Flunec is an also-ran among fictional wines. Jonathan Swift wrote, in Gulliver’s Travels,

I had, the evening before, drunk plentifully of a most delicious wine called glimigrim, (the Blefuscudians call it flunec, but ours is esteemed the better sort,) which is very diuretic.

Glimigrim, the more esteemed wine of the Lilliputians, has gone on to very minor fame and fortune as a word (there’s a real wine named for it), but flunec, the wine of the Blefuscudians, has not. Leaving aside what the wine is used for in the story, and leaving aside too the interesting ramifications of preferring – by satirical analogy – early eighteenth-century English wines to those of France, I will merely observe that the drug company Nortech missed a lovely opportunity when it named an anti-fungal cream (and not a diuretic) Flunec.

rere sopers

It’s common advice, if not universally agreed, that large meals right before bedtime are bad for one’s health. This conviction has been around for quite a long time. Middle English educational texts warn again eating “rere sopers”, or late suppers. “rere” is the same word as the modern “rear”, evolving out of Anglo-French. (See OED rear-, comb. form) These meals were a sign of gluttony (a vice) in food and therefore, quite likely, a sign of overindulgence in life in general.

In “How the Goode Man Taght Hys Sone” (“How the Good Man taught his Son”), the fifteenth-century author warns,

And loke thou wake not to longe,
Neydur use no rere sopers to late;
For were thy complexion never so stronge,
Wyth surfett thou mayste fordo that.

(“And mind you don’t stay awake too long / nor eat rere sopers too late, / for were your complexion ever so robust, / with excess, you might do it in.”)

Other authors are no more approving, with John Lydgate, in his fifteenth-century bestseller, The Dietary, advising that his reader should “Suffre no surfitis in thyn hous at nyht, / War of rer sopers and of gret excesse.” (“Suffer no excess in your house at night, / beware of rere sopers and of great excess.”)

Finally, Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s early fourteenth-century work, Handlyng Synne, warns that “Rere sopers yn pryvyte, / with glotonye, eachone they be”. You may eat your rere soper in private, but that doesn’t make each of them any less gluttonous. Unlike the other authors, however, he continues on in more obliging detail, explaining some of the other problems with eating rere sopers, such as the danger of eating after midnight on Thursday, when Friday is a day of fasting on water and bread only. (lines 7279-7290) Really, Mannyng is an advocate of every meal in its place. Early dinners are no better than rere sopers, he believes. (l. 7292)

Rere sopers are only mentioned in order to tell the reader to not eat them, but at least, as a result, these Middle English authors provide their label for late suppers, a mealtime which, however deplored, was common enough to earn a fixed name.

*© S. Worthen 2009