hist-games: Domino tangent

Ed Hopkins Ed.Hopkins at MCI.Com
Sun Jul 20 16:34:00 PDT 1997

The OED (First Edition) gives the first English definition of "domino"
as "A kind of loose cloak, apparently of Venetian origin, chiefly worn
at masquerades, with a small mask covering the upper part of the face,
by persons not personating a character." They give a citation from
1719, and another from 1736 that says, "Domino...the habit of a
Venetian nobleman, very much in use at our modern masquerades."

However, "The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes" tells the following
story about Francois Rabelais (who died in 1553, (and whose book
"Gargantua and Pantagruel" provides a handy list of games from the
Period (Alfredo adds in a desparate parenthetical attempt to stay on

   A short time before Rabelais died he put on a domino
   (cloak and mask) and was seen sitting by his bed in
   this unusual garb.  Reproached for being so frivolous
   at this dark and serious hour, he quipped in Latin,
   "Beati qui in Domino moriuntur"  (Blessed are they
   who die in the Lord -- or -- in a domino).

So either someone attached this story to Rabelais long after he died,
or people used domino cloak-and-masks frivolously a century and a half
before anyone wrote about them in English.

-- Alfredus Scurra
Elvegast, Windmasters' Hill, Atlantia
There's no need for argument. 
There's no argument at all.
And if you never hear from him 
That just means he didn't call.
           -- Van Morrison

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