Got a sare clowt anyone?

02 May


Ne’er cast a clowt til May is out

A phrase I assume we are all reasonably common with.  I was wondering what a ‘clowt’ was, thinking surely it cannot be some sort of Medieval Asbo anti-violence by-law to maintain peace during the dark days of winter [then again with our crazy laws it might just me].  I began looking at interpretations and origins of this saying.

I learn that the clowt part – sometimes spelt clout, clowte, clute, cloot – from the 15th Century refers to fabric or clothing, so essentially it is hinting not to throw off the winter warmer til “May is out”.  Seems sensible with these past few nights bringing temps down to the negatives during the wee hours.

However there are differing opinions as to the definition of “May”.  In its simplest form it is thought that the word “May” refers to the fifth month of the year, the one traditionally bridging between Spring and Summer.  But the English Hawthorn tree that is widely planted across the land bursts forth is blossom around late April and early May, it is often called the May Tree and the blossom can be called May [flowers of may, darling buds of may etc] … so is it referring to the May tree blossom rather than the calendar month. Hmmm.

Also for me, anything that involves a date, a historical date always bring up questions – any date given as before 1582, is it quoted following the Julian Calendar or the Gregorian Calendar? Pedantic I know, but these things intrigue me. Much like the memorial tablet in Norwich Cathedral for Elizabeth Bacon ‘Born April 13th 1736, died February 20th 1736’. No the Stone Mason didn’t make a typo, or rather a carve-o. Yes it does look like she died before she was born but the Catholic Church did not switch to the Gregorian Calendar until this period.

Still “Don’t discard the winter woolies until the tree is covered in blossom” is not nearly as poetic or as pretty a picture as the olde proverb.

Oh crickey, 1.20pm, this is not what I intended to blog about today and its past lunch time.

hey ho, maybe more tomorrow


Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Uncategorized



5 responses to “Got a sare clowt anyone?

  1. Bushka

    May 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Excellent Post Ann! Loved reading this…:yes: I did know about the expression and its connotation……Thanks for sharing. So good to get these little ‘reminders’….;) Hugs! xxx


    • amgroves

      May 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

      You are widely ordly versed 😀 xx


  2. gillyk

    May 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I agree with you, it is intriguing – and I’ve never come across that tombstone inscription before! As for me, I’m keeping my vests within easy reach 😉


    • amgroves

      May 3, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Its on the floor of the Jesus Chapel. I came across it when I was researching visiting there and it was mentioned on one of their school trails worksheets to look for the curious dates on the tablet.

      Ever done one of the guided tours of the Cathedral? They point out so much that is missed by a general wander around.


      • gillyk

        May 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm

        Yes, I blogged a few weeks ago about my conducted tour of Exeter cathedral – fascinating, all sorts of things I wouldn’t have known otherwise!



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