Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: What is Bald Pat doing to the napkins?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    7

    What is Bald Pat doing to the napkins?

    The episode is "Sirens" (episode 11 of Joyce's Ulysses, 1904)

    After Leopold Bloom has had his dinner in Ormond Hotel and has completed his pseudonymous love letter to "Martha", he wants to pay and leave, to dispatch the letter. Bald Pat, the waiter, who is deaf, does not hear his call at first, however:

    Pat! Doesn't hear. Deaf beetle he is[...] Pat! Doesn't. Settling those napkins. Lot of ground he must cover in the day. Paint face behind on him then he'd be two. Wish they'd sing more. Keep my mind off.

    Bald Pat who is bothered mitred the napkins. Pat is a waiter hard of his hearing. Pat is a waiter who waits while you wait. Hee hee hee hee.
    What exactly is Pat occupied in?

    There is a verb "to mitre", meaning "raise somebody to a bishop's function" (i.e., pass the mitre on to him), which cannot be meant here.

    There is also a second verb "to mitre (~miter)", applied to a technical procedure where one folds in two some material having a right angle with the fold ending in the corner, whereby two parts ending in an angle of 45 each are produced.

    Can THAT be meant here?
    Last edited by ElizaD; 06-13-2016 at 05:49 PM. Reason: typos to be corrected

  2. #2
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    3,613
    I suppose it is meaning 10.
    http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mitred
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    7
    THANK YOU!

    10. to join (two edges of fabric) at a corner by various methods of folding, cutting, and stitching.
    That is very good. I suppose, it means that Bald Pat has a pack of ironed napkins there, all square in form, and then he folds them into the typical napkin-triangle, so that they can be placed with the long side parallel to the fork placed by the left site of the plate.

    Since he will be folding the square cloth diagonally, so that the fold runs from one corner to the diametrically opposed one, this is a typical action of mitering. Maybe even the technical expession for a folding done to napkins current at Joyce's time.

    If only I could prove the latter.---Another possibility would be that Bald Pat folds the napkins into the sophisticated shape of bishop's mitres. But I think for a normal day in a middle class hotel, and especially for the simple Bald Pat as pictured in that episode, that would be unrealistic. Too much hassle for a house-servant like Bald Pat.

    But in both cases, Joyce would be using a verb here with a normal meaning already present in the English language. That would not be one of his typical neologisms.

    That's not unimportant for the stylistic effect.

    The last German translator of Ulysses invents a German verb "mitraisieren" ('mitra-ize') to render the verb, which cannot be pictured clearly by a German reader. The latter at best will think of "Mitra" 'bishop's hat', which may (or may indeed NOT) call up a remote association to the intended meaning here. I am practically sure that this translator hadn't understood the English meaning, let alone realized that Joyce was simply using a common word for a very common household operation, with no poetical depth to it whatsoever.
    Last edited by ElizaD; 07-06-2016 at 07:47 AM. Reason: typo corrected

  4. #4
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,168
    In my mother's old copy of Mrs Beeton's Household Management there were photographs of different ways of folding up table napkins to decorate the table.

    The bishop's mitre was one of the simpler styles. Here it is http://www.westsuffolk.ac.uk/wswin/d...7c38e20783.jpg
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jackson Richardson View Post
    In my mother's old copy of Mrs Beeton's Household Management there were photographs of different ways of folding up table napkins to decorate the table.

    The bishop's mitre was one of the simpler styles.
    Thank you, too.

    Yes, that is a mitre quite similar to the one I found on my plate when I went out for lunch on Whitsun (the Whitsun one was made of paper, but certainly it would be possible to make this of cloth as well, as your picture shows). But this didn't appear to me to be a simple style. Higher origami, rather. I didn't even dare to unfold this minor work of art but took it home as a souvenir.---And that is why I wondered that the house servant Bald Pat would be doing such a sophisticated job on the napkins.

    But also if Bald Pat is intended to be making bishop's mitres of the napkins, that would not be a particularly poetic use of the verb, let alone a neologism, a presupposition apparently guiding this last German translator of Ulysses.

    (Must try to find detailed directions myself on how to mitre a table napkin. :-))
    Last edited by ElizaD; 06-16-2016 at 04:38 AM.

  6. #6
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Yorkshire
    Posts
    4,828
    Blog Entries
    29
    If I remember my O level woodwork, a mitred joint is a right angled joint but with the two facing sides cut to 45%. I think mitred is just folded or cut diagonally - like a bishops hat, but not sure which came first?
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 06-16-2016 at 05:12 AM.
    ay up

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    7
    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    If I remember my O level woodwork, a mitred joint is a right angled joint but with the two facing sides cut to 45%. I think mitred is just folded or cut diagonally...
    EXACTLY. If the napkins are mitred by the house servant, that could also mean merely folding and producing angles of 45 degrees. So if Bald Pat mitres the napkins, only this one first step might be meant, not him going all the way and folding the piece in the fastidious style of Jackson's Household book, to make mitres of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    - like a bishops hat, but not sure which came first?
    Nobody seems to be certain. The OED has two entries for mitre, mitre 1 referring to the bishop's hat, together with a verb for the case when an archbishop consecrates a bishop by giving him the mitre, mitre 2 for the woodwork expression you mention.

    There is also a reference to a Guide to Needlework of 1880 explaining that to make proper corners of straight edged material, the material's hem in those places has to be mitred. Obviously also that is the use you are referring to.

    The OED says it is possible that mitre 2 might be derived from mitre 1 on account of the angles of that hat. But the OED has no specimen of a use showing the transition. THAT I would be interested in!

    In view of this 1880 Guide to Needlework quoted in the OED I think one might uphold that James Joyce did not have to invent the verb mitre 2 (?) for Pat's operation; mitre 2 was quite a denizen of the language, not restricted to VERY technical use, already in 1904 (the year Joyce situates his Bloomsday in) or in 1922 when Ulysses appeared..
    Last edited by ElizaD; 06-16-2016 at 10:47 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    Posts
    1,168
    I looked at the online OED and I was certain that the noun initially meant headgear. It was used of a bishop's headgear as early as the 1300s.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Posts
    7
    That's true. The examples of mitre 2 'bevel at the corners' are of a later date.

    But that may be a coincidence.

    And even if the earlier appearance of mitre 1 'bishop's headgear' in the language were a 100% certain, mitre 2 might still come from another word. (Which at present I can't believe..., but that doesn't count)

    Incidentally, today is June 16: Merry Bloomsday to everybody!
    Last edited by ElizaD; 06-16-2016 at 02:42 PM.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •