Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday rerun: A lovely neighborhood called Audrey Meadows

Yesterday’s entry used the word “tawdry,” and I had heard the word had an interesting etymology, so what I did was, I looked it up. The story reads like “The Princess Bride,” or something from the Brothers Grimm.Around 640, there lived an English princess named Ethelreda, better known as Audrey. ( Perhaps she did not wish to be confused with Ethel Mertz.) She married a guy to help her father, King Anna (listen! I’m not making these names up!) but hubby #1 bought the farm within three years, and in all that time, they had never got around to consummating the marriage. Even though she had taken a vow of virginity, she got married again, when her Uncle Ethelwold (!) thought it would be a great idea if she tied the knot with Egfrid, son of King Oswy of Northumberland. Old Egfrid wouldn’t go along with the chastity pledge, being married and everything, and so he started making moves on her, to no avail. He attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows. Saint Wilfrid refused, and helped Audrey get away. She fled south, with her husband right on her heels. They reached a promontory known as Colbert's Head(sorry - wrong picture!) (there it is!) and it was there that suddenly the waters started to rise, and for seven days Egfrid had to cool his own heels in the muddy waters.(I am going to pause here to tell you that this Colbert's Head is near Dover, and to remind you if you ever go to England and have someone ask you if you saw the White Cliffs of Dover upon your return, the only possible answer is "See them? I had dinner with them on Thursday!"). I mean, "E" was only a man, and he wasn‘t going to hang around forever without his connubials, so he took off and married someone with a more conventional view of marriage. Audrey, taking a conventional view herself, moved to a convent, and went on to build an abbey.
Now here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. Audrey was to die of an huge tumor on her neck, and thought this was visited upon her because, in her youth, she liked to wear many necklaces. But, prior to her death, she had become enormously popular in her area, owing to her many good deeds and steadfast faith, so throughout the Middle Ages, a festival, "St. Audrey's Fair", was held in her town of Ely on her feast day. People, as they will, bought all sorts of cheesy merchandise at these fairs, and the necklaces and neckerchiefs for sale in her honor were considered low-grade, but still, they were dedicated “to Audrey,” and that became corrupted to the present-day word “tawdry.“

Still no explanation on why her father’s name was Anna. This is all true, I’m telling ya!

Now I’m going to look up why I’ve never met a girl named “Jackie” (or any alternative spelling thereof) who wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun to be around.

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