A Word for Wednesday

Junket - n, 1. A sweetmeat. 2. A stolen entertainment
                                                     - v, To feast in secret; to feast

When I first read the definition of this word, I was slightly perplexed. It seemed odd to me to use the same word to describe such different things. They're related, sure. But you couldn't tell someone, "I'm going to go eat junkets at the junket." That's just confusing. You'd need two words: one for the feast, one for the sweetmeat. But I really don't want to get into an argument with Webster. So...I'll use Shakespeare to demonstrate the word's use as a food description, and then turn to Jonathan Swift to deal with secret feasting (which is much more interesting).

Shakespeare used this word in what is probably my favorite of his plays - The Taming of the Shrew. (I must admit, though, that I'm not terribly familiar with any of his other plays. So, it's kind of my favorite by default) Courtesy of Shakespeare's Words, I give you a snippet of Act III, Scene II:

Baptista: "Neighbors and friends, though bride and bridegroom wants
               For to supply the places at the table,
               You know there wants no junkets at the feast."

So there you have it: a very straightforward use of the word. There is absolutely no confusion in that sentence about whether he's talking about sweetmeats or hidden entertainment. Considerate of him, wasn't it?

Jonathan Swift used this word quite differently. In his Rules that Concern All Servants in General (The Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. 8, beginning on page 19), he writes this:

"When you invite your neighboring servants to junket with you at home in an evening, teach them a particular way of tapping or scraping at the kitchen window, which you may hear, but not your Master or Lady, whom you must take care not to frighten at such unreasonable hours."

And this:

"Whatever good bits you can pilfer in the day, save them to junket with your fellowservants at night; and take in the butler, provided he will give you drink."

I skimmed over a few pages of the rest of his rules and he very nonchalantly endorses all sorts of deviant behavior. I wonder if any servants actually read them. His rules are extremely random (really, there's absolutely no order to them at all) but I started cracking up at them. It's laughable to think of servants following his rules. They'd probably loose their jobs if they did, because he says things like:  

"Never come until you have been called three or four times; for none but dogs will come at the first whistle. And when the Master calleth, "Who's there?" no servant is bound to come; for "Who's there?" is no body's name."

Or this: "Lay all faults on a lap-dog, a favorite cat, a monkey, a parrot, a magpye, a child, or on the servant who was last turned off: by this rule you will excuse yourself, do no hurt to anybody else, and save your Master and Lady the trouble and vexation of chiding."

Way to earn your master/lady's goodwill and trust, right? Okay, back on topic now. I wandered off there for a minute, my apologies. Story, story, story...here we go.

"Three taps.

One scrape.

Two taps.

The shadow between the kitchen door and the window was just large enough to hide me while I waited. There was to be a junket tonight. Marta had told Rodger. Rodger had told Nell. Nell had told Luce. Luce had told Will. And Will had told me.

The door cracked open and a sliver of warm light painted the way up the rough stone steps. Luce was at the door, smiling at me, and I slipped inside.

She took my hand. "This way," she said.

I followed her down into the cellar. She let go of my hand halfway down the stairs. The place was full of us - servants, friends, from three households. It was impressive how quiet the lot of us could be, all laughter and jests and friendly arguments, while the Master and his Lady slept over our heads. The feast was spread out on hewn planks and there was drink at the end. I grinned, and wondered how many pies Marta had promised the butler.

"You're late." Will barreled me halfway across the cellar before I could either see him or take a step toward the food. 

I grabbed his head and messed his hair. "I came as soon as I could, you oaf."

"All right, all right, let me up. My hair's unruly enough without your help," he said as I let him up.

I laughed and shoved him into line in front of me."


  1. Nice little story there! I think I have to absolutely read Jonathan Swift's servant rules now. They are hilarious!

    Thanks for sharing, Caitlin. How are things going? I hope you're having a fun summer ;)

  2. Thank you! It's definitely one I'm going to return too :)

    This link *should* take you to the full text of the rules: http://tinyurl.com/665x7ub They start on page 19. I went back and read the whole thing. SO funny.

    Things are going well. Thanks for checking in on me. It's very thoughtful of you :) I'm about 30 credits away from my BA in English, so I've been really focused on my studies. I've been enjoying all your posts though, even if I don't get around to comment!

    How's your little guy doing?

  3. That is very confusing, but the English language is sometimes confusing, so I'm not that surprised. Great little clipping!

  4. I think most languages probably are, at least to a degree.

    Thanks :)


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