The smell of decadence?

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The advertisement was for Yardley Baroque perfume and described it as a decadent new fragrance. The lady in the ad looked more renaissance than baroque. And where did the decadent come in? I decided to ask...


Dear Sir,

Christmas is a time when, amongst other things, I get to read some of my wife's magazines with impunity. It is a simple pleasure normally only briefly dabbled with in dentists waiting rooms.

While the heirs apparent are off trying to break their necks on breaking waves I slink in the bushes and read magazines. On the whole, it keeps me out of the midday sun and, by and large, is fairly harmless.

Or so I thought.

It was in this manner that I came across your advertisement for 'Baroque' perfume.

A decadent new fragrance, it said.

Decadent? I puzzled. How can a fragrance be decadent?

The lady in the ad was certainly attractive (Shh! Not a word to my wife; she thinks I'm reading the recipes.) but her looks, jewellry and firmly trussed breasts seemed to me to be more renaissance than baroque.

But I am willing to concede that point.

Looking at the lady various words spring to mind: sultry, sophisticated, intriguing, robust even.

But was she decadent, I wondered.

I then spent some idle time in the shade pondering the origin of the word 'decadent'. In the end I convinced myself that it may come from deca-, ten; and dent, teeth.

Was this a fragrance with teeth, I mulled.

The lady herself was showing no teeth. Perhaps the decadence came if you used teeth to gnaw through the lacing...but you would probably have your teeth knocked out if you tried.

By this stage I was starting to sweat, even in the shade, and put the advertisement away.

Back home, in the name of research, I gained dispensation to return to the ad. I consulted the Shorter Oxford and found out that 'decadent' came from de-, down and cadere, to fall.

Okay, well certainly things may fall down if you gnawed through the bodice lacing but I suspected, given the age of the lady, it would be the gnawee, possibly the gnawer but almost certainly not the lady herself that fell down.

Reluctantly I felt that I had to get my mind away from that train of thought. Whimpering is a social impediment at the best of times and if 'they' catch me dribbling again it will be the last hurdle needed to shoot me off to Happy Valley Retirement Home and Sanitorium for the Terminally Addled.

Time to regroup: a brief reappraisal told me that what I had before me was a beautiful lady, tightly bound, who smelt as if she was going to fall down.

The symbolism was awesome.

I pondered it for a while but I felt something snap and I had to go and lie down for a while.

I think I may have stripped a thread.

And if the ad has this affect, what of the perfume itself?

Yours, prostrate with teeth, J. Cosmo Newbery II.



They replied saying that the etymology of decadent did indeed originate from 'falling down' but that the word has for some time been used colloqually to mean 'wicked self indulgent' and that this was the meaning they had hoped to evoke in their advertisement.

They very kindly send a bottle of 'Baroque' for me to try out on my wife.