Words: Beguine, n.

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The Independent Culture
THIS DANCE is Cole Porter's. "Begin the Beguine" appeared in his 1935 royal satire Jubilee. Its Martinique origins are more complex than the OED records.

It was perhaps first known there as the bel air. Porter himself recalled that in Twenties Paris the bandleader would set the rhythm with a drum, then start the dance with the signal "beguine". Its seductive pace echoes the French word - beguin - for a fancy or infatuation.

More difficult than seduction itself , the song took a while to gain wide recognition, with Artie Shaw's version. But are there religious echoes? It was a medieval order named after Lambert le Begue, so called because he stammered. This order was chaste, the Dutch less so: nuns could leave and marry - end the beguine, one might say.

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