Ann to the rescue: Defenestration demystified
My friend Ann is the best. Not only does she make the best G&T on the North American continent, but within half an hour of my posting my plea for an explanation of “defenestration” yesterday, she had posted me a reply (below) and the mystery was solved.
Coincidentally, she had just finished reading a book called The Thirty Years War, (information below) which provided (among other things) specific details of how, where and why “defenestration” came to be a word. It is from this splendid work that she gleaned her information.
So, without further ado, I will turn matters over to Ann, who writes the following:
“Ahem . . . It was a dark and stormy night . . . well, actually it was late at night on May 22nd, 1618, and there was a general brouhaha concerning the ruling Catholics of Prague, and the fact that the general populace of Prague, being Protestants, didn’t want to be ruled by them – they had a lot to learn about freedom of religion back then!
Anyway, the following morning, the members of the (unsanctioned) Protestant emergency government converged on the royal castle of the Hradschin, followed by an equally unsanctioned unruly crowd, and found their way to the chamber where the two Catholic governors, Slavata and Martinitz, in fear and trembling, had backed up against the window.
The crowd grabbed hold of them – I did say there were unruly, right? – and threw them out of the window, Martinitz first, followed by Slavata and, for good measure, their secretary.
Now comes the fun part: not one of the three died, or was even badly injured – they had all fallen into a pile of mouldering filth that had, probably over several months, been thrown out of that self-same window. Which ties in with the point in your posting about “slops” and chamber pot contents being thrown out of windows – good manure.
All this information came from The Thirty Years War, by C.V. Wedgwood, first published by Jonathon Cape Ltd, 1938.”
And there you have it: everything you need to know about “defenestration.” I personally think we should set aside May 22 as International Defenestration Day, details of celebrations to be discussed.
Again, I extend my sincere thanks to Ann for her exertions on my behalf, and will tuck an extra bottle of gin into my bag for our next visit, during which the topic of discussion will be, “why are some kinds of jellyfish, like the irukandji, so extremely, extravagantly poisonous?” (Seriously, these little guys are the size of jujubes and can bring down a whale with their venom.) Why??
Yours in eternal curiosity,
- Posted in: Word of the Day
- Tagged: 1618, books, C.V. Wedgwood, Canada, Catholics, Czechoslovakia, defenestration, Eastern Europe, etymology, gin and tonic, history, Hradschin Castle, irukandji, jellyfish, lexicography, marine life, Martinitz, poisonous species, Prague, Protestants, religion, sanitation, Slavata, The Thirty Years War, venom, words