fustian

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

Middle English fustian, from Old French fustaine, from Medieval Latin fustaneum, probably from Latin fustis(club; (medieval use) tree trunk).

Noun[edit]

fustian ‎(usually uncountable, plural fustians)

  1. A kind of coarse twilled cotton or cotton and linen stuff.
    • 1478, Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, Prologue, 75-8,
      Of fustian he wered a gypon / Al bismotered with his habergeoun, / For he was late ycome from his viage, / And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
    • 1594, William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV,
      Where's the cook? Is supper ready, the house trimm'd, rushes strew'd, cobwebs swept, the serving-men in their new fustian, their white stockings, and every officer his wedding-garment on?
    • 1882, James Edwin Thorold Rogers, A History of Agriculture and Prices in England, volume 4, page 568:
      Fustian, of which I have found only one entry before 1401, occurs frequently in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It appears to have been a ribbed cloth.
    • 1888, Thomas Hardy, "The Withered Arm" in Wessex Tales, London: Macmillan & Co., 1903, p. 102, [1]
      [] in it lay the body of a young man, wearing the smockfrock of a rustic, and fustian breeches.
    • 1972, Edna O'Brien, Night, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1987, p. 103,
      Her husband was trying to calm her down, assuage her, and in the end what she did was to put a handkerchief over her face and secure it with the brim of a fustian hat.
    • 2009, Giorgio Riello, "The Indian Apprenticeship: The Trade of Indian Textiles and the Making of European Cottons" in Giorgio Riello and Tirthankar Roy (eds.), How India Clothed the World: The World of South Asian Textiles, 1500-1850, Leiden: Brill, p. 334,
      The East India company was pursuing its own financial interests, but in doing so was also fostering the establishment of industries such as calico printing — an industry that would have not achieved the same degree of accomplishment if it had confined itself simply to the printing of European fustians (mixed cottons) and linens, both of which were more difficult to print on than cotton.
  2. A class of cloth including corduroy and velveteen. (Can we verify(+) this sense?)
  3. Pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech.
    • 1604, Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, [2]
      Clown: God forgive me, he speaks Dutch fustian.
    • 1715, Alexander Pope, Preface to The Iliad of Homer, in Alexander Pope, Selected Poetry and Prose, edited by Robin Sowerby, London: Routledge, 1988, p. 105,
      Nothing that belongs to Homer seems to have been more commonly mistaken than the just pitch of his style, some of his translators having swelled into fustian in a proud confidence of the sublime, others sunk into flatness in a cold and timorous notion of simplicity.
    • 1721, Joseph Addison, "Dialogues upon the Usefulness of Ancient Medals", Dialogue II, in The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, Esq., Vol. I, p. 490, [3]
      Claudian in the description of his infant Titan descants on this glory about his head, but has run his description into most wretched fustian.
    • 2014 March 1, Rupert Christiansen, “English translations rarely sing”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review), page R19:
      Anything grandiose or historically based tends to sound flat and banal when it reaches English, partly because translators get stuck between contradictory imperatives: juggling fidelity to the original sense with what is vocally viable, they tend to resort to a genteel fustian which lacks either poetic resonance or demotic realism, adding to a sense of artificiality rather than enhancing credibility.

Translations[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

  • Used in the sense of "pompous" since at least the time of Shakespeare. For this shift of meaning, compare bombast.

See also[edit]