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Glossary for Hay Fever

As with any period piece (and with any piece set in another country), there can be a lot of terms and references that may not land with everyone. Some folks don’t mind all that, but those obscure references might frustrate others and so we’re offering a glossary for our production of Hay Fever that opens up on Friday.

Maybe you find this useful to look at before you come, or you might like to reference it after.  Either way, we hope it’s useful!

Glossary of Terms
(from Classic Magazine)

  • Setting: Cookham is a small village North of Windsor and South of Oxford on the river Thames. It is probably about 45 minutes drive from London.
  • Potty – Slightly crazy
  • Poseuse – means one (in this case a female) who poses; a phony
  • Au fond – literally: at the bottom; or in the end, or, in the deepest sense.
  • Caste – A division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, profession, or occupation
  • oil of cloves – An oil made from the dry bud of a tropical tree; dentists traditionally used this essential oil for its healing and soothing properties, to ease pain, of their patients – hence Sorel’s suggestions. It is also used in perfumes and soaps.
  • dresser – In theater cliché, the dresser is the star’s main connection to reality. The dresser is expected to know everything about his or her charge. In addition, the dresser takes care of costuming the star. For an actor at that time, an actor/manager is running the business, and the entire character comes from the costume, so the person in charge of the star’s “look” was very important. Probably the closest contemporary analogy is that of a movie star’s personal assistant. Movies with dressers: “All about Eve,” “The Dresser.”
  • delphiniums – kind of flower
  • asters – Asters are often used as “filler” flowers in bouquets. They are small flowers the size of coins distributed over airy sprays, visually connecting one flower to another within an arrangement. These dainty, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers, come in a rainbow of pastels.
  • callow – lacking adult sophistication; immature
  • ingénue – the stage role of a naïve young girl or woman: also the actress playing that role
  • dandle – to move up and down in one’s arms or on one’s knee in affectionate play; pamper or pet
  • punkah – a fan used especially in India that consists of a canvas-covered frame suspended from the ceiling and that is operated by a cord
  • punt – a long narrow flat-bottomed boat with square ends usually propelled with a pole.
  • milieu – environment or setting
  • landed gentry – a member of the aristocracy having an estate in land
  • cur – a mongrel or inferior dog – a surly or cowardly fellow
  • arrant – being notoriously without moderation, usually used in the context of a quote from Hamlet, “we are arrant knaves, all; believe none of us.”
  • ripping – excellent or delightful
  • Marlow – Marlow is the next village North of Cookham along the Thames.
  • calceolarias – Tropical American plants with flowers shaped like little slippers and that are mostly yellow colored
  • “You’re so gallant and chivalrous—much more like an American than an Englishman.” – This is an interesting and early to mid-century cliché about Americans. That is that a slight provincialism is a cover for a more genuine way of behaving and the Puritanical background leaves way for very nice manners indeed. This idea also comes up in the works of Henry James. It’s interesting that an English person’s idea of an American today has changed to be loud and boorish (an idea that began when all the GIs were stationed in England).
  • Borgia of Rosine – Myra’s perfume:
  • Dieppe – City in France and a resort destination for English lower class travelers on summer holiday. A bit tacky.
  • Mah Jong – A game of Chinese origin usually played by four persons with 144 tiles that are drawn and discarded until one player secures a winning hand.
  • frowsy – having a slovenly or uncared-for appearance
  • Maidenhead – Maidenhead is in the county of Berkshire and about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of London. Maidenhead is only 2 miles South of Cookham.
  • Crippen – Early 20th century murderer who murdered his wife and then flayed her, hiding her body in the cellar. He was eventually caught.
  • reformatories – a penal institution to which young or first offenders are committed
  • susceptible open, subject, or unable to resist some stimulus, influence, or agency
  • cap – Judith means a sign of respectability. Caps are used as a sign of a respectable married woman, esp. in the wedding scene in The Taming of the Shrew. Judith sites an archaic custom.
  • spurious – false; outwardly similar or corresponding to something without having its genuine qualities
  • cad – a person without gentlemanly instincts; meaning in this case that Sandy didn’t have any more than physical desires for Sorel and feels (when caught by Judith) a bit guilty
  • barometer – an instrument for determining the pressure of the atmosphere and hence for assisting in judgment as to predicting the weather and determining the height of an ascent
  • haddock – food fish; a relative of cod that occurs on both sides of the Atlantic
  • ten bob – bob is British slang for a shilling, which is a now obsolete British monetary unit equal to 12 pence or 1/20 of a pound. So even in 1920s money, Sandy and Jackie are not being very generous.
  • the Haymarket – A London theatre near Piccadilly Circus. The Haymarket is still a working theater, part of the West End theater row.
  • waifs and strays matinee – like a student matinee, but a performance for children in an orphanage
  • perambulators – British word for baby carriage
  • Scarlet Hispano – A hispano is a French car with a long body made from about 1907-1936.

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