Monday, October 17, 2011


Tawdry \TAW-dree\ , adjective;
1. Gaudy, showy and cheap
2. Low or mean; base: tawdry motives
1. Cheap, gaudy apparel

Right before Mr. B and I moved to New York City, an ex-teacher of his was having a retirement party that we attended. This over-the-top, flamboyant theater teacher's reaction to our move was hilarious. He told us that New York was a wonderful place, an adult's playground! And then, lowered his voice and added with a wink, "But nothing tawdry..."

The adjectival usage of this word dates to the 1670's from the noun, which dates to the 1610's as "silk necktie for women." It's a shortening of tawdry lace (dating to the 1540's), which was an alteration of St. Audrey's lace. This piece of jewelry was a necktie or ribbon that was sold at the annual fair at Ely on October 17th to commemorate St. Audrey, the queen of Northumbria who died in 679. As the story goes, she was particularly fond of cheap necklaces, so when she supposedly died of a throat tumor, it was God's punishment for her youthful fondness for said showy necklaces.

For more on the life of St. Audrey (also called St. Ethelreda), check out Catholic Online here.

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