A somewhere project by Nina Pope & Karen Guthrie

Speaking in Tongues

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 – 11:08 AM
by Karen


Tudors don't wear mascara
Tudors don't wear mascara
Ann the Limner

With language comes power.
Only on the second day of 1569 did I feel my confidence grow enough to proactively engage in Tudor-ese banter with anyone – Tudor or punter. It’s been a long time since we spoke this language (as rare as Cornish or Catalan) – 1556 in fact. At first my personality is utterly constrained by my meagre 30 word vocabulary and verbatim limning-rap learned from Aunt Kate. Kate is the senior limner (miniaturist), whose demeanor and script, like baby ducklings, we have mimicked since first joining her in 1553. It takes gung-ho confidence to jump off this familiar terrain into the minefield of genuine human interaction, ad I have rarely done so under Aunt Kate’s watchful eye and fluent tongue (think of a Tudor Miriam Margoyles).

One’s first attempt at unscripted Tudor chitchat is frequently met with utter confusion from the visitor who meets your eye over your picturesque table. To translate for their easy comprehension would be to come out of role – a Kentwell taboo – so one simply hopes for an awestruck, mumbled ‘Aye’ of agreement. On one occasion at the weekend, I mistook incredulity for an invitation for further conversation and decided to lob in in my most obscure Tudor vocabulary: We were discussing dried cochineal beetles as red food colouring (we have some on the station to show off with) and I succeeded in mentioning cates (small cakes), marchpane (marzipan) and kickshawses (petits fours) in one sentance.
Kate would have been proud.

This leads me to a new-to-me re-enactment term ‘Punterbollocks’, meaning the well-practiced spiel that the seasoned re-enactor trots out to the paying public.
We like.

sometime later