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TURNCOAT
Posted: 03 January 2008 06:18 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I cant find the origin of this word boys and girls. It appears to have been in use in the 16th century. We all know its application, but....

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Posted: 03 January 2008 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The underlying imagery is someone turning his coat inside out to hide the colors he was wearing. Wearing particular colors--especially but not exclusively in the form of military uniforms--has often been used to indicate one’s allegiance to political, religious, or national factions.

[ Edited: 03 January 2008 07:04 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 03 January 2008 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Excellent! Thanks Doc’

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Posted: 04 January 2008 12:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It may be worth mentioning that the variously-coloured cuffs and collars of military uniform coats, which for centuries served to distinguish one body of troops from another (see illustration here:  buffs uniforms) were originally simply the lining - the collar and sleeves were folded back to show the contrasting lining or “facing” material. Thus, if your uniform coat were red with buff facings, as in the illustration, turning your coat would make it buff with red facings.

The custom of dressing soldiers in two contrasting colours goes back to the baronial households of the Middle Ages, when the two main colours or “tinctures” of the lord’s coat of arms would be his “livery colours”; he would provide outfits in these colours to his retainers, to show they were his men.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 04 January 2008 12:40 AM

The custom of dressing soldiers in two contrasting colours goes back to the baronial households of the Middle Ages, when the two main colours or “tinctures” of the lord’s coat of arms would be his “livery colours”; he would provide outfits in these colours to his retainers, to show they were his men.

Nitpick:  livery colors were only rarely taken from the lord’s heraldry.  In the 15th century, for example, John Mowbry, Duke of Norfolk, bore as his arms “Gules, a lion rampant argent” while his livery colors were dark blue and tawny.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That’s the kind of nitpick that makes me glad I hang out here.

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Posted: 04 January 2008 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Nitpick:  livery colors were only rarely taken from the lord’s heraldry.  In the 15th century, for example, John Mowbry, Duke of Norfolk, bore as his arms “Gules, a lion rampant argent” while his livery colors were dark blue and tawny.

FWIW, livery colours would have been dictated to a certain extent by sumptuary laws that restricted fabric colour and quality “by rank and degree”.  In particular the English Sumptuary law of 1363.  Colors were either restricted specifically (for example, purple and gold silk was restricted to females of the royal family) or because of the expense of the dye made the fabric too costly(indigo for example).  Argent or silver was prohibited for lay persons and gray was a colour generally reserved for lower household servants.

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Posted: 07 January 2008 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Now we need someone with a copy of ‘Brave New World’ to hand to check the colours Huxley denoted the ranks with - all I can remember at the moment is ‘Gammas wear green’. Though I don’t think he was consciously echoing the law brightlady mentions.

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Posted: 07 January 2008 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Sumptuary laws are surprisingly difficult to interpret.  They often should not be taken at face value, with an interpretation of “the law says [x] cannot wear [y], so they didn’t”.  There frequently is more than meets the eye.  It might be that otherwise ineligible persons can wear the desired fabric, but need to pay a fine to do so.  These sumptuary laws are effectively an indirect tax.  It may be that the law is an indirect price control, capping the price people are allowed to pay for an item.  Many sumptuary laws seem not to have ever been enforced.  That 1363 law falls into this group, and in any case it was repealed soon thereafter.  Related to this is the point people often overlook that a law against some activity usually implies that activity is being done.  The law says I can’t drive over 65 miles per hour on the freeway.  Well, guess what.  Imagine some future historian looking at this law and concluding that people of today don’t drive over 65.

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Posted: 07 January 2008 08:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I automatically assume that if a law says “Thou shalt not do X” that’s pretty much a guarantee that a lot of people are doing it.

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Posted: 07 January 2008 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I see now that I wasn’t very clear about the point I was trying to make, bad habit I have of assuming people know where I’m coming from.
I was being more specific to the colours silver or argent and gray not being used as livery colours.  Silver being too expensive to spend on servants because of sumptuary tax on the fabric (I’m sure merchants took full advantage of the law) and gray would have been offensive (my guess) to footmen who considered their station to be higher than that of a housemaid. From what I’ve read, servants had a tendency to be sensitive to anything that might have designated a lower status.

I have no doubt that sumptuary law were flagrantly flaunted, in particular by gentry who could afford to do so.  And while they may have ignored the law in general, my guess is that they would have flaunted with colours above their station, not below.  I mean, how often do you see someone driving below the minimum 45 MPH posted speed?

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Posted: 07 January 2008 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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In the case of cloth of silver, meaning the actual metal, I doubt that we need sumptuary fines to explain why it was too expensive to outfit common footmen with.  Higher level household servants of the higher nobility are another matter, as they often received secondhand clothing as part of their pay.  This, however, is not livery in the sense we are discussing.

I’m not sure what you intend by “argent”.  It can be a synonym for “silver” but the word is mostly used in English in heraldry, where it usually, though not always, is depicted simply as white.  I have never looked into the use of white in livery, but it is not obvious to me that it wasn’t used.

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Posted: 07 January 2008 11:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The argent comes from your initial post about “Gules, a lion rampant argent” and you’re right, white was generally used to represent silver.  I was simply trying to explain why silver or gray would not have been used to represent silver in livery colours, based on what I’ve learned from extensive study of costuming history.

Not to belabour the point, but I’ve never found any reference to any Middle Ages livery using the colour gray.
I’m no expert on the matter by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m not aware of any reason, other than those I’ve mentioned, why it wouldn’t have been used.
It’s not the prettiest colour, but that wouldn’t account for it not being used at all.

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Posted: 08 January 2008 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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brightlady - 07 January 2008 11:18 AM

Not to belabour the point, but I’ve never found any reference to any Middle Ages livery using the colour gray.
I’m no expert on the matter by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m not aware of any reason, other than those I’ve mentioned, why it wouldn’t have been used.
It’s not the prettiest colour, but that wouldn’t account for it not being used at all.

My guess would be that it wasn’t used as a livery because of the existence of the Grey Friars, ie the Franciscans.

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Posted: 08 January 2008 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If so, that raises the question of why the existence of Black Friars (Dominicans) and White Friars (Carmelites) didn’t prevent those colors being used in livery.

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Posted: 08 January 2008 03:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Actually grey is known in heraldry, as “cendré”, but mostly in Continental Europe and even there I understand it is rare.

Perhaps grey wasn’t extensively used because it’s not distinctive enough?  All the standard heraldic tinctures - blue, green. red, black, purple, yellow/gold, white/silver - are distinctive. A coat of arms might be sewn on a flag or painted on an external wall or an inn sign, and even after extensive weathering and fading you would still be able to tell which of those colours was which. But after only a bit of weathering a lightish grey could easily be mistaken for white/silver, and a dark one might be indistinguishable from a faded black.

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