Monday, November 03, 2008

A Public Service Message from 12th-Century England

by Karl Steel

Try to keep your celebrations in line tomorrow night or the ghost of Bartholomew of Exeter might rise up to punish you. He warns:

De Balationibus. Si quis balationes ante ecclesias sanctorum fecerit, seu qui faciem suam transmutauerit in habitu mulierbri, et mulier in habitu uiri, emendatione pollicita tribus annis peniteat

Amateur Theatrics.* Whoever does amateur theatrics in front of churches--either a man cross-dressing as a woman or a woman cross-dressing as a man--should do penance for 3 years.

I can only assume that Bartholomew meant "until the next election season." So, ladies, men, if you're tempted to dress up as McCain and Palin to put on a show tomorrow night, or even if you just want to bust out in some Shakespearean comedy, find an appropriate venue. Keep it from the houses of the holy.


(from here, but can find the same thing here in an injunction against people who make "balationes" and change their form)

* Okay, I tried. What's your best shot at "ballatio"? I don't think "dance" is sufficient. By the way, the OED etymology takes me to this hilarious conclusion: [a. OF. baler. (since 16th c. baller) to dance (= Pr. balar, It. ballare, Sp., Pg. bailar): late L. (Isidore) ballare to dance. Some think the L. formed from Gr. to dance, some f. balla BALL n.1, on the alleged ground that, in the Middle Ages, tennis was accompanied with dancing and song]


prehensel said...

All the proof I need to jump to my long-festering opinion that tennis players are godless, racket-swinging minions bent on appropriation of headbands and white clothing for their own heathen designs.

Thus one of them in a trance, no doubt attempting to summon his demonic hoards:

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Killjoy Karl!!