“Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives…”

Being a medievalist isn’t as glamorous as you might suppose. Often I can’t find a peon within thrashing distance to pit the olives for my Old Yellers, and during those baleful episodes, I pry myself from the vampiric talons of my forthcoming magnum opus (working title: “Sommes-nous encore , Papa Schtroumpf?”: Henri Pirenne, l’Union européenne, et le médiévalisme prospective de Pierre ‘Peyo’ Cuilliford), disable the laser array around the DeLorean, and pursue intellectual regeneration in the shopping malls that serve as economic underwire to the sweat-dappled bosom of suburbia.

So did base commerce provide the hoped-for mental holiday? Alas, no. Having stumbled across an intriguing line of shirts at a charming cosmopolitan boutique, I found myself as startled as a stag in a Laibach video by the color designations on the tags. “Moonless Night” meant “black,” “Black Forest” meant “green”…and then a shirt hove into view, blue as the veil of Thetis:

Apparently, “medieval blue” is a real Pantone color, RGB #2F3654 (presumably inspired by medieval pigments), and all sorts of things are available in it, including wool, windbreakers, tank tops, snow boots, tennis shoes, and chiropractic pillows.

But isn’t “medieval blue” more of an idea—a simile, even? Trailed always by a trembling amanuensis, I made dramatic writerly gestures, paced the menswear aisle, and recorded these golden thoughts for later rumination:

  • “as blue as a miller’s Netflix queue”
  • “as blue as the metaphorical heavens in the pick-up lines of the Duc de Berry”
  • “as blue as the blood of Charlemagne’s nephews nibbling Roquefort while rowing in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race
  • “as blue as absinthe in Utgard”
  • “blue as the grass where Auðumbla moo’d indigo”
  • “as blue as a summer princess sprawled across a winter grave”

Readers are invited to pass the weekend conjuring tortured similes of their own. Meanwhile, some of us, draped anew in cerulean shades that Carolingian clothiers could never envision, shall return to crafting prose that is plainly, unflinchingly purple.

5 thoughts on ““Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives…”

  1. Absinthe is indeed green, usually, but that just goes to show how cold it is in Utgard! (That’s also why I provided a link to blue absinthe, so people wouldn’t think I was ignorant of bohemian, blindness-inducing potables.) (And hey, I like your simile.)


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