Girdle

(g hard). A good name is better than a golden girdle. A good name is better than money. It used to be customary to carry money in the girdle, and a girdle of gold meant a “purse of gold.” The French proverb,

Bonne renommée vaut mieux que ceinture dorée, ” refers rather to the custom of wearing girdles of gold tissue, forbidden, in 1420, to women of bad character.

Children under the girdle.
Not yet born.

“All children under the girdle at the time of marriage are held to be legitimate.” —Notes and Queries.

If he be angry, he knows how to turn his girdle (Much Ado about Nothing, v. 1). If he is angry, let him prepare himself to fight, if he likes. Before wrestlers, in ancient times, engaged in combat, they turned the buckle of their girdle behind them. Thus, Sir Ralph Winwood writes to Secretary Cecil:

“I said `What I spoke was not to make him angry.' He replied, `If I were angry, I might turn the buckle of my girdle behind me.”' —Dec. 17, 1802.

He has a large mouth but small girdle. Great expenses but small means. The girdle is the purse or purse-pocket. (See above.)

He has undone her girdle.
Taken her for his wedded wife. The Roman bride wore a chaplet of flowers on her head, and a girdle of sheep's wool about her waist. A part of the marriage ceremony was for the bridegroom to loose this girdle. (Vaughan: Golden Grove.)

The Persian regulation-girdle.
In Persia a new sort of “Procrustes Bed” is adopted, according to Kemper. One of the officers of the king is styled the “chief holder of the girdle,” and his business is to measure the ladies of the harem by a sort of regulation-girdle. If any lady has outgrown the standard, she is reduced, like a jockey, by spare diet; but, if she falls short thereof, she is fatted up, like a Strasburg goose, to regulation size.

(See Procrustes.)

To put a girdle round the earth.
To travel or go round it. Puck says, “I'll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes.” (Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 2.)

Girdle

(Florimel's). The prize of a grand tournament in which Sir Satyrane and several others took part. It was dropped by Florimel, picked up by Sir Satyrane, and employed by him to bind the monster sent in her pursuit; but it came again into the hands of the knight, who kept it in a golden casket. It was a “gorgeous girdle made by Vulcan for Venus, embossed with pearls and precious stones;” but its chief virtue was

It gave the virtue of chaste love,
And wifehood true to all that it did bear;
But whosoever contrary doth prove
Might not the same about her middle wear,
But it would loose, or else asunder tear.

Spenser: Faerie Queene, book iii. canto vii. 31.

King Arthur's Drinking Horn, and the Court Mantel in Orlando Furioso, possessed similar virtues.

Girdle

(St. Colman's) would meet only round the chaste.

In Ireland it yet remains to be proved whether
St. Colman's girdle has not lost its virtue

[the reference is to Charles S. Parnell]. —Nineteenth Century, Feb., 1891, p. 206.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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