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I was reading a pamphlet from the year 1592, published in London, and came across a rather obsolete and bewitching phrase:

"The Foxe on a time came to visit the Gray, partly for kindered cheefly for craft, and finding the hole emptie of all other company, sauing onely one Badger enquiring the cause of his solitarinesse: hee described the sodaine death of his dam and sire with the rest of his consortes. The Foxe made a Friday face, counterfeiting sorrow: but concludinge that deaths stroke was vneuitable perswaded him to seeke som fit mate wherwith to match. The badger soone agreed, so forth they went, and in their way met with a wa[n]ton ewe stragling from the fold..."

Does anyone have an idea what "Friday face" would have meant in Elizabethan London's context, since today it certainly has borne a context most different?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 3:05

1 Answer 1

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A dictionary from 1793 gives the answer:

Friday face, a dismal countenance, before and even long after the reformation. Friday was a day of abstinence or jour maigre.

Blackguardiana

(Note that your source clarifies that it is only “counterfeiting sorrow”.)

For some more context, certain Christian groups (eg Catholics) were prohibited from eating meat on Fridays. Some Christians still observe this (even if only during Lent). See Are Meatless Fridays Still a Thing? Does it Matter?

If I were translating for the Modern English reader, I would use the expression “Monday face” or “☹️”.

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  • If I were translating for the modern English reader, I would add the word "hangry" in parentheses. 😆
    – Kat
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 9:57
  • ha ha jour maigre and for Catholics, fish only.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 13:56

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