Wednesday 19 May 2010

Sulking in the Boudoir

A lady's boudoir is where she sulks.

Once upon a time there was a French word bouder meaning to sulk or pout and boudoir is simply the sulk-room, like a panic-room but much moodier.

Bouder is probably imitative of puffing your cheeks out, because melancholy is so often accompanied by windy suspirations of forced breath. In exasperation you puff out your cheeks, then you blow the air outwards, perhaps biting your lower lip and making an ffff sound. The whole sound could be transcribed as huff, hence being in a huff.

The first ever person to be tetchy was Juliet (as in Romeo). Her wet nurse decided to wean Juliet by putting wormwood oil on her breast. Wormwood is one of the bitterest tastes in the world and the poor baby did not like it:

For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
Sitting in the sun under the dove-house wall;
My lord and you were then at Mantua:--
Nay, I do bear a brain:--but, as I said,
When it did taste the wormwood on the nipple
Of my dug and felt it bitter, pretty fool,
To see it tetchy and fall out with the dug!

Incidentally, wormwood has nothing to do with either worms or wood. If you put wormwood into alcohol a chemical called thujone is released which is a rather effective painkiller. The old Germans referred to it as man-courage or wer-mut. Wer was man - as in werewolf or man-wolf - and mut was courage as in modern English mood.

Now go and read this poem and cheer up.

The Inky Fool throws a party


  1. I'm surprised you didn't tell us about vermouth given your expertise on the subject.

  2. Enthralling. Loved your line about panic-rooms.

  3. I thought of doing that but then realised I could have gone on and on and on and written - ooh - a whole book.
    For those of you interested wormwood wine was called wermut-wein in German and was frenchified to vermouth-wine. Hence vermouth.

  4. The Antipodean19 May 2010 at 17:23

    Much as I might wish to continue sulking, cricket (albeit with unfortunate results), the Bible, a smattering of French and associated étymologie, Shakespeare and *Kipling* - about all you are missing from my personal ultimate picker-uperer kit is Jane Austen. Oh, and alcohol, which fortunately comes with some drugs in this post, albeit becoming more civilized in the comments.

    I do enjoy the Kipling sketches.

    In an interesting synchronicity, the first verse of that poem was quoted at me two days ago, by a friend agreeing that I did not have enough to do. This, among other things, resulted in me enrolling in something I have been meaning to do for a while.