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The Romance of Words (4th ed.) By Ernest Weekley Characters: 31003

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

In a sense, all nomenclature, apart from purely scientific language, is popular. But real meanings are often so rapidly obscured that words become mere labels, and cease to call up the image or the poetic idea with which they were first associated. To take a simple instance, how many people realise that the daisy is the "day's eye"?-

"Wele by reson men it calle may

The dayeseye or ellis the 'eye of day.'"

(Chaucer, Legend of Good Women, Prol., l. 184.)

In studying that part of our vocabulary which especially illustrates the tendencies shown in popular name-giving, one is struck by the keen observation and imaginative power shown by our far-off ancestors, and the lack of these qualities in later ages.

Perhaps in no part of the language does this appear so clearly as in the names of plants and flowers. The most primitive way of naming a flower is from some observed resemblance, and it is curious to notice the parallelism of this process in various languages. Thus our crowfoot, crane's bill, larkspur, monkshood, snapdragon, are in German Hahnenfuss (cock's foot), Storchschnabel (stork's bill), Rittersporn (knight's spur), Eisenhut (iron hat), L?wenmaul (lion's mouth). I have purposely chosen instances in which the correspondence is not absolute, because examples like L?wenzahn (lion's tooth), dandelion (Fr. dent de lion) may be suspected of being mere translations. I give the names in most general use, but the provincial variants are numerous, though usually of the same type. The French names of the flowers mentioned are still more like the English. The more learned words which sometimes replace the above are, though now felt as mere symbols, of similar origin, e.g., geranium and pelargonium, used for the cultivated crane's bill, are derived from the Greek for crane and stork respectively. So also in chelidonium, whence our celandine or swallow-wort, we have the Greek for swallow.

In the English names of plants we observe various tendencies of the popular imagination. We have the crudeness of cowslip for earlier cowslop, cow-dung, and many old names of unquotable coarseness, the quaintness of Sweet William, lords and ladies, bachelors' buttons, dead men's fingers, and the exquisite poetry of forget-me-not, heart's ease, love in a mist, traveller's joy. There is also a special group named from medicinal properties, such as feverfew, a doublet of febrifuge, and tansy, Fr. tanaisie, from Greco-Lat. athanasia, immortality. We may compare the learned saxifrage, stone-breaker, of which the Spanish doublet is sassafras. The German name is Steinbrech.

There must have been a time when a simple instinct for poetry was possessed by all nations, as it still is by uncivilised races and children. Among European nations this instinct appears to be dead for ever. We can name neither a mountain nor a flower. Our Mount Costigan, Mount Perry, Mount William cut a sorry figure beside the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, the Monk, the Maiden, the Storm Pike, the Dark Eagle Pike.[24] Occasionally a race which is accidentally brought into closer contact with nature may have a happy inspiration, such as the Drakensberg (dragon's mountain) or Weenen[25] (weeping) of the old voortrekkers. But the Cliff of the Falling Flowers, the name of a precipice over which the Korean queens cast themselves to escape dishonour, represents an imaginative realm which is closed to us.[26] The botanist who describes a new flower hastens to join the company of Messrs Dahl, Fuchs, Lobel, Magnol and Wistar, while fresh varieties are used to immortalise a florist and his family.


The names of fruits, perhaps because they lend themselves less easily to imaginative treatment, are even duller than modern names of flowers. The only English names are the apple and the berry. New fruits either retained their foreign names (cherry, peach, pear, quince) or were violently converted into apples or berries, usually the former. This practice is common to the European languages, the apple being regarded as the typical fruit. Thus the orange is usually called in North Germany Apfelsine, apple of China, with which we may compare our "China orange." In South Germany it was called Pomeranze (now used especially of the Seville orange), from Ital. pomo, apple, arancia, orange. Fr. orange is folk-etymology (or, gold) for *arange, from Arab. narandj, whence Span. naranja. Melon is simply the Greek for "apple," and has also given us marmalade, which comes, through French, from Port. marmelada, quince jam, a derivative of Greco-Lat. melimelum, quince, lit. honey-apple. Pine-apple meant "fir-cone" as late as the 17th century, as Fr. pomme de pin still does.[27] The fruit was named from its shape, which closely resembles that of a fir-cone. Pomegranate means "apple with seeds." We also find the apricot, lemon (pomcitron), peach, and quince all described as apples.

At least one fruit, the greengage, is named from a person, Sir William Gage, a gentleman of Suffolk, who popularised its cultivation early in the 18th century. It happens that the French name of the fruit, reine-claude (pronounced glaude), is also personal, from the wife of Francis I.

Animal nomenclature shows some strange vagaries. The resemblance of the hippopotamus, lit. river-horse, to the horse, hardly extends beyond their common possession of four legs.[28] The lion would hardly recognise himself in the ant-lion or the sea-lion, still less in the chameleon, lit. earth-lion, the first element of which occurs also in camomile, earth-apple. The guinea-pig is not a pig, nor does it come from Guinea (see p. 51). Porcupine means "spiny pig." It has an extraordinary number of early variants, and Shakespeare wrote it porpentine. One Mid. English form was porkpoint. The French name has hesitated between spine and spike. The modern form is porc-épic, but Palsgrave has "porkepyn a beest, porc espin." Porpoise is from Old Fr. porpeis, for porc peis (Lat. porcus piscis), pig-fish. The modern French name is marsouin, from Ger. Meerschwein, sea-pig; cf. the name sea-hog, formerly used in English. Old Fr. peis survives also in grampus, Anglo-Fr. grampais for grand peis, big fish, but the usual Old French word is craspeis or graspeis, fat fish.

The caterpillar seems to have suggested in turn a cat and a dog. Our word is corrupted by folk-etymology from Old Fr. chatepeleuse, "a corne-devouring mite, or weevell" (Cotgrave). This probably means "woolly cat," just as a common species is popularly called woolly bear, but it was understood as being connected with the French verb peler, "to pill, pare, barke, unrinde, unskin" (Cotgrave). The modern French name for the caterpillar is chenille, a derivative of chien, dog. It has also been applied to a fabric of a woolly nature; cf. the botanical catkin, which is in French chaton, kitten.


Some animals bear nicknames. Dotterel means "dotard," and dodo is from the Port. doudo, mad. Ferret is from Fr. furet, a diminutive from Lat. fur, thief. Shark was used of a sharper or greedy parasite before it was applied to the fish. This, in the records of the Elizabethan voyagers, is more often called by its Spanish name tiburon, whence Cape Tiburon, in Haiti. The origin of shark is unknown, but it appears to be identical with shirk, for which we find earlier sherk. We find Ital. scrocco (whence Fr. escroc), Ger. Schurke, Du. schurk, rascal, all rendered "shark" in early dictionaries, but the relationship of these words is not clear. The palmer, i.e. pilgrim, worm is so called from his wandering habits. Ortolan, the name given by Tudor cooks to the garden bunting, means "gardener" (Lat. hortus, garden). It comes to us through French from Ital. ortolano, "a gardener, an orchard keeper. Also a kinde of daintie birde in Italie, some take it to be the linnet" (Florio). We may compare Fr. bouvreuil, bull-finch, a diminutive of bouvier, ox-herd. This is called in German Dompfaffe, a contemptuous name for a cathedral canon. Fr. moineau, sparrow, is a diminutive of moine, monk. The wagtail is called in French lavandière, laundress, from the up and down motion of its tail suggesting the washerwoman's beetle, and bergeronnette, little shepherdess, from its habit of following the sheep. Adjutant, the nickname of the solemn Indian stork, is clearly due to Mr Atkins, and the secretary bird is so named because some of his head feathers suggest a quill pen behind an ear.

The converse process of people being nicknamed from animals is also common and the metaphor is usually pretty obvious. An interesting case is shrew, a libel on a very inoffensive little animal, the shrew-mouse, Anglo-Sax. scrēawa. Cooper describes mus araneus as "a kinde of mise called a shrew, which if he go over a beastes backe he shall be lame in the chyne; if he byte it swelleth to the heart and the beast dyeth." This "information" is derived from Pliny, but the superstition is found in Greek. The epithet was, up to Shakespeare's time, applied indifferently to both sexes. From shrew is derived shrewd, earlier shrewed,[29] the meaning of which has become much milder than when Henry VIII. said to Cranmer-

"The common voice I see is verified

Of thee which says, 'Do my lord of Canterbury

A shrewd turn, and he's your friend for ever.'"

(Henry VIII., v. 2.)

The title Dauphin, lit. dolphin, commemorates the absorption into the French monarchy, in 1349, of the lordship of Dauphiné, the cognisance of which was three dolphins.

The application of animals' names to diseases is a familiar phenomenon, e.g., cancer (and canker), crab, and lupus, wolf. To this class belongs mulligrubs, for which we find in the 17th century also mouldy grubs. Its oldest meaning is stomach-ache, still given in Hotten's Slang Dictionary (1864). Mully is still used in dialect for mouldy, earthy, and grub was once the regular word for worm. The Latin name for the same discomfort was verminatio, from vermis, a worm. For the later transition of meaning we may compare megrims, from Fr. migraine, head-ache, Greco-Lat. hemicrania, lit. half-skull, because supposed to affect one side only of the head.

A good many names of plants and animals have a religious origin. Hollyhock is for holy hock, from Anglo-Sax. hoc, mallow: for the pronunciation cf. holiday. Halibut means holy butt, the latter word being an old name for flat fish; for this form of holy cf. halidom. Lady in names of flowers such as lady's bedstraw, lady's garter, lady's slipper, is for Our Lady. So also in lady-bird, called in French bête à bon Dieu and in German Marienk?fer, Mary's beetle. Here may be mentioned samphire, from Old Fr. herbe de Saint Pierre, "sampire, crestmarin" (Cotgrave). The filbert, earlier philibert, is named from St Philibert, the nut being ripe by St Philibert's day (22nd Aug.). We may compare Ger. Lambertsnuss, filbert, originally "Lombard nut," but popularly associated with St Lambert's day (17th Sept.).


The application of baptismal names to animals is a very general practice, though the reason for the selection of the particular name is not always clear. The most famous of such names is Renard the Fox. The Old French for fox is goupil, a derivative of Lat. vulpes, fox. The hero of the great beast epic of the Middle Ages is Renard le goupil, and the fact that renard now completely supplanted goupil shows how popular the Renard legends must have been. Renard is from Old High Ger. regin-hart, strong in counsel; cf. our names Reginald and Reynold, and Scot. Ronald, of Norse origin. From the same source come Chantecler, lit. sing-clear, the cock, and Partlet, the hen, while Bruin, the bear, lit. "brown," is from the Dutch version of the epic. In the Low German version, Reinke de Vos, the ape's name is Moneke, a diminutive corresponding to Ital. monicchio, "a pugge, a munkie, an ape" (Florio), the earlier history of which is much disputed. The cat was called Tibert or Theobald-

Mercutio. "Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?"

Tybalt. "What wouldst thou have with me?"

Mercutio. "Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives."

(Romeo and Juliet, iii. 1.)

The fact that the donkey was at one time regularly called Cuddy made Cuthbert for a long period unpopular as a baptismal name. He is now often called Neddy. The hare was called Wat (Walter) in Tudor times. In the Roman de Renard he is Couard, whence coward, a derivative of Old Fr. coue (queue), tail, from Lat. cauda. The idea is that of the tail between the legs, so that the name is etymologically not very appropriate to the hare. Parrot, for earlier perrot, means "little Peter." The extension Poll parrot is thus a kind of hermaphrodite. Fr. pierrot is still used for the sparrow. The family name Perrot is sometimes a nickname, "the chatterer," but can also mean literally "little Peter," just as Emmot means "little Emma," and Marriot "little Mary." Petrel is of cognate origin, with an allusion to St Peter's walking upon the sea; cf. its German name, Sankt Peters Vogel. Sailors call the petrel Mother Carey's chicken, probably a nautical corruption of some old Spanish or Italian name. But, in spite of ingenious guesses, this lady's genealogy remains as obscure as that of Davy Jones or the Jolly Roger.


Robin has practically replaced red-breast. The martin is in French martinet, and the name may have been given in allusion to the southward flight of this swallow about Martinmas; but the king-fisher, not a migrant bird, is called martin-pêcheur, formerly also martinet pêcheur or oiseau de Saint-Martin, so that martin may be due to some other association. Sometimes the double name survives. We no longer say Philip sparrow, but Jack ass, Jack daw, Jenny wren, Tom tit (see p. 123), and the inclusive Dicky bird, are still familiar. With these we may compare Hob (i.e. Robert) goblin. Madge owl, or simply Madge, was once common. For Mag pie we find also various diminutives-

"Augurs, and understood relations, have

By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth

The secret'st man of blood."

(Macbeth, iii. 4.)

Cotgrave has pie, "a pye, pyannat, meggatapie." In Old French it was also called jaquette, "a proper name for a woman; also, a piannat, or megatapie" (Cotgrave).

The connection of this word, Fr. pie, Lat. pica, with the comestible pie is uncertain, but it seems likely that the magpie's habit of collecting miscellaneous trifles caused its name to be given to a dish of uncertain constituents. It is a curious coincidence that the obsolete chuet or chewet meant both a round pie and a jackdaw.[30] It is uncertain in which of the two senses Prince Hal applies the name to Falstaff (1 Henry IV., v. 1). It comes from Fr. chouette, screech-owl, which formerly meant also "a chough, daw, jack-daw" (Cotgrave).

A piebald horse is one balled like a magpie. Ball is a Celtic word for a white mark, especially on the forehead; hence the tavern sign of the Baldfaced Stag. Our adjective bald is thus a past participle.

Things are often named from animals. Crane, kite, donkey-engine, monkey-wrench, pig-iron, etc., are simple cases. The crane picture is so striking that we are not surprised to find it literally reproduced in many other languages. The toy called a kite is in French cerf volant, flying stag, a name also applied to the stag-beetle, and in Ger. Drachen, dragon. It is natu

ral that terrifying names should have been given to early fire-arms. Many of these, e.g., basilisk, serpent, falconet, saker (from Fr. sacre, a kind of hawk), are obsolete-

"The cannon, blunderbuss, and saker,

He was th' inventor of and maker."

(Hudibras, i. 2.)

More familiar is culverin, Fr. couleuvrine, a derivative of couleuvre, adder, Lat. coluber-

"And thou hast talk'd

Of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents,

Of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets,

Of basilisks, of cannon, culverin."

(1 Henry IV., ii. 3.)

One name for a hand-gun was dragon, whence our dragoon, originally applied to a kind of mounted infantry or carbineers. Musket, like saker (v.s.), was the name of a hawk. Mistress Ford uses it playfully to her page-

"How now, my eyas[31]-musket, what news with you?"

(Merry Wives, iii. 3.)

But the hawk was so nicknamed from its small size. Fr. mousquet, now replaced in the hawk sense by émouchet, is from Ital. moschetto, a diminutive from Lat. musca, fly. Thus mosquito (Spanish) and musket are doublets.

Porcelain comes, through French, from Ital. porcellana, "a kinde of fine earth called porcelane, whereof they make fine china dishes, called porcellan dishes" (Florio). This is, however, a transferred meaning, porcellana being the name of a particularly glossy shell called the "Venus shell." It is a derivative of Lat. porcus, pig. Easel comes, with many other painters' terms, from Holland. It is Du. ezel, ass, which, like Ger. Esel, comes from Lat. asinus. For its metaphorical application we may compare Fr. chevalet, easel, lit. "little horse," and Eng. "clothes-horse."


Objects often bear the names of individuals. Such are albert chain, brougham, victoria, wellington boot. Some elderly people can remember ladies wearing a red blouse called a garibaldi.[32] Sometimes an inventor is immortalised, e.g., mackintosh and shrapnel, both due to 19th-century inventors. The more recent maxim is named from one who, according to the late Lord Salisbury, has saved many of his fellow-men from dying of old age. Other benefactors are commemorated in derringer, first recorded in Bret Harte, and bowie, which occurs in Dickens' American Notes. Sandwich and spencer are coupled in an old rime-

"Two noble earls, whom, if I quote,

Some folks might call me sinner;

The one invented half a coat,

The other half a dinner."

An Earl Spencer (1782-1845) made a short overcoat fashionable for some time. An Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) invented a form of light refreshment which enabled him to take a meal without leaving the gaming table. It does not appear that Billy Cock is to be classed with the above, or with Chesterfield, Chippendale & Co. The New English Dictionary quotes (from 1721) a description of the Oxford "blood" in his "bully-cocked hat," worn aggressively on one side. Pinchbeck was a London watchmaker (fl. c. 1700), and doily is from Doyley, a linen-draper of the same period. Etienne de Silhouette was French finance minister in 1759, but the application of his name to a black profile portrait is variously explained. Negus was first brewed in Queen Anne's reign by Colonel Francis Negus.

The first orrery was constructed by the Earl of Orrery (c. 1700). Galvani and Volta were Italian scientists of the 18th century. Mesmer was a German physician of the same period. Nicotine is named from Jean Nicot, French ambassador at Lisbon, who sent some tobacco plants to Catherine de Médicis in 1560. He also compiled the first Old French dictionary. The gallows-shaped contrivance called a derrick perpetuates the name of a famous hangman who officiated in London about 1600. It is a Dutch name, identical with Dietrich, Theodoric, and Dirk (Hatteraick). Conversely the Fr. potence, gallows, meant originally a bracket or support, Lat. potentia, power. The origin of darbies, handcuffs, is unknown, but the line-

"To bind such babes in father Derbies bands,"

(Gascoigne, The Steel Glass, 1576.)

suggests connection with some eminent gaoler or thief-taker.


Occasionally a verb is formed from a proper name. On the model of tantalise, from the punishment of Tantalus, we have bowdlerise, from Bowdler, who published an expurgated "family Shakespeare" in 1818; cf. macadamise. Burke and boycott commemorate a scoundrel and a victim. The latter word, from the treatment of Captain Boycott of Co. Mayo in 1880, seems to have supplied a want, for Fr. boycotter and Ger. boycottieren have become every-day words. Burke was hanged at Edinburgh in 1829 for murdering people by suffocation in order to dispose of their bodies to medical schools. We now use the verb only of "stifling" discussion, but in the Ingoldsby Legends it still has the original sense-

"But, when beat on his knees,

That confounded De Guise

Came behind with the 'fogle' that caused all this breeze,

Whipp'd it tight round his neck, and, when backward he'd jerk'd him,

The rest of the rascals jump'd on him and Burk'd him."

(The Tragedy.)

Jarvey, the slang name for a hackney coachman, especially in Ireland, was in the 18th century Jervis or Jarvis, but history is silent as to this modern Jehu. A pasquinade was originally an anonymous lampoon affixed to a statue of a gladiator which still stands in Rome. The statue is said to have been nicknamed from a scandal-loving cobbler named Pasquino. Florio has pasquino, "a statue in Rome on whom all libels, railings, detractions, and satirical invectives are fathered." Pamphlet is an extended use of Old Fr. Pamphilet, the name of a Latin poem by one Pamphilus which was popular in the Middle Ages. The suffix -et was often used in this way, e.g., the translation of ?sop's fables by Marie de France was called Ysopet, and Cato's moral maxims had the title Catonet, or Parvus Cato. Modern Fr. pamphlet, borrowed back from English, has always the sense of polemical writing. In Eng. libel, lit. "little book," we see a similar restriction of meaning. A three-quarter portrait of fixed dimensions is called a kitcat-

"It is not easy to see why he should have chosen to produce a replica, or rather a kitcat."

(Journal of Education, Oct. 1911.)

The name comes from the portraits of members of the Kitcat Club, painted by Kneller. Kit Kat, Christopher Kat, was a pastrycook at whose shop the club used to dine.

Implements and domestic objects sometimes bear christian names. We may mention spinning-jenny, and the innumerable meanings of jack. Davit, earlier daviot, is a diminutive of David. Fr. davier, formerly daviet, is used of several mechanical contrivances, including a pick-lock. A kind of davit is called in German Jütte, a diminutive of Judith. The implement by which the burglar earns his daily bread is now called a jemmy, but in the 17th century we also find bess and betty. The French name is rossignol, nightingale. The German burglar calls it Dietrich, Peterchen, or Klaus, and the contracted forms of the first name, dyrk and dirk, have passed into Swedish and Danish with the same meaning. In Italian a pick-lock is called grimaldello, a diminutive of the name Grimaldo.


A kitchen wench was once called a malkin-

"The kitchen malkin pins

Her richest lockram[33] 'bout her reechy neck,

Clamb'ring the walls to eye him."

(Coriolanus, ii. 1.)

This is a diminutive of Matilda or Mary, possibly of both. Grimalkin, applied to a fiend in the shape of a cat, is perhaps for gray malkin-

"I come, Graymalkin."

(Macbeth, i. 1.)

The name malkin was transferred from the maid to the mop. Cotgrave has escouillon (écouvillon), "a wispe, or dish-clowt; a maukin, or drag, to cleanse, or sweepe an oven." écouvillon is a derivative of Lat. scopa, broom. Now another French word, which means both "kitchen servant" and "dish-clout," is souillon, from souiller, to soil. What share each of these words has in Eng. scullion is hard to say. The only thing certain is that scullion is not originally related to scullery, Old Fr. escuelerie, a collective from Old Fr. escuelle (écuelle), dish, Lat. scutella.

A doll was formerly called a baby or puppet. It is the abbreviation of Dorothy, for we find it called a doroty in Scottish. We may compare Fr. marionnette, a double diminutive of Mary, explained by Cotgrave as "little Marian or Mal; also, a puppet." Little Mary, in another sense, has been recently, but perhaps definitely, adopted into our language. Another old name for doll is mammet. Capulet uses it contemptuously to his daughter-

"And then to have a wretched puling fool,

A whining mammet, in her fortune's tender,

To answer: 'I'll not wed,'-'I cannot love.'"

(Romeo and Juliet, iii. 5.)

Its earlier form is maumet, meaning "idol," and it is a contraction of Mahomet.

The derivation of jug is not capable of proof, but a 17th-century etymologist regards it as identical with the female name Jug,[34] for Joan or Jane. This is supported by the fact that jack was used in a similar sense-

"That there's wrath and despair in the jolly black-jack,

And the seven deadly sins in a flagon of sack."

(Lady of the Lake, vi. 5.)

We may also compare toby jug and demi-john. The latter word is in French dame-jeanne, but both forms are possibly due to folk-etymology. A coat of mail was called in English a jack and in French jaque, "a jack, or coat of maile" (Cotgrave); hence the diminutive jacket. The German miners gave to an ore which they considered useless the name kobalt, from kobold, a goblin, gnome. This has given Eng. cobalt. Much later is the similarly formed nickel, a diminutive of Nicholas. It comes to us from Sweden, but appears earliest in the German compound Kupfernickel, copper nickel. Apparently nickel here means something like goblin; cf. Old Nick and, probably, the dickens-

"I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of.-What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?"

(Merry Wives, iii. 2.)

Pantaloons come, via France, from Venice. A great many Venetians bore the name of Pantaleone, one of their favourite saints. Hence the application of the name to the characteristic Venetian hose. The "lean and slippered pantaloon" was originally one of the stock characters of the old Italian comedy. Torriano has pantalone, "a pantalone, a covetous and yet amorous old dotard, properly applyed in comedies unto a Venetian." Knickerbockers take their name from Diedrich Knickerbocker, the pseudonym under which Washington Irving wrote his History of Old New York, in which the early Dutch inhabitants are depicted in baggy knee-breeches.


Certain christian names are curiously associated with stupidity. In modern English we speak of a silly Johnny, while the Germans say ein dummer Peter, or Michel, and French uses Colas (Nicolas), Nicodème and Claude, the reason for the selection of the name not always being known. English has, or had, in the sense of "fool," the words ninny, nickum, noddy, zany. Ninny is for Innocent, "Innocent, Ninny, a proper name for a man" (Cotgrave). With this we may compare French benêt (i.e. Benedict), "a simple, plaine, doltish fellow; a noddy peake, a ninny hammer, a peagoose, a coxe, a silly companion" (Cotgrave). Nickum and noddy are probably for Nicodemus or Nicholas, both of which are used in French for a fool-

"'But there's another chance for you,' said Mr Boffin, smiling still. 'Do you like the name of Nicodemus? Think it over. Nick or Noddy.'"

(Our Mutual Friend, Ch. 5.)

Noddy-peak, ninny-hammer, nickumpoop, now nincompoop, seem to be arbitrary elaborations. Zany, formerly a conjuror's assistant, is zanni (see p. 143), an Italian diminutive of Giovanni, John. With the degeneration of Innocent and Benedict we may compare Fr. crétin, idiot, an Alpine patois form of chrétien, Christian, and Eng. silly, which once meant blessed, a sense preserved by its German cognate selig. Dunce is a libel on the disciples of the great medieval schoolman John Duns Scotus, born at Duns in Berwickshire.

Dandy is Scottish for Andrew, e.g., Dandie Dinmont (Guy Mannering). Dago, now usually applied to Italians, was used by the Elizabethans, in its original form Diego, of the Spaniards. The derivation of guy and bobby (peeler) is well known. Jockey is a diminutive of the north country Jock, for Jack. The history of jackanapes is obscure. The earliest record of the name is in a satirical song on the unpopular William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who was beheaded at sea in 1450. He is called Jack Napes, the allusion being apparently to his badge, an ape's clog and chain. But there also seems to be association with Naples; cf. fustian-anapes for Naples fustian. A poem of the 15th century mentions among our imports from Italy-

"Apes and japes and marmusettes tayled."

Jilt was once a stronger epithet than at present. It is for earlier jillet, which is a diminutive of Jill, the companion of Jack. Jill, again, is short for Gillian, i.e. Juliana, so that jilt is a doublet of Shakespeare's sweetest heroine. Termagant, like shrew (p. 34), was formerly used of both sexes, e.g., by Sir John Falstaff-

"'Twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot (Douglas) had paid me scot and lot too."

(1 Henry IV., v. 4.)

In its oldest sense of a Saracen god it regularly occurs with Mahound (Mahomet)-

"Marsilies fait porter un livre avant:

La lei i fut Mahum e Tervagan."[35]

(Chanson de Roland, l. 610.)

Ariosto has Trivigante. Being introduced into the medieval drama, the name became synonymous with a stage fury-

"I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant."

(Hamlet, iii. 2.)

The origin of the word is unknown, but its sense development is strangely different from that of Mahomet (p. 43).


[24] But Finsteraarhorn is perhaps from the river Aar, not from Aar, eagle.

[25] A place where a number of settlers were massacred by the Zulus.

[26] "Two mountains near Dublin, which we, keeping in the grocery line, have called the Great and the Little Sugarloaf, are named in Irish the Golden Spears."-(Trench, On the Study of Words.)

[27] The French name for the fruit is ananas, a Brazilian word. A vegetarian friend of the writer, misled by the superficial likeness of this word to banana, once petrified a Belgian waiter by ordering half a dozen for his lunch.

[28] A reader calls my attention to the fact that, when the hippopotamus is almost completely submerged, the pointed ears, prominent eyes, and large nostrils are grotesquely suggestive of a horse's head. This I have recently verified at the Zoo.

[29] For the rather illogical formation, cf. dogged from dog.

[30] Connection has even been suggested between haggis and Fr. agasse, "a pie, piannet, or magatapie" (Cotgrave). Haggis, now regarded as Scottish, was once a common word in English. Palsgrave has haggas, a podyng, "caliette (caillette) de mouton," i.e., sheep's stomach.

[31] For eyas see p. 114.

[32] To the same period belongs the colour magenta, from the victory of the French over the Austrians at Magenta in 1859.

[33] For lockram, see p. 48.

[34] Jehannette, "Jug, or Jinny" (Cotgrave). For strange perversions of baptismal names see Chap. XII. It is possible that the rather uncommon family name Juggins is of the same origin.

[35] "Marsil has a book brought forward: the law of Mahomet and Termagant was in it."

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