Friday, January 25, 2013

Word of the Day -- Peeping Tom

Today's word of the day is actually a phrase of the day, Peeping Tom.  It has an interesting history, one that I was unfamiliar with until I read it in this great book, Morris/Dictionary of Word Origins and Phrases.  This has been a staple of my bedside for more years than I care to remember, but for some reason I had not read this one until a short while ago.  Here it is verbatim:

Peeping Tom goes back to one of the most celebrated legends of the Anglo-Saxon period of British history.  Leofric, Lord of Coventry, imposed exorbitant taxes upon his subjects.  his wife, Lady Godiva, was sympathetic to the complaints of her subjects and repeatedly pleaded with him to reduce their tax burden.  He refused but eventually, more to make her be quiet than anything else, said that he would cut taxes if she agreed to ride unclad through the streets of Coventry.  To Leofric's astonishment, she accepted the challenge and, after asking that all townspeople stay indoors and close their shutters while she rode, she made the ride on a white horse.  Everyone honored her request except the town tailor, Tom, who peeped through the shutters and, as legend has it, was stricken blind for his impudence.  And yes, the taxes were lowered. 

So, as origins go, this one is a little far fetched.  But as sometimes in life, the story might be better than the truth. 

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