[Sca-cooks] brown ale

Gretchen Beck grm at andrew.cmu.edu
Sun Jun 7 08:58:26 PDT 2009

--On Sunday, June 07, 2009 11:48 AM -0400 "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus
Adamantius" <adamantius1 at verizon.net> wrote:

> On Jun 7, 2009, at 11:29 AM, devra at aol.com wrote:
>> I keep on thinking of the Robin Hood and other ballads where they  
>> seem to refer to 'nut brown ale'. But of course those were recorded  
>> somewhat later....
> Yes. It may be a little like the Old England of "The Roast Beef of Old
> England" being 1825 or so...
> Yes, it's old. No argument there. However...
> Now you've made me want to look really closely at the ballad, "The
> Nut-Brown Maid"... you don't suppose it could be a drinking song, huh?

If the OED is to be believed, nut-brown is a standard descriptive term in
late Middle and Elizabethan English. I find the last "rustic" interesting,
and wonder if this is the meaning that applies in some of the later
references to ale (a country style ale, which also has a browner color).

[< NUT n.1 + BROWN adj. Compare Dutch nootbruin, notebruin, German
nussbraun, Swedish nötbrun, Danish nøddebrun.
  Attested earlier as a surname, presumably implying existence of the
English word, although it is unclear in which sense, e.g.:
  1265 Close Rolls Henry III 69 Robertus Notebrun. 1296 in W. Hudson Three
Earliest Subsidies Sussex (1910) 19 Ricardo Nutebrune. 1428 in H. C.
Maxwell-Lyte Inquisitions & Assessments Feudal Aids (1908) V. 149 Johannes
  N.E.D. (1907) indicates the stress as nut-brown.] 

    A. adj.

    1. That is the colour of a ripe hazelnut; brown as a nut; of a warm
reddish-brown colour.

    a. Of hair or complexion, or of (the skin of) an animal.
  As applied to complexions, nut-brown was originally used with reference
to acquired colour, as from exposure to the sun, rather than to natural

a1400 (a1325) Cursor Mundi (Vesp.) 18846 Berd and hefd of a heu ware, Nute
brun [a1400 Fairf. note broun, a1400 Gött. Nutte brun] als i tald yow are.
1575 G. GASCOIGNE Hearbes in Wks. (1587) I. 356 A louely nutbrowne face is
best of all. 1595 R. PARRY Moderatvs xv. sig. S3, Her nut-browne haire
hanging about her shoulders made her beautifull visage..farre more amiable.
1672 DRYDEN Conquest Granada II. Prol. 71 Every man who thinks himself a
Wit..With his white Wigg sets off his Nut-brown Face. 1723 London Gaz. No.
6154/4, One Nut-brown Mare. 1767 'A. BARTON' Disappointment II. i. 34 She
is so charming sweet and fair, Her rosy cheeks and nut brown hair. c1780
Johnstone Hey & Young Caldwell xxiv, in F. J. Child Eng. & Sc. Pop. Ballads
(1886) II. IV. 293 'Nut-brown was his hawk,' they said, 'And yellow-fit was
his hound.' 1823 BYRON Island II. vii, The sun-born blood..threw O'er her
clear nut-brown skin a lucid hue. a1855 C. BRONTË Professor (1857) I. ix.
152 Her hair was nut-brown. 1900 J. CONRAD Lord Jim xxv. 274 She had a
round, nut-brown, soft face. 1951 S. H. BELL December Bride II. xiv. 157
Speeding down Knocknadreemally towards her..came a sulky, drawn by a
nutbrown high-stepping pony with yellow bandaged fetlocks. 1992 Matrix
Summer 21/1 She's a slim, compact woman, her skin nut-brown and flawless.

    b. Of a person, in respect of complexion. Esp. in nut-brown maid. 

c1503 Nutbrown Maid in R. Arnold Chron. f. lxxvv, Shal neyer be sayd the
Nutbrowne mayd was to her loue vnkind. 1578 J. LYLY Euphues f. 43v, If she
be well sette, then call hir a Bosse,..if Nutbrowne, as blacke as a coale.
1611 R. COTGRAVE Dict. French & Eng. Tongues at Fille, The nut-browne lasse
for mirth and neatnesse doth surpasse. a1640 P. MASSINGER Guardian I. i.
345 in 3 New Playes (1655), My Tenants Nutbrown daughters, wholsom Girls.
1728 POPE Dunciad II. 299 Shown him by the nutbrown maids A branch of Styx
here rises from the Shades. 1770 E. THOMPSON Court of Cupid II. 4 With her
gay Adonis plac'd In a soft attitude of love, and joy, And fine the
contrast of the nut-brown Boy. 1820 SCOTT Monastery II. ii*. 70 The
attention which was paid to every word that he uttered by the nut-brown
Mysie. 1895 Daily News 20 Mar. 7/1 For the nut-brown maids, who strike the
happy medium between dark and fair, there is a large choice of gentle
tints. 1962 D. LESSING Golden Notebk. (1974) III. 373 She was in type
similar to Marion: another nut-brown maid, tending to a glossy and lively
untidiness. 1989 K. MILLER Authors (BNC) 60 A nut-brown man by South
Kensington standards, he is light-skinned in the West Indies.

    c. Of a thing, formerly esp. ale. 

1575 W. STEVENSON Gammer Gurtons Nedle II. sig. B.v, I loue no rost, but a
nut browne toste and a Crab layde in the fyre. 1602 W. WARNER Albions Eng.
(rev. ed.) IV. xx. 96 Nor lacks he gleefull tales, whil'st round the
nut-brown Bole doth trot. 1608 T. DEKKER Belman of London sig. B3v,
Nut-browne round trenchers lay in good order. a1668 W. DAVENANT News from
Plimouth III, in Wks. (1673) 14/2 Good Nutbrowne-Ale, and Tost. 1708 W.
KING Art of Cookery 6 A Prince..Quenches his Thirst with Ale in Nut-Brown
Bowls. 1770 O. GOLDSMITH Deserted Village 221 Low lies that house where
nut-brown draughts inspir'd. 1831 J. BROWN Let. 26 Oct. (1912) 23 There is
plenty of home-brewed 'Nutbrown' ale. 1892 A. AUSTIN Fortunatus Pessimist
II. iii. 104 When your loaves Turn nut-brown in the baking. 1900 Daily News
1 Sept. 6/7 A nut-brown cloth dress..has a petticoat of nut-brown moirette
to match it. 1952-7 S. J. PERELMAN And Thou beside Me, yacketing in
Wilderness in Road to Miltown (1957) 12 In fancy you are in England,
peradventure at some transpontine hostel with a goodly company, quaffing
the nut-brown October ale. 1984 S. T. WARNER One Thing leading to Another
(1985) 38 The scenes were painted in shades of green and sepia; their bases
and surrounds were nut brown.

    d. Applied to colour. 

1586 A. DAY Eng. Secretorie I. sig. N7v, The nutbrowne collour of seller
ale in a frostie morning. 1594 Knacke to knowe a Knaue l. 904 Ile tel the
king the maid is fair, Of nut browne cullour, comelie and fair spoken. 1630
Tincker of Turvey iv. 35 His haire in curled lockes hung downe, And well I
wot the colour was nut browne. 1742 H. FIELDING Joseph Andrews I. I. viii,
His Hair was of a nut-brown Colour. 1781 Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 71 164
The jaws..being as hard as a crab's claw, and placed in a strong horny
head, which is of a nut-brown colour. 1820 SCOTT Monastery II. v. 166 Upon
whose complexion the 'skyey influences'..had blended the red and white into
the purely nut-brown hue. 1893 Science 3 Feb. 59/1 It [sc. a sea-cow] was
of a nut-brown color and covered with hair. 1994 Runner's World Feb. 33/2
(advt.) A superior technique..that exposes oak to ammonia fumes for a rich,
nut-brown color.

    2. Of a sword or its blade: burnished. Cf. BROWN adj. 4. Obs. 

1609 T. RAVENSCROFT Deuteromelia 47 He pulled out his nut-browne sword, And
wipt the rust off with his sleeue. 1663 S. BUTLER Hudibras I. ii. 157 The
Squire..on his nut-brown Whiniard bore The Trophee-Fiddle and the Case.
1674 S. BUTLER Hudibras (new ed.) I. ii. 102 When his nut-brown Sword was
out, Courageously he laid about. a1835 J. HOGG Wks. Ettrick Shepherd (1876)
79 He drew hys sword of nutte-browne steele, While neid-fyre kyndlit in hys

    3. fig. Rustic. Obs. rare 1. 

1648 R. HERRICK Hesperides sig. S8, Thy Nut-browne mirth; thy Russet wit.

toodles, margaret

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