The Bespoken Word

I am reading the Fifty Shades trilogy—and enjoying it. Sure, I wish I’d been the one to write the year’s run-away bestselling trilogy, but what the heck. Maybe the ladies and gents who write erotic romance will see some improvement in sales; maybe we’ll start to see romance covers that actually reflect the book, and not what male book buyers from twenty years ago thought would sell to women (one explanation I’ve heard for the cookie-cutter clinch covers).

The Fifty Shades books are set in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, and for the most part, the syntax and vocabulary are seamlessly appropriate to American characters and that region. Ms. James’ author blurb says she’s “based in West London,” though, which might explain why her characters refer to a custom made suit as “bespoke.” The hero (he’s a hero by the end of the trilogy, anyway) is fabulously wealthy, and looks ever so handsome in his bespoke suits.

I had to look the word up. I know what spoken for means, I know what bespoken means, but bespoke was a little hazy. I love it when that happens, and I have to look a word up. So here’s what dear old OED has to say:

bespoken adj. 2 spec. of goods; ordered to be made, as distinguished from ready-made adj. and n.; also said of a tradesman who makes goods to order. Also n., a bespoke article.

1755   C. Charke Narr. Life 203   At length the bespoke Play was to be enacted.

1866   Chambers’s Encycl. VIII. 691/1   The shoemaking trade is divided into two departments—the bespoke and the ready-made or sale business.

 Couldn’t have bespoken it better myself.

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