[PW] The sable race

Bristol Library bplref at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 13:10:25 PDT 2015

I think sable is a fairly well known word meaning black. In fact, the OED
lists it as such, and adds "The identity of the word with SABLE is commonly
assumed though some difficulty is presente3d by the fact that the fur of
the sable, as now known, is not black but brown."  It goes on to say it may
be that it was customary to dye sable skins black to contrast with ermine.
There follows numerous examples of the word used to mean dark or black,
including lines from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Thackery.  It was also used
to denote mourning clothes.


On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 6:46 AM, Carolyn Haley <dcma at vermontel.net> wrote:

> At 04:44 AM 4/23/2015, Andy wrote:
>> > In this phrase, "sable" probably refers to the heraldic term for the
>> color black. By analogy, white folks would be "the argent race". (OK,
>> argent literally is silver, but in heraldry it's used to mean the color
>> white).
> Interesting.
> I took the remark to be a reference to animal color (sables coming in a
> full range of browns to black), not only because I'm not well versed in
> heraldry, but didn't expect the original speaker to be, either. Then again,
> that was late 1700s. Was heraldry a more commonly understood thing during
> that period, in America?
> --Carolyn
> P.S.: Hi, Andy, from a fellow Vermonter!
> ***********************************************************
> Carolyn Haley
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