I came across a copy of the Girl’s Own Paper from 1912, and was very intrigued by the handwork section, and in particular, by the spellings in the handwork section.
You see, the Girl’s Own Paper spells doily d’oilie.
How peculiar! At first I thought it might just have been an old-fashioned term for doily, and I have never noticed it before.
To make matters more confusing, the magazines ads spell it d’oyley
So I thought a bit more, and realised that I was sure I had read 19th century articles about doilies, and d’oyleys, but never d’oilies.
So I did a bit of research, and guess what? I can’t find a single mention of d’oilies or by that spelling in anything but the Girl’s Own Paper.
New Zealand newspapers from the turn of the century spell it doily, d’oyley, doyley, and doilie, with the first spelling being vastly more common, and the last only appearing for a brief period at the turn of the century.
But why all the variants?
I think I have an idea. The spelling of doily as d’oyley or doyley has become outdated in recent years, but a January 1895 Bruce Herald newspaper carried this article:
The word doyley, now a familiar one with ladies, is derived from the name of Robery D’Oyley, one of the followers of William the Norman. He received a grant of valuable lands on the condition of a yearly tender of tablecloths of the value of three shillings on the feast of St Michael. Agreeably to the fashions of the time the ladies of the D’Oyley household were accustom to embroidery and ornament the quit-rent tablecloths; hence these cloths becoming curiosities and accumulating in the course of years, were at length brought into use as napkins at the royal table and called doyleys.
There is another explanation for the origin of the word doily, which might help to explain the variants in spelling. Apparently there was a 17th century draper in London named Doiley, who gave his name to a cheap but fine wool. It’s not surprising that, amongst the exuberantly unregulated spellings of the 17th and 18th centuries, one textile named doyley became confused with another named doiley, and the trimmed table mats adopted the ‘oi’
Hmmm.. So it seems that d’oyley became doyley, which picked up an ‘oi’ and was also rendered as doily, doiley, and doilie, and the last was returned to its origin with the addition of an ‘ , becoming d’oilie. Fascinating.
I’m not sure why the Girl’s Own Paper devised upon its own distinct spelling? Was this an attempt to make the doily sound even more elegant and gentrified? “Add an apostrophe to it Mabel and it will sound French! D’oilie is tres elegante, no?”
So use whichever you want, as long as you can ignore the fact that most spellchecks only accepts doily!
And for more doily stuff , check out this cute 1940’s d’oyley case on flickr