Messes

Antlers

Member
Swedish
In the movie Effie Gray I came across this word. It does not refer to any of the forms of the word "mess." Apparently it is some sort of nostrum/liquor/medicine, but I cannot find any information on it. Anyone who knows what it is?
 
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Antlers, please tell us more about the context, including - in particular - the complete sentence in which the word "messes" appeared. It would also be useful to know more about the film and the character who said the word.
     

    Antlers

    Member
    Swedish
    Antlers, please tell us more about the context, including - in particular - the complete sentence in which the word "messes" appeared. It would also be useful to know more about the film and the character who said the word.


    Thanks for your response. Below is an excerpt from the dialogue.
    The housekeeper tells newly married Effie Gray, a young woman who is sick:

    "Mrs Ruskin says you should take this."
    "What is it?"
    "Messes. She swears by it."
    "What's in it?"
    "I do not know, madam."


    Not much is known about the housekeeper, but it seems to be of marginal relevance to me.
    Here is a short synopsis of the movie:


    1. In Victorian England, the virginal wife of critic John Ruskin seeks an annulment of their marriage so that she can marry his protege, Everett Millais.
    I guess I should throw in the disclaimer that the word may be misspelled, but it appeared in the subtitle, so should ​be accurate.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I think the line is likely:
    (The) missus, she swears buy it. "Missus" (a pronunciation of Mrs or mistress) and "she" being the same person.
    Jane swears by it. Jane, she swears by it.
     

    Antlers

    Member
    Swedish
    I think the line is likely:
    (The) missus, she swears buy it. "Missus" (a pronunciation of Mrs or mistress) and "she" being the same person.
    Jane swears by it. Jane, she swears by it.


    You make me feel so stupid. "Missus" makes much more sense and reminds me one cannot blindly trust the subtitles. Matter of fact, listening to it again, it doesn't even really sound like "messes". Anyway, thank you!
     

    HeauxMedia

    New Member
    English
    You make me feel so stupid. "Missus" makes much more sense and reminds me one cannot blindly trust the subtitles. Matter of fact, listening to it again, it doesn't even really sound like "messes". Anyway, thank you!
    You aren’t stupid. I’m currently watching Effie Gray and paused the movie to look this word up as well, the people replying are being rather ridiculous as you stated that it appears to be some kind of drug/medicine (vitamin/elixir from the Victorian era? Idk). But it’s some thick dark liquid, almost like syrup, that came from a small medicine like bottle (Effie Gray suspects her mother-in-law to be trying to poison her). I watched it with subtitles and it is spelled as “messes” not missus and the handmaid referred to the elixir as such, not Effie.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    Molasses was and is definitely bottled. I have some in my kitchen cabinet.
    But, if this takes place in Victorian England, would a housekeeper pronounce 'molasses' (accent on the second syllable) as 'messes' ? and in Victorian England wouldn't she call it 'treacle'?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It seems likely that the word really is "messes".

    Google has led me to The Order of Release: The Story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millais told for the First Time in their Unpublished Letters, the text of which is at Full text of "The Order Of Release". That text contains the following paragraph:
    After the parties Effie became seriously ill. The two doctors that were called in quarrelled over her case, and the unfortunate patient took ‘ more and more messes ’ in order to satisfy the doctors and Mrs. Ruskin, but with no avail.

    As to what those "messes" actually were, I wonder if the relevant OED definition might be this one, which does have several citations with messes plural:
    2a. A portion or serving of liquid or pulpy food such as milk, broth, porridge, boiled vegetables, etc.[...]
    c1330 [...]
    1645 J. Milton L'Allegro in Poems 34 Hearbs, and other Country Messes.
    1669 J. Worlidge Systema Agriculturæ iv. 37 The Meal makes..good Pottage, and several other Messes.
    1711 [...]
    1790 Coll. Voy. round World V. x. 1771 Having observed several messes of porpoise broth preparing.
    1834 [..]
    1884 Fortn. Rev. Mar. 379 They are fond of farinaceous messes.
    1931 A. Uttley Country Child xiii. 180 They..took out beautiful copper saucepans filled with savoury messes which they put on the stove.

    I wish I could find something more conclusive...
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It seems likely that the word really is "messes".

    Google has led me to The Order of Release: The Story of John Ruskin, Effie Gray and John Everett Millais told for the First Time in their Unpublished Letters, the text of which is at Full text of "The Order Of Release". That text contains the following paragraph:
    After the parties Effie became seriously ill. The two doctors that were called in quarrelled over her case, and the unfortunate patient took ‘ more and more messes ’ in order to satisfy the doctors and Mrs. Ruskin, but with no avail.

    As to what those "messes" actually were, I wonder if the relevant OED definition might be this one, which does have several citations with messes plural:
    2a. A portion or serving of liquid or pulpy food such as milk, broth, porridge, boiled vegetables, etc.[...]
    c1330 [...]
    1645 J. Milton L'Allegro in Poems 34 Hearbs, and other Country Messes.
    1669 J. Worlidge Systema Agriculturæ iv. 37 The Meal makes..good Pottage, and several other Messes.
    1711 [...]
    1790 Coll. Voy. round World V. x. 1771 Having observed several messes of porpoise broth preparing.
    1834 [..]
    1884 Fortn. Rev. Mar. 379 They are fond of farinaceous messes.
    1931 A. Uttley Country Child xiii. 180 They..took out beautiful copper saucepans filled with savoury messes which they put on the stove.

    I wish I could find something more conclusive...
    :thumbsup:
    Looks very good except all those are plurals. In the OP, "messes" seems to be referred to as singular, but there's uncertainty in the sound and subtitles. I recall the "mess of pottage" from Sunday school :)
     
    Last edited:

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'A mess of pottage' is a familiar literary expression, something that Biblical people sold their birthrights for, but I can't say I ever understood what 'mess' or 'pottage' meant (porridge? stew in a pot?). I've probably never encountered either of the relevant senses outside that expression.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    American English (New England and NYC)
    It seems likely that the word really is "messes".

    Google has led me to ...

    As to what those "messes" actually were, I...

    I wish I could find something more conclusive...
    Nice research, Loob!


    Esau (the only person in the Bible who sold his birthright for a meal) sold his birthright to Jacob because he had just come in from working in the field and was extremely hungry. The word in Hebrew (נָזִיד, Romanized as nazid) is translated sometimes as 'stew.'

    It's used figuratively for giving up on a future valuable thing so you can have a much less valuable thing in the present.
     

    AlliMo

    New Member
    American English
    Excited to find this thread! I see that Antlers started it in 2015. I’m watching Effie Gray for the first time in 2021 & had to pause after I heard the same thing from Anna. Since we’ve been unable to accurately explain what messes consist of, I’ll deduce it’s an old elixer probably made of ingredients that are illegal today. :(
     

    Leelaah

    New Member
    English - Ireland
    Sorry if replying to an old thread is a no no, as with many of you I too stopped to google what it could be to no avail, then it struck me that it could be Laudanum if im not getting my eras mixed up it was a popular if not dangerous tincture that was uaed back in those times. Could be something far less sinister but the colour of it and dark bottle make it look like it could be Laudanum.
     

    Leelaah

    New Member
    English - Ireland
    Nevermind, later in the film the doctor tending to Effie confirms the above..! 🙈
     
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