Regency Glossary X - Y - Z
Xystus – “In Greek architecture, a covered portico used by athletes for exercising. In Roman architecture, a long walkway, either open or covered, bordered by trees or colonnades, in which to walk and talk.” (Durant, p. 340) [Note: Remember this one for Scrabble!]
“Yard of tin” – a familiar sound on Regency roads was the stagecoach guard blowing his horn. The signal horn was informally called a “yard of tin” because it was about three feet long. It was used to communicate with other traffic on the road for safety purposes, and to alert stagecoach passengers waiting inside coaching inns that it was time to board.
Yardley of London – Famous perfumers at No. 33 Old Bond Street, from 1802 (Hendrickson, p. 128). You can still buy their products today.
“Yellow-boy” – A gold guinea coin.
Yellow fever – a tropical disease spread by mosquitoes, which produced flu-like symptoms in some cases, but could lead to kidney and liver failure and death. (Poole, p. 392)
Yeoman – originally it just meant a servant, but after the 15th century, it referred to a small independent farmer. (The Black Death had seen the general workforce so decimated during the previous century that the peasants who survived were finally able to wrest some land of their own out of the great landowners. After the Plague, there were so few people left to work the land compared to previous population levels, that the nobles had no choice but to grant the former serfs their liberty and real ownership of their own land in exchange for their labor.) Until the sweeping reform laws of 1832, yeomen farmers who owned land valued over 40 shillings a year “had the right to elect two knights of the shire to represent each county in Parliament.” (Cowie, p. 323)
Yeoman of the Guard, aka “Beefeaters” – Every tourist to the Tower of London wants to get their picture with these traditional guards in their colorful uniforms. Originally established as the sovereign’s bodyguard under King Henry VII (1485-1509), they were chosen for their skill in archery. Welsh archers were considered exceptionally skillful, and the Yeomen still wear their distinctive scarlet uniform. They got the nickname of Beefeaters back in 1669 from a visiting Grand Duke of Tuscany, who commented on the large rations of beef given to these men at court. Today their duties are purely ceremonial, but with the exception of the Captain of the Guard, each Beefeater must be a former regular soldier, selected for distinguished conduct. (Durant, p. 340)
Yew tree – An important tree in British folklore, (which is why I chose to feature them in my series of children’s books, The Gryphon Chronicles!) yew trees are strong evergreen trees that grow to be thousands of years old. They were often planted next to church graveyards as a symbol of eternal life. They were also planted alongside cottages and farmhouses, either as a sturdy windbreak or possibly to shield the kitchen gardens from garden pest animals; the yew tree has poisonous leaves, so the usual garden pest birds and animals would stay away. Another important fact about the yew tree is that the famous English longbows with which Britons defended their homes for centuries were made from the trunk timber of the yew tree. No wonder from ancient times it was venerated as a symbol of eternity and protector of men. There is a movement underway in England to save these ancient living relics from the predations of modernity. Visit http://www.ancient-yew.org/ to learn more about their wonderful work (And to learn more about the Gryphon Chronicles, see www.EGFoley.com.)
Yoke – the wooden part of plough harness that goes over the animal’s shoulders, usually oxen, draft horses, or mules.
Yo-yo – “A toy in the Far East in ancient times, it became a craze in England and France in the 1790’s, being then known…in England as a bandalore.” (Cowie, p.324) [Remember, the fashion craze for all things “Oriental” impacted many areas of daily life, such as furniture, interior décor, architecture and gardens, etc. See Prinny’s Oriental fantasy, Brighton Pavilion, with its dainty bamboo chairs and giant Chinese dragons slithering up the columns of the Music Room.]
Yule – The traditional Yule log is burnt at Christmastime, the darkest time of year, in anticipation of the return of the sun. Though the practice supposedly goes back to pagan times, Christians continued it in parallel with Christmas, with the birth of Jesus symbolizing the Light of the World.
Zephyr silk – a fine light gingham for ladies’ gowns, thin and silky.
Zoo – The first zoo in England was inside the Tower of London, because every king needs lions. Henry I had lions, camels, wild deer and ostriches, and Henry III expanded it when he received a gift of three leopards. The first elephant arrived in the 13th century, along with the first bear – which may have been a polar bear, records don’t specify. It was kept on a long chain so it could swim and eat fish in the Thames. By the mid-18th century there was a large collection of animals in the Tower. Meanwhile t he Dukes of Bedford and Devonshire were also early adopters of private zoos. The Marquess of Bath still operates one today at his country house of Longleat. (Cowie, p. 325)
“Zounds!” – another form of a “G-d!” related oath, originally derived from “By His Wounds” (the wounds of Christ). Unlikely to be a term ladies would use, Regency gentlemen slurred the words together to make it sound less sacrilegious.