[back to menu for this book ...]
OLD THINGS BY NEW NAMES.
THERE seems to be a rage just at the present moment
for re-christening all articles of wearing apparel. Genuine
old Saxon appellations appear to be on the point of being
driven out by foreign invaders, just as our indigenous
population fled before the banners of the White Horse.
A French and Latin dictionary is become almost indispensable
in elucidating one half of the advertisements to
be found in the Times. It is quite bad enough in Scotch
gardeners to astonish a clump of cowslips, or a bed of
edging stock, by ticketing them with some outlandish
name as long as my arm (poor things! I often think
how, in the early morning, they must try and repeat over
to themselves their new names, and at last give it up in
disgust ) — but for honest, downright coats and hats and breeches to be so served, is quite intolerable.
I was making some purchases the other day, in one of the splendid outfitting establishments in the city, much given to this sort of absurdity, when a scene occurred which placed the ludicrousness of the practice in rather a strong light. A rough-looking farmer came in, and after gaping round the establishment a minute or two, wiping his brow and slapping his handkerchief into his hat with force enough to hit the crown out, he gave a bang on the counter with his crooked ash stick, and [-334-] shouted out to "Cash," as the lad is called. who receives the sales-money from the different shopmen in his isolated pulpit.
"Young man, I do want doo or dree dthings."
(Undeniable "Down-along" Zummerset,* [* That portion of Somersetshire which lies between Bristol and Bridgewater, is called by the inhabitants, "Down-along."] thought I to myself.)
"Cash" took not the least notice of this appeal, however, but went on apparently at a difficult calculation.
The farmer kept gazing up at him a minute or two longer, like the man in the illustrated spelling-book at the boy who won't come down out of the apple tree.
At last he shouted out, "Co-am down and serve I, hool'e?"
At this new and rather more energetic summons, "Cash" lifted his eyes, as a superior being might, who surveyed an inferior world, glared at the customer, and fell to his work again as though nothing had occurred.
Two or three assistants, however, who had heard the noise, now pressed forward to supply the new customer.
"I ben' calling up to dthick veller in pulpit, like mad. If I had'n in my vive acre at who-am, I'd make'n look a bit livelier, I reckon; I do want to zee a gurt co-at."
The shopman drew an invisible tape round the capacious chest of his customer with his eye, and took down a bundle from a shelf. "I think this paletot —" but ere he could complete the sentence the farmer was down upon him.
[-335-] "Paletoe, what's a paletoe? what be thick vellar telling about?" he said, turning to me.
The shopman in astonishment, stood stock still, and stared with the string of the still unopened parcel in his mouth.
"I do want a gurt co-at — zummat like dthick," went on the farmer, buttoning his great sack of a top-coat, and turning round, "only, we' a little more cut like."
The little dapper assistant had by this time collected his senses, and, undoing the parcel, he handed out the paletot, this time prudently omitting its name.
"We do a great deal in this article," said he.
The farmer pinched up the material between his great thick finger and thumb, then held it up with both hands between him and the light.
" Why I should bust'n out in the zeems in vive minutes! uh be dthinner than our Mall's bumbazeen petticoat! Noa, noa! that on't do vor I."
After a great deal of rummaging, a "slop" great coat was fixed upon, which chiefly recommended itself because of a side pocket that would be "handy-like for a vlem."
" What's the next article I can do for you?" said the shopman.
" Well I do want doo or dree szhurts."
"Carratzza's?" said the salesman, interrogatively.
The farmer looked up and down as if he did not quite catch the question ; then, as if he fancied his dog must have been addressed, he whistled and said, "Snap, tell the gentleman can you kill a rat, zur."
"You mistake me," said the shopman. "This is the carratzza shirt — buttons behind — cut to shape of body — small sleeves — article I can recommend."
[-336-] The countryman gave a loud guffaw, but it sounded most ominously; he evidently did not know whether to laugh or swear. He didn't want, he said, such "vancy dthengs," but "zummat as ould stand harvest work, and not strike in cold wi' the zweet:" so he was duly served with long-cloth.
"Is there anything else to-day ," said the shopman.
"Well, let's ha' a look at a hat, — a cheap un and a good un, mind."
" Let me recommend you one of the Hydrotobolics.'·
" What de zay now?" said the farmer half savagely, growling out in the midst of the new purchase, the cuffs of which he was adjusting over his great beefy hands.
"An hydrotobolic," returned the salesman; "you will find this a great improvement on the old system."
"I want a hat, and none of your bolics," said the customer, with a suspicious look, as though he suspected the man was making fun of him.
A hat was now handed down, and the assistant took off the silver paper with a whirl. "This," said he, "is the patent ventilator."
" Thur, tak'n away, tak'n away; I wunt ha' none o' your new-vangled dthengs. Let's look at an old-vashioned beaver as ull look well when the wind ruffs'n up a bit."
At last he got a broad brim to his fancy, and as he surveyed himself in his new hat and coat in the cheval glass, he exclaimed —
"I be darn'd if my oId missus ool know I in dthick new rig."
"You don't want anytbing in tbe boot line'" adroitly put in the shopman, glancing at the feet of his customer, [-337-] which looked more like battered fiat irons than anything else.
"Well, they be main shabby," said the farmer, glancing at his well-worn tops; "let's look at some new und. We wunt spile the zship for a ha'p'orth o' tar."
" Let me call your attention to a new article just out," said the shopman — "Gutta percha soles."
"Darn thee now, hear to un!" said the now thoroughly irritated clod, turning to me again. " He do think I a soft un; but I'm blowed if I stand his chaffing any longer '"
A tremendous whack of the crooked ash stick upon the counter made the announcement more emphatic. The shopman gave a start, and dropped the pair of gutta-percha soled boots he was holding out to his customer. " Gutta percha —" he stammered.
"Don't gutta perch me any more, I zay. Make out thee bill, and , let's ha' done we'e! " roared the farmer.
While the salesman was making out the bill, I amused myself with giving the old farmer a sketch of the quality of the gutta-percha soles, telling him how they got as hard as iron in cold weather, and the propensity they had to melt off your feet when innocently warming your toes at the fire.
" New vangled dthengs be brengen this country to ruination," he muttered in reply. At last he paid his bill and was about to trudge, when his tormentor, as though he could not help it, as a parting speech, called his attention to a pair of "calcarapedes," or self-adjusting goloshes. The countryman turned upon his heel, and as he banged his stick upon the floor, said, "I tell thee what, [-338-] my lad, If I had thee down along for a few minutes, I'd beat some king's English out o' thee; and, clutching his bundle, departed. His dog Snap, noting the anger of his master, thought he also must make a telling exit; so, rushing up to a wooden dummy, representing a little boy in a sky-blue tunic, he made a grab at one of his legs; finding, however, that his teeth met something harder than flesh, he worried it savagely for a moment, and then bolted with a piece of blue pantaloons in his mouth, waving like a flag.