15 September 2009

Dog daie en

While browsing through the differences - this is the sort of way we liturgists spend our time - between the Calendar in the Second Prayer Book of Edward Tudor and that in the First, I noticed that the Second restored a number of Calendrical data which used to occur in Medieval Catholic liturgical Calendars but had disappeared from the 1549 Book. For example, against August 15 the 1552 Book gives, rather suggestively, Sol in virgo. [Yes! I wonder if anybody has ever related this to the dating of the feast of the Assumption or the exegesis of Revelation 12]. And, round about this time of September (give or take a bit of difference between Julian and Gregorian Calendars) 1552 offers the observation that the 'Dog Days End'.

This reminded me, as I know it will have reminded you, of the bit in Hesiod - it must be somewhere in the Erga kai Hemerai - where the funny old boy claims that at this time of the year, when the Dogstar parches head and knees and dries the skin, "women are most lustful, and men are most feeble [makhlotatai ... aphaurotatoi]". I wonder if heterosexual readers with a scientific bent have ever tested by a controlled experiment the veracity of this archaic generalisation.

But hang on: perhaps I could myself make an evidential contribution. When, half a century ago, at the age of eighteen, I was in Athens during the Dog Days, I was propositioned by an American girl who was spending Daddy's money in the Hotel Grande Bretagne as if there were no tomorrow [if she's reading this now: Hi!]. When I expressed my deep sense of the honour done to me but begged with great respect to decline the favour, she concluded the episode by saying "Gee [am I right in assuming that in American English this is a reverential periphrasis for "God"?], you sure are cute".

I've often wondered about the meaning of that word 'cute'. Is it by predelision from 'acute'? Perhaps American readers can help.

7 comments:

William Tighe said...

My etymological dictionary gives for "short for ACUTE" as the origin of "cute."

Patricius said...

I like the word ''cute,'' not for aesthetic reasons though - taken in isolation from its connotation, the word is quite ugly. I like it because it conveys beauty, something ''child-like,'' something adorable.

rev'd up said...

Good grief! (Oh, aren't there a million euphemisms)!

"Cute," was her last ditch plea for you to "come on board!" It's a face saving way of begging, "Please, please, pleeeease!"

If the muse had inspired, she would have remembered her King Arthur ALA Purcell:

Bright nymphs of Britain with graces attended,
Let not your days without pleasure expire.
Honour's but empty, and when youth is ended,
All men will praise you but none will desire.
Let not youth fly away without contenting;
Age will come time enough for your repenting.

Figulus said...

Hmm. The expresion "gee", is a shortening of the holy name of Jesus, abbreviated and disguised in oaths as "gee" rather than "Je" to soften the culpability of the one using it in vain. The full length two syllable form is sometimes spelt "gee whiz". I can't explain the substitution of "wh" for "s", but it does serve to strengthen the disguise, which is more necessary for the full name than for its abbreviated form.

I don't have much to say about the origin of cute, but in use it means much the same thing as "pretty", except that it can be applied to boys as well as girls.

Pastor in Valle said...

As a Hibernophile, Father, you may in Ireland have come across the word 'cute' used meaning clever, wily, with a degree of charm. This is clearly closer to 'acute'. My late father always used it in that sense.

Ttony said...

And developed from the Irish sense is the Mancunian "cute" meaning wily and scheming, trying to pretend that the sun shines out of evry part from which it might, but not in any way that persuades people like us, take in as many as he or she might.

It's quite a useful word.

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Thank you, Pastor. In my Kerry parish I was once referred to as a cute hoor. I never knew what that meant, either.

Have you said What-ho to Lancing's new chaplain yet?