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  1. Gricer462
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    #1

    Query on old English saying

    I am looking for the origins of the saying "Ne'er cast a clout til May be out" The common understanding seems to be about winter clothes but I have my doubts. I have heard that it has its origins in farming, a clout being something to do with agriculture not clothing.
    Any Ideas

  2. heidita's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Query on old English saying

    I have found this origin.
    So, 'ne'er cast a clout...' just means 'never discard your [warm winter] clothing...'.

    The 'till May be out' part is where the doubt lies. On the face of it this would mean 'until [the month of] May is ended'.

    Ne'er cast a clout till May be out


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    #3

    Re: Query on old English saying

    THank you for your reply and agree that the end of May is the final part of the quote, but my doubt lies with the word "clout" I don't believe it means clothing.


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    #4

    Re: Query on old English saying

    One doesn't plant out new seedlings in the garden until well into May to be sure the last of the frosts is past. Same advice for humans : keep your winter clothing till the cold nights and frost-on-the-ground mornings are over.

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    #5

    Re: Query on old English saying

    Yes, I have seen this term before in gardening.

    It means don't turn over the garden patch (prepare the soil) until after May.

    When turning over with a shovel, you would "cast " (throw or turn over) the clumps (clouts)


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    #6

    Re: Query on old English saying

    You do not change out of winter clothes until the hawthorn is in flower.

    The hawthorn only comes into flower when a certain temperature is reached, after which the weather remains reasonable. This is usually the end of April/early May - and certainly this year is proving a fair instruction.

    I have never ever met this with a gardening connection in this country.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Query on old English saying

    Final note: if the saying does indeed refer to the month of May (rather than "May blossom" - http://www.paul.chesterfield.btinter.../mayflower.jpg), there remains a question about the calendar (Julian or Gregorian). Added to that, there's global warming...

    b

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