Archaic Definition of the Week – Nappy

ADOTWnappy (n.) A frothy ale. Probably because its head was nappy, frothy.

A 1728 song extolled: “a jug of brown Nappy.”

Colonial American English. by Richard M. Lederer, Jr.

A related note on racism: I normally don’t pick words for the Archaic Dictionary that I have used or plan to use in fiction. But, in my novel The Crow and the Kinnebeck I use the word “nappy” to hint at the sensitive subject of racism.

The fantasy setting of The Observer’s Casebook isn’t a perfect analogy of our own world, and the fictional Murshy indenture of the Commonwealth is nowhere near as harsh an institution as  real-world Atlantic plantation slavery. Moreover, servitude in the Commonwealth was a consequence of the ancient Holy Wars, and thus originally a religious indenture that swept in a broader range of ethnicities than the real-world Triangle Trade.

Even so, the core distinction between lighter-skinned northerners and darker-skinned southerners is the same as in our world, so some comment needs to be made.

The port of Lemaigne, the setting of C&K, has a peculiar tradition of taverns named with double entendres that play off the drinks they serve, usually archaic drinks unfamiliar to modern ears, like flip at The Penny Flip and, at the Playfair Orcheat, the barley drink orgeat/orcheat, which we know as a cocktail syrup but was once a liquor in its own right.

One of these taverns is called The Nappy Head, named for the frothy ale. The double entendre is clear, and I wanted it also to be clear that I wasn’t pulling the pun out of my ear.

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