The Damsel and the Puddle: A Chivalrous Man's Dilemma

As I was walking down the street just a moment ago, I came across a puddle where the sidewalk dipped down at the intersection. Making a hop-skip over it, I noticed that coming the other direction was a soon to be damsel in distress. …Distressed in that there would be no chivalrous male (i.e. me) to throw down his jacket over the puddle so that she may tread upon it without fear of damage or dirt coming to dainty feet.
Well, for one thing I had no jacket. But more importantly is just–buh? I AIN’T GONNA DROP MY COAT ON A PUDDLE SO YOU CAN WALK ON IT!
So I had to wonder where exactly this traditional act of honor came from. It doesn’t seem likely to me that men’s jackets were more waterproofed on a general basis than they are these days–and the self-drying jacket that Michael J Fox wore in Back to the Future (3?) has yet to be invented. So, treading on a cloth jacket lying on a puddle would have little effect except to make the jacket get wetter–while still getting a good bit of liquid on the feet of the treader. Mud, however, might be a good target as even if the water gets through, at least the dirt won’t. …But that would be even worse for the jacket.

In short, is there any historical accuracy to men actually going to such lengths? Or if not, where in the heck did such a story come from?

Doesn’t it all stem from Sir Walter Raleigh? - he allegedly spread his cape over a puddle for Queen Elizabeth to cross - although I think many historians regard this tale as apocryphal. Or was Raleigh (if we accept ut happened) not actually doing anything novel?

As to the logistics of it; in the historical context, we’re probably talking about a muddy patch in an earthen path, rather than a puddle of clear water sitting in a paved depression.

Considering the lack of plumbing at the time, where people chucked the contents of their bed chambers out into the street so it could run down the middle of the street, it was probably considered a much more chivalrous act then, than now.

Well if Elizabeth 1st was as notorious a head chopper as history portrays her, then I can understand it. But I think brown nosing is more accurate a term than chivalrous in this case, if it has any truth.

Although you would run the risk of getting slapped, if you really wanted to help said dame, you should offer to carry her over the puddle :slight_smile:


Hm. Well that sounds like a probable beginning for this to have been added to the list.

But, we can still pull out their chairs and open the door for them, so chivalry isn’t all lost. (Though splitting the bill seems to be best these days.)