Will's word

11th June 2004 at 01:00
Dainty (adjective) delicately pretty, attractively presented, fastudious

All the modern senses were available to Shakespeare, but we must be careful not to read them into every use of the word. It would be possible to find the "delicate" sense in Prospero's description of "dainty Ariel" (The Tempest, V.i.95), for example, but hardly when the schoolmaster addresses the powerful Duke Theseus as a "dainty Duke" (Two Noble Kinsmen, III.v.113). Here the word means "excellent, splendid". The associations between words (the collocations) have also changed over the centuries. In its sense of "refined, fastidious" we find Costard's description of Don Armado as "a most dainty man" (Love's Labour's Lost, IV.i.145) and a countryman's description of a schoolmaster as a "dainty dominie" (Two Noble Kinsmen, II.ii.40) - neither likely collocations today. And we need to be on the lookout for ambiguity. When Richard tells Joan la Pucelle, talking about Charles the Dauphin, "No shape but his can please your dainty eye" (Henry VI Part 1, V.iii.38), he is not being nice about her eyes, but scoffing at what she has seen with them.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now