of aguille, needle, from Vulgar Latin *acūcula, from Late Latin acucula, diminutive of Latin acus, needle. The same Indo-European root *ak- gives us not only Latin acus, but includes acute, vinegar, acid, and edge, among other words.

Haggis

If you mention to anyone, at all, that you’re going to visit Scotland, you’re bound to be warned about Scotland’s national dish; haggis. Haggis is, according to the AHD “A Scottish dish consisting of a mixture of the minced heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal.” The closest thing I can compare with haggis to in terms of standard American dishes is stuffing, made with giblets.

People tend to think of haggis around the 25th of January, the date reserved to celebrate the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns. All over the world Scots are celebrating Burns Night with a meal that includes toasts to Burns, his poetry, a ceremonial presentation of the haggis, and naturally, a reading of Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis.”

Haggis was not always thought of as a Scottish dish; indeed it was quite popular in the Middle Ages as this English haggis recipe from c. 1430 implies.

Etymologically, the ancestry of haggis is French; The Random House Dictionary, unlike the OED or AHD, properly attributes English haggis to Anglo-Norman French, via late Middle English (c. 1375–1425) hageys, from Anglo-Norman French *hageis, the equivalent of the verb hag-, the root of haguer, to chop, hash. They then follow haguer back to Middle Dutch hacken “to hack,” with the addition of the -eis noun suffix frequently used for cookery terms. Language blogger Language Hat beat Random House to the chase to point out in this entry that there are several clear cognates in Anglo-Norman French.

Should you be so inclined, you can make your own haggis following Alton Brown’s recipe. Haggis is often served with neeps and tatties, or turnips and potatoes, as in the image above. Alternatively, the less intrepid can order their haggis in a can here.

The Calendar Page for January from The Golf Book

BL Add. MS 24098 f19r The Golf Book January Workshop of Simon Bening, Bruges c. 1450s

The Golf Book (British Library Additional MS 24098) is a book of hours featuring the work of Simon Bening and his Bruges workshop, where the MS was produced sometime in the 1540s.

The image for January (f.18v–19) features a snowy winter scene. In the background, a windmill works, and people are on the steps of a small church. Beyond the windmill and a church is a small figure on horseback and another kneeling in the snow. A man and a woman stand chatting in the path, near a bit of gate that looks very like a modern farm gate. In the foreground, inside a house with a smoking chimney and birds on the roof, a man stands at a small table, and a woman sits in a chair nursing a baby. You can just glimpse a bit of the fire, a winter convention in calendar pages. Outside the house a man in red stockings chops wood for kindling while a woman kneeling in the snow gathers the kindling in a sling-like bag looped across her shoulders. At the opposite end of the house you can see the attached byre with its cow. At the base of the page, several men are shown dragging another man on a sledge, an appropriate winter past time. The actual calendar page, on the right facing page, features a similar mirroring scene of men pulling a sledge, towards the left-hand scene.

I’ve discussed The Golf Book before, particularly the May calendar image.