Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prunes and Prisms

"Prunes and Prisms": affected, primly precise, or priggish speech or behavior (Merriam-Webster)

Have you heard this quote before? I have noticed it in several books, the latest being Anne of Avonlea, where Dora is described as having a 'prunes and prisms' mouth. It is also mentioned in Little Women, when Jo is resisting the temptation of running away to Washington with Laurie: "`Prunes and prisms' are my doom, and I may as well make up my mind to it." On researching this phrase, I found that it comes out of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit which I just so happen to have begun reading last night. The original quote is “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism are all very good words for the lips.” and is said by a prim, snobbish, advice-giving woman (Mrs. General) who is given the task of polishing up the Dorrit girls. Here is some more interesting information from
Dickens' specific choice of words are interesting. Papa, potatoes, poultry and prunes are all mundane words, and will certainly result in the pursed lip shape of the mouth suggested as the best way to appear by Mrs. General.However, the word prism requires a bit more analysis. 
 However, the thing that most interested me about this phrase is that in Prince Caspian, King Miraz's (Caspian's uncle, I hope you all knew that haha) wife is named Prunaprismia, an obvious reference to this phrase that I had never even thought about. (In fact, when I found this out, I began to wonder if I had ever even known her name.)

You can find out more about the phrase "Prunes and prisms" here, if you're interested.

I hope you enjoyed this tidbit, and can you believe I've actually posted two non-Excerpt-of-The-Week posts this week! It's even the week I thought I wouldn't post at all, go figure!

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