Loppestere Pyjámas

Happy April Fool’s Day! In case it isn’t completely obvious, this is a joke post. There’s only one real piece of information below. Can you find it?

loppstereIn the Somerset Fragments, written during the 14th C, we find a curious passage. The text was written by a fifth son of a prominent family whose name was originally signed on several documents, but was destroyed over time by water damage on the ms. The text contains a collection household accounts, fragments copied from a psalter, and personal accounts. From the surviving pages, which are estimated to be only half of the original ms, we can ascertain that the unknown man traveled to the east (east of what has yet to be determined) and was amused by the variety of figures he encountered. We can make out that he received “michel mirþe” from the foreign dress and could only record his impressions once he had “cesed to laughe”:

In þe eest þe habbaþ wæde þæt þey clepan “Loppestere Pyjámas,” which ys pantalons þæt þey wearan for slepynge. Þys pantalons hæbbaþ hymages on þem of Loppsteres eke Crabbes eke all manere of Crustacea þæt are on lyfe inne þe se. Þe ȝonge folke wearan þe Loppestere Pyjamas nat oonlie to bedde, but alswe to werke eke to scule. Þe olde folke ne wearan þe Loppestere Pyjamas, butan þey are seke, for þey þinc þem foolishe, ac verye comfee.

From this passage, we can ascertain several things. First, this manner of dress existed during the 14th C. This overturns a great deal of study which first dated the roots of the word “pyjamas” as entering the language at the turn of the 19th C. This piece of information is of great value to English language study. Second, we may determine that crustaceans were figures of honor, as evidenced by the writer’s need to capitalize all references. This justifies his amusement at the juxtaposition of seeing such important creatures depicted on what he would likely have regarded as an undergarment. Finally, we may determine that the author’s travel writings were dear to him, as they occupy the same space in a bound volume as his household accounts and his religious material. Either he was a man with an interested consideration for foreign cultures, or he had little sense of order in the production of expensive literary material.

The Somerset Fragments were discovered in the late 19th C, but had been hoarded away in a safety deposit box for nearly a hundred years, only discovered recently when the current owner failed to pay the rental fee, leading to confiscation of the property. The family refuses to name the ms’s owner who originally hid it away, but have hinted that he may have been a modernist dedicated to the perpetuating the idea of “the Dark Ages.” Scathing comments on his goals will soon begin circulating in social media.


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