New Hampshire Slanguage: Muffler

Illustration of muffler styles from Shakespeare's time, from "Illustrations of Shakspeare, and of Ancient Manners with Disserations," by Francis Douce.

Illustration of muffler styles from Shakespeare’s time, from “Illustrations of Shakspeare, and of Ancient Manners with Disserations,” by Francis Douce.

Before the automobile was invented, the term muffler was an entirely different item than a metal tail pipe. It  was, instead, an object of clothing, worn to keep dust, dirt, or the extremes of sun and cold from the mouth and face. Though commonly thought interchangeable with the common neck scarf, the muffler was specific to covering the nose, mouth, and chin.

The word is an old English one, in common use in Shakespeare’s time (he died in 1616). The ‘muffler‘ is mentioned in his Merry Wives of Windsor that he published in 1602.

In the reign of Charles I (1625-1649) it was common for the ladies to wear masks which covered the eyebrows and nose, holes being left for the eyes. Sometimes, but not always, the mouth was covered, and the chin guarded with a sort of muffler then called a chin-cloth; these were chiefly used to keep off the sun. Continue reading