Misty and moisty

Being by the sea we often wake to mist in the morning and usually it blows away or is burned away by the sun, it’s what we call a sea fret. there are lots of meanings of the word fret, it can be a verb meaning to be anxious or to worry about something, it can be that piece of  wood across the neck of a guitar, it can also apparently be a strait or a channel. A sea fret, also known by the Dutch word haar, is a mist or fog which comes off the sea and hangs around along the coast, and the word originates in that sense from the north-east of England.

Looking out on the misty morning an old nursery rhyme always pops into my head:

One misty, moisty, morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
Clothéd all in leather
Cclothéd all in leather,
With a strap under his chin.
And how do you do?
And how do you do?
And how do you do again?

I began to wonder if it actually had any specific origin or if it was just one of those funny little rhymes which just arose out of someone actually meeting an old man dressed in leather on one foggy morning. Apparently it was a verse from a longer sixteenth century song, The Wiltshire wedding, about the marriage of Daniel Do-well and Doll the dairymaid; her old Father Leather-coat and Mother Plodwell were characters in the song. It was later used in John Gaye’s Beggar’s Opera in 1728, and again in Brecht’s Threepenny Opera… Fancy that!!


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