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morris

- British designer, artist and writer
- British car, often half-timbered
- British public activity: colourful, noisy manifestation of trade protectionisn and Protestant work-ethic
M/006

The origins and etymology of morris dancing are hotly disputed; or at least have been, by people with nothing else to do. Some assert that it is all an early form of aerobics connected with compulsory training at the butts. (I should here point out, for the benefit of readers from the western side of the Atlantic, that the butts in question were inanimate, stuffed with straw, and used for archery practice.) Others assert there is a Moorish connexion.

Be either or neither of these as it may, Morris as practised by Sheffield City is a strenuous, skilful activity: it demonstrates, in a time-hallowed phrase now translated into many European languages, rhythmic grace and athletic precision. A set of six (or occasionally eight) men, tastefully attired in a kit involving neither bowler hats nor garlands of flowers, weave their way through dances less random than they sometimes seem. The dancers are accompanied by live musicians, and on high days and holidays by a mythical beast with no manners. To help them keep their balance, to give them something to do with their hands and to set them apart from people holding concertinas, melodions, fiddles, mandolins, Northumbrian small pipes, trombones and what have you, the dancers brandish either crisp, whitehankies or stout sticks. The hankies are clashed only by accident.

Oh yes. Protectionism and the Protestant work ethic. Well, all this leaping up and down is work that brings on a powerful thirst, but of course no-one would dream of taking a drink before he'd earned it. Protectionism is manifest in the fact that while on British soil the Morris would scorn to drink anything but the best British beers. Abroad, these courteous gentlemen gracefully condescend to support local industries.


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