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