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Cotgrave's World: Book 2 Women - The Woe of Men

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Thoughts, proverbs and Sayings from the 16th Century

Extracts from a French to English dictionary by, R Cotgrave. Published 1611.

'A qui Dieu veut aider sa
femme luy meurt.'

The wife of him,
whom God will help soon dies.

'Ce n'est rien, c'est vne femme
Qui se noye'

Its is no great matter,
Though a woman
Drown herself

'Qui perd sa femme & cinq sols c'est
grand damage de l'argent'

He that loses his woman and sixpence,
has some loss financially at least,
to complain of.

'Dans vne gaine d'or vn
cousteau de plumb'

A leaden sword in a golden sheath;
a foul heart within a faire body.
The greater the outward beauty,
the uglier the inner,
a beautiful face a grievous mind;
to adore women
and graven images,
is a fruitless faith.

[from Hesiod's Works and Days, 373-375
Do not let a flaunting woman
coax or cozen and deceive you:
She is after your barn,
The man who trusts womankind
Trusts deceivers.]

'Qui femme croit, & asne meine son
corps ne sera n`sans peine'

He that trusts a woman,
and leads an ass,
is never without one trouble or another.
Or, he that believes a Woman
and leads an ass,
has brought his body
and mind to an evil pass.

'C' est folie de se prendre aux femmes,
& aux bestes'

It is, but folly to quarrel with women
or beasts.
[ all men should know by now, that in any
argument a woman has the last word, any
word after that is the start of a new one. M.]

'Femme fiere en toute saison
veut estre maistre de sa maison'

The proud shrew scorns to be a subject.

'Deux pots au feu significent la feste,
& deux femmes sont la tempeste'

2 pots on the fire, a feast,
2 women
a storm portends.

'Deux chiens ne s'accordant point a vn os'
We say,
Two cats and one mouse,
Two wives and one house,
Two dogs and a bone,
Never agree as one.
I might forgive you, but I'll never forget.
The truest words a woman ever spoke?
[ but men, not wishing to offend blamed an
Who with its large head and small brain,
Huge ears,
And long nose that gets everywhere,
And who thinks it good to bath and
Plaster themselves in mud,
can hardly considered the characteristics
of a woman? M.]

'Qui refuse a' vne femme enceincte,
vn ogueil luy vient a l'oeil'

Translation not given, but it rudely goes,
do not dispute with a enraged woman,
unless you wish to feel the rolling pin across
your lug-hole, ear. [orgueil- a rolling pin].
[ we all should know, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned]. [

'It's always a petty, mean and feeble mind that takes greatest pleasure in paying off score, and here's the proof: there's no one enjoys revenge like a woman' Juvenal
, satire 13, 189-.]

'Fille fenestriere & trotiere rarement
bonne mesnagere'

Seldom proves a gazer, {one who is always looking at her own refection}, or gadder, {one who wanders} a good housewife.

'Dame qui trop se mire pai file'
She that looks too much at herself,
looks too little to herself.

'Les sottes filles a merier
sont fascheaux troupeaux a garder'

Wenches fond of marriage
are troublesome cattle to keep.
A bruised apple may taste sweet
but it soon turns bitter.
[misery loves company].

'Virille sempiternuse'
An everlasting hag-nag,
a tough or toothless trot.

'Vn homme de paille vaut
vne femme d'or'

A man of straw is worth a woman
of gold (for rude, or violent purposes
will some say.)

'A la quenouille le fols'agenouille'
Fools kneel to distances,
weak men unto women.

'Orgueilleuse, semblance monstre
folle ewdance'

A haughty look,
argues a fond presumption.

'Le a voudrois plustost chevaucher
que mener en lasse'

I had rather ride her than lead her.

'Prendre sa teste, elle a prins sa teste.'
She is grounded in willfulness,
of settled obstinance,
resolved to do, only,
what she wishes.
Fievre an ague, a fever,

'fievres blanches'
the ague wherewith maidens that have the green sickness are troubled, and hence,

'Il a les fievres blanches'
Either is in love, or sick of wantonness,

'A la chandelle la chevre
semble dam oiselle'

By candle light a she goat
seems a gentle woman;
wine finds beauty where there is none,
and lust is so blind,
it sees nothing but the Sun.
[dam oiselle-damsel].

'Truye aime mieux bran que roses'
The sow loves to dress
better than delicacies.
We say, mutton dressed like lamb.

'Truye aime mieux bran que roses'
The sow had rather lie in dung
than a bed of roses.

'Truye ne songe qu'oraure'
A sow dreams of nought but dirt.

'Mettre toutes pierres en oeuvre'
To employ, or make use of, everything.
(this phrase is also applied to a wench,
that suffers any mans stones to grind
at her mill.)

'Courir l'esguillette'
To be mad for prick, to run up and down after her lechery, like a salt bitch; to play the common whore; (in old times common wenches were enjoyed to wear a point on one of their shoulders, thereby to distinguish them from those that professed honesty.)

'Tousiours ouvert comme la bourse
d'vn advocat'

Always open like an advocates purse.

'Vn mesme cousteau me coupe
le pain & le doigt'

The same knife that cuts my bread,
cuts my finger;
the same mouth blows hot and cold,
the same mind loves
and hates.

'Femme sotte se cognoist a la cotte'
The foolish woman's
by her weeds is discerned;
the woman's garment
shows how fond she is.

'Mauvaise fille se mocque de sa mere'
So, does then a filthy bird array her nest.

'A faincte foire chandelle de morde'
A gift agreeable to her nature,
or humour;
fit (and filthy) lettuce
for (stinking) lips.

'Entre promettre et donner
doit on la fille marier'

Between giving somewhat
and promising much,
a man may be honestly
rid of a daughter.

'Se fier en vne fille? Allez vous y frotter.
Trust a maid, not I; you may if you will; or, (because 'frotter' has in this phrase a double signification) thus; rely on a maid? You may lie on her if you will.

'Il ne se faut fier ni a femme,
ny au giron'

(for neither of them
keeps very surely the things
entrusted unto them.)

'Tirer en sa cordelle'
To win his affection, allure or draw unto his side. From cordel etc, twisted, knotted rope, used as a belt- girdle- in a man, or
necklace in a woman,
a metaphor suggesting
the way a woman bends, and twists,
her thoughts
to mirror her catch,
so as to draw him into
her clutches.

['No woman spins her web without reason, whether it be to catch flies or husbands she devours them all'

'Tout ce que le clerc laboure
solle femme deuore'

All that a scholar gains
his wench consumes.
All the clerk can scrape together,
his troll devours.

'Toute chatte a son fevier'
Every dog has its day;
we say more properly,
Every woman has her wanton fit.

'Fille oiseuse rarement vertueuse'
An idle maid is rarely virtuous,
or a maid that does nothing,
learns nothing, does nothing well.

'Fille oisive a' mal pensive'
The slothful maid still thinks of sin; or,
a maiden sat still thinks on ill;
the devil finds work
for idle hands and minds.

'Il n' est si bon que femme n' assortte'
[even] The wisest [men] mans assotted
[besotted] by a woman. Or,
even the best of man
may be beguiled by a woman.

'Viudes chambres sent Dames folles'. Or,

'viudes chambres sont les dames folles'
Empty chambers [beds] make women
Play the wanton. Or,
the empty bedroom,
bids farewell
to sisters,
and chastity. M.
Ecclesiastic 7-26
The woman who is a snare
Whose heart is a trap,
And whose hands are chains,
The man who pleases God
Will escape her,
But the sinner
She will ensnare.

'On y va comme asne desbastez'
{said of those that meet at stolen lechery}
They go at it hotly, furiously with
Terrible appetite
[for ass' discharged of their burdens,
Unsaddled, and set at liberty are
The friskiest creatures alive].

'En moisslons Dames chambrieres sont'
Ladies are but drudges,
or wait on themselves
as long as harvest lasts.
[during times of plenty,
her love endures,
she takes from the table,
as she able, of age and beauty
she takes no notice,
but when winter comes,
it sheds new light.
[The sugar, all but dried up, all's left
is a poisoned, bitter sweet cup. M.]
[faults are thick when love is thin].
[when love is thin hate jumps in. M.].

'Fille qui donne s'abandonne'
The maid that gives, is easily gotten.

'Fille qui prend elle se rend'
A maid that takes too much
is as good as taken.
'Fille qui prend elle se vend',
A maid by taking sells her liberty, or; the
maid that wooers offered gifts does take,
a wanton bargain will be drawn to make.

'La viandre creuse,
(ascavoir les beates a deux pieds)'
Wenches, trulls, female rascals.

'Capharde': f. a hypocritical wench.

A place wherein women meet and prattle together, such as a common mill, or public oven, a gossips feast, also a seat they sit on at these meetings.

'Vn licvre estant a' croupeton'
That sits upon her buttocks [arse-bum]
(as they often do when they are relieving
themselves) and raises herself thereon
to listen at every wag of a feather.

'Elle a la langue en la bouche,
non en la bourse'

Her tongue is ever at hand, I warrant you. [said of a prattling, tattling, housewife]. Or, her clicket is ever wagging, also, she is not tongue tied I grant you.
{clicket, seems a very apt term for a woman's
mouth, because like a train,
once they start moaning all you hear is
clickety, clack, clickety clack,
same old moans,
same old track. M.]

'Femme, argent, & vin, ont leur bien,
& leur renin'

Women, money, and wine, have both good and bad things in them.
[ But too much of any of them leads to death;
when all 3 combine place your head
between your knees
and kiss your arse goodbye. M.]

'Femme rit quand elle peut,
& pleure quand elle veut'

A woman laughs when she can,
and weeps when she will.

'Quand la messe fut chantee,
si fut la Dame parce'

By the time prayers were done
her tears were on.

'Femme se plaind, femme se deult,
femme esr malade quand elle veut'

Women lament, weep, sicken
when they wish.

['She always keeps a big reservoir of tears at the ready, and waiting for her command in which manner they need to flow'. Juvenal, satire 6, 270-75.]

'Fille trop veue, robbe trop vestue,
n'est pas chere tenue'

A maid that is often seen, grows often worn [used], are disesteemed and held in scorn. [easily gained, is easily forgotten, nothing of worth, falls easily into a mans hands].

'Elle a mis le bouquet sous l'oreille'
Of a widow; she would fain be had,
won, or married.
Of a whore; she may [for money] be had,
won or used.
In France, when they rode, or, lead out horses for sale, they used to stick flowers-posies under their ears. Perhaps such women were of the habit of carrying a flower or two to signal their readiness to be deflowered.
[the word 'bouquet' signified, nosegay or posy of flowers. ]

a kid, also a hairy bush or pubes.

'Femme safre, & yvrongnesse,
de son corps n'est pas maistresse'

A wanton and wine drinking woman,
her body yields to open shame.
[yvrongnesse- a drunken woman
or sow {female pig].

'Caraviree', a wry mouthed, or wry faced wench, or one that makes wry mouths,
or ill favoured wry faces.

a scolding, brabbling woman.

a prattling, talking, babbling,
of idle speech, vain talk,
and tedious discoursing.

- causaian, a babbler, prattler,
tattler, idle talker,
one whose tongue never rests.

a cow runs up and down, holding her tail in the air, when the breeze doth sting her [spring itch, instinct to fornicate, said of a woman in heat, women did not wear knickers in those days, so when they stepped out into the spring air, the breeze was said to have tickled their fancy.

'A la chandelle la chevre semble
dam oiselle'

By candle light a she goat seems a gentle woman. [where by the candle light is to be taken as a mans affection- opinion in picking a wife, which has often proved erroneous, being blinded by the need; otherwise if all brides are truly beautiful, where do ugly wives come from?

a common hackney,
a wench that is often swined.

'Que femme croit, & asne meine son
Corps ne sera ia sans peine'

[belike, because the one is {sometimes}
false, as the other is always foolish].

'Toutes les femmes se resemblent'
All women are alike {in good, or evil].

'A peine cognoist on la femme,
& le Melon'

[the meaning be}
until they are broken or cut up,
when we often find
the outside of them,
their appearance,
was in fact the best part of them.
[the wrapper was better than the sweet].

'Charite oingr, & peche poind'
Love covers,
while hate increases errors;
or, love is soul's balm, sin her bane.

'A coeur dolent l'oeil pleure'
Tears in the eyes, rage in the heart.

'Le coeur ne ventouloir ce
que l'oeil ne peut veoir'

What the eye does not see,
the heart can not regret.

'Se ranger au montoir'
Metaphorically from a horse to a wench,
that suffers a man to get on;
or settles herself
to give him the easier getting on.

'Vn homme bien estrie'
Soaked, drained, drawn dry,
by wenching,
or as the washer women say
washed, rung and hung;
or as the hangman said,
hung, drawn and quartered.

'On plume l' oye sans la faire crier'
The silly goose complains not when
she is plucked.

'Vn rabat de bride'
A job, or cheek, which a horse gives himself with his bridle, [as like a mans tongue in her cheek, so to speak];

'rabavit', a prick-madame; a prick teaser. Rabat-rabbit?
[ according to many women today, a rabbit is better than a man, and it is mankind that is predicted to end, not woman kind, just ask the bee, the wasp, ants, spiders and more, which sex really rules the world].

'Par trop trotter la poule,
& le femme se perdent facilement'

Women and hens, that gad about a lot
are soon lost.

'Belle hostesse c'est un mal pour
la bourse'

A faire hostess
brings in a foul reckoning.
[after dinner comes the reckoning].
[there is no such thing as a free lunch].

'En proces il n'y a point d'amour'
There is no love between
adversaries in law,
or, there is no love among
those that go to law.

'Farder'. To paint, colour, disguise, trick up, set out, with false beauty, to polish with borrowed luster, to deceive the ears, to use pretenses, to deceive, blur the eyes, to contradict matters.

'A vieille -mule frien dore'
Said in derision of an old woman,
that paints and pranks herself.

'De toute femme qui se sarde,
donne toy soigreusement garde'

Let no woman's painting
breed thy stomachs fainting.

'Femme crespie de colours'
Whose face is all to be daubed
or plastered over with makeup

'La mue d'une femme'
A woman's muing, an elderly woman's wrinkled skin grown smooth and sleek, by the help of corrosive drugs. [ mue- change, altar, transform, metamorphosed; also, renewed, mued, cast, as to cast or shed a coat of skin.

'Elle ne vault pas le debraguetter'
She is but a homely piece of fluff;
she is not worth the pains
one should take with her
(debraguetter-an untying of the codpiece.)

'Criarde': f. a scolding or scowling
tongue of a woman.

A lizard- newt, also,
a woman that reads much.

'Qui suit les poules apprend a' grater la terre'
He that follows a chicken soon learns
to scrape; imitation is most commonly,
too good a school mistress.
[ he who keeps company with wolves
will soon learn to howl:
he that lives with cripples
soon learns to limp].

'Le beau soulier devient en fir sarate'
So, beauty ends in deformity.
All flowers are but dung
in the making.

'Nulle Rose Sans espine'
No Rose Without spines.
[there is no Rose without thorns].
[ long after the Rose has gone
the thorn remains]

'Le trou trop ouyert sous les nez fait porter souliers deschirez'
The hole under the nose {mouth}
breeds tatty shoes and ragged hose.

'Femme sotte se eu gnoist a' la cotte'
The robes that a woman wears,
their private fooleries betray.

'Belle femme mauvaise teste'
Faire women are either curst or cruel.

'Beaute de femme fascheux resveille matin'
Beauty without goodness is like wine
that hath taken wind.

'Beaute & folie vont sourvent de compaigne'
Beauty and folly are often matched together. Or, rarely is physical beauty the sign of a beautiful mind,
[ a fair face may hide a foul heart],
[ a tongue of honey, a heart of gall].

'Iamais rigneux n'aima le pigne ny chapon crester geline'
The guilty cannot abide reproof,
nor a weak man a woman.

A girl with nut brown hair;
Also, a fine black cloth, {used-worn
at funerals}.

A brownhaired wench, a lovely nut brown-woman; also of evening, the twilight zone or edge of evening, dusk, cock shoot time.

'Aussi bien font amourettes sous bureau que sous brunetes'
Love tricks are played [ loves rites
performed] as well by poor as rich folks, or
as well in poor as rich clothes. Or.
Love plays his pranks as well
in cells as courts.
-as well amongst the old as the young.

'Criquemelette:' f
A crackling, cackling, rustling, puffing and huffing wench, one that bustles [stirs up] and brushes the ground, stirring up everything as she goes.

A bug, fairy, female spirit.

Barbier de Mau', a barber of a woman's privates.

A scolding, scowling, babbling woman, also a tattling housewife,
prattling gossip,

Mother killing.
[the female of the species, is more-deadly than the male]; {just ask a lion, the wasp or the bee, the ant or the spider, the mosquito or the flea?].
Like unto prayer.

'De femme volage, & friande en tout temps bon heur nous defende'
From women light, and lecherous,
good fortune
still deliver us.

'Vne femme qui demeure a'm'
A stinking, or nasty

Like a gold ring in a pig' s snout
Is a beautiful woman
Who shows no discretion.
Proverbs, 12-22.

If that wasn't enough, consider these female gender words;
Abjection / abomination / accumulation / accusation / aggravation / agony / superstition.

Caresme lent, Shrove Tuesday. Caresme prenant, shrovetide, fastness- fasting. Carnaval [carnival] shrove tide, also a licentious or desolate season. Carnalee. A wench grown licentious, or used licentiously
Sanctimoniale A nunne, a nun that is. Even I have used the retort, 'sanctimonious bitch', when a woman gives it, that, holier than thou crap. Said of that not so rare woman, who believes she is always right, even when she is blatantly wrong, and that you are always wrong point blank. A nun should be as a vestal virgin, abstaining from the sins of the flesh, in all manor or form, and they are all sanctimonal'

[ 2-3-23-203-230-2003, 2030, 2300, 23000,000.].

[ all biblical quotes are taken from the NIV. Those of Hesiod, from Works and days etc, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White, Dover PUB' INC. Those of Juvenal, from Satires 1-111-x. Rudd & E. Courtney, Bristol classical press.]