A few weeks ago I visited The Tudor House in Weymouth. The house is small, but that afternoon, while just along the coast the tail end of a hurricane was succeeding in toppling an Antony Gormley sculpture into the sea, I spent an hour and a half completely fascinated by the stories and information of our lovely guide.
Three things she told us stand out in particular:
1. That in Tudor times the word carpenter was never used: in those days carpenters were called bodgers, instead.
2. That the bread in Georgian times was made on a metal frame called a harnen placed over the fire, and that while the sooty bottom crust was given to the poor, the house-holder ate the upper crust, hence the term upper crust coming to mean upper classes.
3. That the best quill pens came from female swans, which is why a female swan is called a pen.
See? Utterly, utterly fascinating. We had a terrific time, which I'm sure I shall always remember.
And the small matter that none of those 'facts' is actually, well, true?
Well, look, I know this is supposed to be a rant, but quite honestly I find it doesn't really matter all that much.
The Tudor House, Weymouth:
I'd thoroughly recommend it.
Words To Use Today: pen. Or carpenter. Or harnen. Sadly, no one, not even the Oxford English Dictionary, knows why a female swan is called a pen, but it does seem to be a different word from the pen that sometimes means feather. The OED does know, though, that carpenter was used in English from at least 1325. Harnen the OED doesn't list at all, but the sort of bread you cook on a harnen stand is a flat bread, which won't really have crusts. To harn means to prop up the pieces of bread against each other so that the edges cook.