02 July 2009

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Henry Mayhew and the word pure

My post below on the likelihood of justice for Neda Agha Soltani featured a quote from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

"The massive propaganda of the foreign media, as well as other evidence, proves the interference of the enemies of the Iranian nation who want to take political advantage and darken the pure face of the Islamic republic."

I am sure, Ahmadinejad probably meant pure in the sense of the face being homogeneous, free from impurities, containing nothing extraneous, faultless or even chaste

The problem for an anal retentive like myself or teh not-wife) is that we tend to think of pure in the sense of one of its older meanings and one that seems to have fallen into disuse in the 20th Century (or we would not have a chaine of tanning salos called Pure Tanning!) and is certinly dead in teh 21st.

The word pure was used as a noun meaning dog dung dog eggs, dog shit or whatever one wishes to call it. Dog shitwas used in the tanning industry and apparently got its name for its cleansing properties.

19th Century social commentator Henry Mayhew had this to say pure and pure finders in his book “London Labour and the London Poor” (I found the online text here).

"The pure finders meet with a ready market for all the dogs'-dung they are able to collect, at the numerous tanyards in Bermondsey, where they sell it by the stable bucket full, and get from 8d. to 10d. per bucket, and sometimes from 1s. to 1s.2d. for it, according to its quality. The 'dry limy–looking sort' fetches the highest price at some yards as it is found to possess more of the alkaline or purifying properties; but others are found to prefer the dark moist quality. Strange as it may appear, the preference for a particular kind has suggested to the finders of Pure the idea of adulterating it to a very considerable extent; this is effected by means of mortar broken away from old walls, and mixed up with the whole mass, which it closely resembles……

...The pure collected is used by leather-dressers and tanners, and more especially by those engaged in the manufacture of morocco and kid leather from the skins of old and young goats…. In the manufacture of moroccos and roans the pure is rubbed by the hands of the workman into the skin he is dressing. This is done to 'purify' the leather, I was told by an intelligent leatherdresser, and from that term the word 'pure' has originated. The dung has astringent as well as highly alkaline, or, to use the expression of my informant, 'scouring,' qualities. When the pure has been rubbed into the flesh and grain of the skin (the 'flesh' being originally the interior, and the 'grain' the exterior part of the cuticle), and the skin, thus purified, has been hung up to be dried, the dung removes, as it were, all such moisture as, if allowed to remain, would tend to make the leather unsound or imperfectly dressed.

The number of pure-finders I heard estimated, by a man well acquainted with the tanning and other departments of the leather trade, at from 200 to 250. The finders, I was informed by the same person, collected about a pail-full a day, clearing 6s. a week in the summer -- 1s. and 1s. 2d. being the charge for a pail-full; in the short days of winter, however, and in bad weather, they could not collect five pail-fulls in a week."

While Ahmadinejad certainly did not mean the "dog shit" face of Islam when he used the word pure. However but he and his puppet master Khamenei certainly among those who tarnish it.


James Higham said...

Still scratching my head over this one.

jams o donnell said...

Just that pure also means dog shit as well as virginal!