Apr. 21st, 2016

lblanchard: (swannfountain)

[This is an occasional series of postings inspired by Abigail Rorer, Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants. Rorer's book includes prints of fourteen plants Farrer considered worthless-- an interesting hybrid of botanically accurate and...different.]

My inheritance included a reduced-print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which I consulted yesterday. And, surprise, surprise, Reginald Farrer did not invent either "mimp" or "squinny." Herewith portions of the definitions for both:

Mimp, sb. and a.
A. sb. A pursing up of the lips. 1820, Heiress 54, I am preparing the cast of the lips for the ensuing winter, thus...It is to be called the Paphian mimp.
B. adj. Prim, precise, affected, mim. 1798 Charlotte Smith, Nyg. Philos. I. 168 I am so teased and so lectured by the old folks that I sit mimpetty mimp before them merely for peace sake.
Mimp, v. dial.
1. trans. to purse up (one's mouth) 1720. Brit. Apollo III. No. 35 2/2 She mimp'd up her Mouth with scorn.
2. intr. 'To speak or act in an affected or mincing manner;to toy or play with one's food in an affected manner' (E. D. D.) c. 1861 Staton, Rays from Loominary 41 Peggy coom mimping up besoide him, lookin bonnily confused. 1880. Mrs. Park, Adam & Eve vi.83, I thought you'd be mimpin' and mincin' and that nothin' ud please 'ee.
Squinny, sb. ?obs. [Cf. SQUINNY a.1] (See quot. 1840). 1716. Coll. State Songs, Poems, etc. 19 Soon a pack was chose..Of Quacks and Squinnys, Rakes and Ninnys, Green and Grizzled Beaus. 1840 SPURDENS Suppl. Forby, Squinny, a contemptible fellow.
Squinny, a. Very thin or slender; lean; meagre; narrow. ..[other definitions examples skipped] [1871] Kingsley, At Last iv. Those figures and faces, small scrofulous, squinny, and haggard, which disgrace the so-called civilization of a British City.

This cries out for an actual mimpish squinny entry. So today I give you...Anemone vernalis. (She appears to have been reclassified since Farrer wrote and is now known as Pulsatilla vernalis syn. Anemone vernalis. I'm only an amateur taxonomist and this is making me crazy.)

Pulsatilla vernalis, Seiser Alm, (26/09 13:20), [tinelot@pobox.com Tinelot Wittermans]

Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons 4/21/2016 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pulsatilla_vernalis,_Seiser_Alm.JPG

Farrer has several complimentary things to say about the plant, which indeed does not appear the least bit mimpish here, then qualifies it all with this passage:

At the same time truth must be told ; in lower stations, and in later stages, the stem is longer, and the blossom looks correspondingly smaller ; worst of all, the Lady of the Snow clings so desperately to her departing beauties that she will not let them go, nor confess to growing old. The blossom fades but never falls, the pearly skin turns into a withered hag's, till in the end that once peerless loveliness takes a blowzy and disreputable look, like some raddled and unreverend dowager in a chestnut wig ; while all the while her cousin Alpina, more wise, is advancing honestly into the full beauty of old age, and reaping the reward of its honourable silver heads.

And here is another, looking rather more mimpish:

Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons 4/21/2016

It is this passage that Abigail Rorer has chosen to illustrate in Mimpish Squinnies. I took the photo below with my own fair hands, so I think it's okay to include it. That's the elderly anemone on the left. You can see all of Rorer's images here: http://www.theloneoakpress.com/prints/newer.html (click to embiggen)

Full entry, the laudatory and the less so, here. I have broken Farrer's monolithic paragraph into three in keeping with our modern sensibilities.

whole lotta A vernalis lore -- the full The English Rock Garden entry -- behind this cut tag )


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