Jeremy Butterfield Editorial

Making words work for you


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How are new English words created? 20th-century words.

What ever did we do before 1907, when cornflakes first appeared?


As mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been mining the OED to see what new words each year of the twentieth century produced and then choosing a few to tweet.

Every year produced several hundred: rarely fewer than 400 and often more than 500. While reviewing them, I wondered what they would illustrate about how “new words” come into English.

The list below may be revealing, even if not statistically rigorous: the most common recourse is compounding, followed by loanwords, and then by derivation. This probably mirrors the three most common routes for “new” words into English. There follows a list categorizing them according to the process by which they became part of English. This is not, by the way, exhaustive, because it doesn’t include creation by mistake, nonce words, or back formation (e.g. edit from editor).

Then there’s a list year by year. And, finally, I post again the criteria according to which I chose them in the first place.

Could this be the elusive “Man on the Clapham omnibus” (1903)? To me he looks more like a toff from first class, but never judge a book, etc.

Type of creation, in descending order of frequency.

Note that certain words could fall into two categories, but for simplicity have been kept in one. For example, psychoanalysis was formed “within English” by compounding of psycho + analysis. The way the OED categorizes words in this way disguises to an extent that the words “within English” were loan elements in the first place.

Combination of words already existing in English, i.e. “compounding”, or phrasal verbs:

As one word: television, hillbilly, airport, telecommunication, psychoanalysis, cornflakes, crossword, lifestyle, bullshit, ponytail, motherfucker, teenage, sleepwalk, photocopy, stereophonic.

Two separate words: number two, teddy bear, boy scout piggy bank, America Firstm, red giant, quantum mechanics, comic strip, pecking order, f*** off.

Two hyphenated words: neo-cortex, post-Impressionism, T-shirt,  hitch-hike

Three or more: man on the Clapham omnibus, pie in the sky, legend in one’s lifetime, rhythm and blues.

Loanword or loan translation: Art Nouveau, brassiere, u-boat, Soviet, Dada, bagel, Suprematism, al dente, dunk, robot, gigolo, quiche, kitsch, Syrah, Nazi – and, possibly, polysemy.

Formed by derivation, i.e. by adding prefix or suffix: eatery, racism, Tantric, suffragette, Freudian, tweedy, broadcaster, privatize, shitless, freebie, holistic.

Abbreviations: truncated or clipped formsdemo, taxi, cinema, deb, sax, fridge, hood;
initialisms: OMG, BBC.

New meaning grafted on to existing form: tank, rocket, Commonwealth, verb (v.), Lesbian, crisp, Odeon.

Named after someone, i.e. eponyms: pavlova, leotard, Stanislawsky, Levis.

Blends or portmanteaus: Ms., smog, motel

From Latin: vitamin(e), penicillin

Other: Kleenex

Year-by-year list

Key: bold = first cited in US source; sloped bold = first cited in Brit source; roman – other source (as shown in brackets)

1900 television, hillbilly

1901 Ms., eatery

1902 number two, airport

1903 racism, man on the Clapham omnibus

1904 hip, demo (Australian), telecommunication (unidentified)

1905 Tantric, smog

1906 suffragette, teddy bear, psychoanalysis

1907 taxi, cornflakes

1908 art nouveau, boy scout

1909 neo-cortex, cinema

1910 Freudian, post-Impressionism

Things firmed up after 1911.

1911 pie in the sky, pavlova (New Zealand), brassiere (Canadian)

1912 tweedy, vitamine (named thus by a Polish scientist)

1913 comic strip, piggy bank

1914 u-boat, crossword

1915 lifestyle, bullshit, America First

1916 ponytail, red giant, tank

1917 Soviet, Commonwealth, OMG

1918 Dada, motherfucker, legend in one’s lifetime

1919 bagel, dunk, rocket

1920 T-shirt, deb(bie), leotard (unidentified)

Where would civilisation be without these? (1919)

1921 teenage (Canada), Suprematism, al dente

1922 broadcaster, robot, gigolo, quantum mechanics

1923 BBC, privatize, sax, hitch-hike, sleepwalk

1924 photocopy, Stanislawsky, rhythm and blues, shitless

1925 motel, freebie, Lesbian, quiche, kleenex

1926 fridge, Levis, kitsch, holistic (South African)

1927 stereophonic, oestrogen, pecking order

1928 polysemy, verb, Syrah

1929 penicillin, crisp, fuck off

1930 Nazi, Odeon, hood

Art Nouveau first became an “English word” in 1908.

 

  • Does the word have some currency or resonance now? (racism, privatize, robot)
  • Did it historically? (suffragette, deb, Nazi)
  • Has it some cultural heritage/baggage/clout/oomph, etc? [“Cultural” in its widest sense] (Art Nouveau, psychoanalysis)
  • Is it so much part of everyday language that it’s almost impossible to conceive of its being “invented”? (motel, kitsch)
  • Was it a (major) discovery/invention? (television, penicillin)
  • Wow! Was it really coined that long ago? (Ms., kleenex)
  • Wow! You mean it didn’t exist before! No way! (pecking order, cornflakes, smog)
  • Did sex come into it? [I’m only human – allegedly – after all.] (Tantric)
  • Was/is it slangy? (OMG, shitless, bullshit, f*** off)

 

 

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Where does “knickers” come from? Don’t get your knickers in a twist!

What’s in a name?

We probably all know that the wellies we might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. wellies_with_flowersPerhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gave us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name. In modern Greek, επώνυμο (eponimo) is the word for “surname”.


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Knickers!

What the word refers to …

In British English,  it refers exclusively to an item of underclothing for girls and women, defined by the OED as “With pl. concord. A short-legged (orig. knee-length), freq. loose-fitting, pair of pants worn by women and children as an undergarment. In extended use, the shorts worn by boxers, footballers, etc.”

Here’s a rather glamorous pair:

knickers_glamorous

In American English it also refers to loose-fitting breeches that are gathered at the knee, known in full as knickerbockers. Once standard issue for several sports, they still occasionally appear, as in this cycling gear

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that only the most robustly testosteronic males could get away with — and even then…

Men in baggy knickers! Sooo hot!

Men in baggy knickers! Sooo hot!

That meaning explains why, in this quote, Bobby [a boy] is not, as might appear to British readers, indulging an unhealthy fetish for ladies underwear:

Bobby was wearing new lace-up shoes and knickers with long, thick socks like most of the boys in my school.

Hudson Review, Autumn 2004.

In BrE it is also a very mild exclamation of irritation or contempt: “Oh, knickers to the lot of them!

The OED records that expletive use from nearly half a century ago, (1971) and it now sounds to me positively mealy-mouthed or old-maidish.

The idiom “to get one’s knickers in a twist” or variations on that theme (“…in a knot/bunch/crease, Calvins in a wad/bunch/crease”), meaning to become angry, upset, or agitated, though still most frequent in British English, seems to sit comfortably in World English — or so GloWbE data suggests. This is from Canada,

So if Harper doesn’t mind his party’s social conservatives getting their knickers in a twist about same-sex marriage at this early stage of his mandate…

and this from Nigeria,

Quit getting those puritanical knickers in a twist?

The OED records the phrase from 26 June, 1971, in that venerable British communist organ The Morning Star:

Britain’s Foreign Office mandarins have had their knickers in a twist for the past fortnight.

“Knickers” is short for “knickerbockers”.

In 1809, the American novelist Washington Irvine published a History of New York, under the pseudonym of and purporting to be by one Diedrich Knickerbocker. The surname Knickerbocker, and close spelling variants, is Dutch and goes back to the earliest days of New York as a Dutch colony (New Amsterdam), and Irvine used the word to satirize conservative, upper-crust New Yorkers.

The dreadful Knickerbocker custom of calling on everybody.

Longfellow, Journal, 1 Jan, 1856

And nowadays it is still occasionally used to refer to New Yorkers (marked in the Oxford Dictionary Online as “informal”, but in Merriam-Webster as “broadly”):

Sex and the City unfolds in an elite New York that Edith Wharton or Nelson Rockefeller wouldn’t recognize. In this city, merit, not pedigree, rules. Unlike the old Knickerbocker establishment, where birth and breeding gave social standing, in this democratic meritocracy it is the prestige of your job that tells us where you are in the social order.

City Journal (New York), autumn 2003.

The most visible reminder of that meaning lies in the name of the professional basketball team, the New York Knickerbockers, or Knicks for short.knickers_nyknicks

How was the name applied to the garment?

knickers_cruikshank

I cannot vouch that this is a Cruikshank illustration.

An edition of the book was illustrated by George Cruikshank (who also illustrated some of Dickens’s work, most notably Oliver Twist), and in it people are shown wearing knee breeches. Soon the word became popular to refer to this kind of trousers, and also to a ladies undergarment, which similarly extended as far as the knee, but has over time become shortened to its modern size — somewhat like the word itself.

knickers

These look like bloomers or drawers to me, but I’m no expert.

 

The two earliest OED examples for those meanings are:

1881   R. Jefferies Wood Magic I. i. 15   It was not in that pocket, … nor in his knickers.
(British, but the OED marks this use as “now U.S.”)

1882   Queen 7 Oct. 328/3,   I recommend … flannel knickers in preference to flannel petticoat.
(British)

The OED also includes an amusing citation from Shaw, in which the word must be taken to refer to breeches:

Laws … are amended and amended and amended like a child’s knickers until there is hardly a shred of the first stuff left.

G. B. Shaw The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism i. 2, 1928.

The OED also notes the  following phrase from the 1966 Lern Yerself Scouse: “Ee’s got both legs in one knicker, he is not playing [football] well.”  A Google suggests that this phrase is as much talked about as used, which is not very often in either case.

Talking of idioms, one of my British favourites is “all fur coat and no knickers.” According to the Online Oxford Dictionary elegantly objective lexicographerse it means to “Have an impressive or sophisticated appearance which belies the fact that there is nothing to substantiate it: ‘the government’s policies are all fur coat and no knickers.'”

How common it really is, I’m not sure. In both GloWbE and the NOW corpus it occurs only 9 times. Googling it doesn’t help a lot, because a play and a clothing outlet bear the name, but it does throw up the dissonant and possibly doubly fetishistic, “British Gas’ ‘plumbing superheroes’ are all fur coat and no knickers.”

I first came across the phrase twenty or more years ago, in the Scottish version “aw fur coat and nae knickers,” used by a Glaswegian to describe Edinburgh people. It was discussed in The Scotsman a couple of years ago; the sixth comment down, by BeBrief, suggests that is a cultural meme, and makes fascinating reading.

Do only Brits wear “knickers”?

The Oxford Dictionary Online labels them “British”, while Merriam-Webster labels this meaning “chiefly British”. The Oxford English Corpus (March 2013 data) paints a different picture, illustrating yet again how the boundaries between different varieties of English are fuzzy.

The total for the string “knickers” in the corpus is 2,827. Filtering out variations on “to get one’s knickers in a twist” leaves 2,526.

Of those, 1,658 (65.6%) are British, 221 (8.7%) American, and 118 (4.7%) Australian. While several of the American English examples refer to knickerbockers, some mirror the British English meaning. Clearly, in the following light-hearted example, the word is used as part of a repertoire of synonyms:

Firstly, Deb is organizing Operation Panty Drop, delivering brand-spankin’-new underpants to people in Houston who’ve been displaced and dispossessed by the hurricane. Send new knickers only, please — seriously, how would you feel if someone handed you a pair of used panties? Well, okay, it depends on the panties, I KNOW THAT, but pretend you don’t get turned on by things like that and just mail her a couple of new pairs of Hanes or something.

Blog (written by a woman), 2005.

Don’t you just love the name of the appeal!

An emergency undergarment drop.

An emergency undergarment drop.

Before I get branded as a paid-up member of the dirty mac brigade, I think I’ll sign off, since this blog is one of a series about eponyms.


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Bloody Mary and bloody Marys; why ‘bloody’, why ‘Mary’?

What’s in a name?

We all know that the wellies wellies_with_flowerswe might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the first Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. Perhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gaves us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name.

Bloody Mary

Bloody-Mary_basic

My favourite cocktail

If that image doesn’t make you thirsty, you’re a better person than me.

When I used to travel and be stuck in airport lounges in the evening, a Bloody Mary was often a little pick-me-up before the tedium of the flight home. Now I make them at home – very occasionally, you understand –, which is what set me thinking about the name.

Who is this Mary, anyway?

Frankly, it had never occurred to me that the Bloody Mary in question could be anyone other than Queen Mary (Tudor), whose brief reign (1553-1558) was proverbially “bloody”. During her campaign to re-establish Catholicism in Britain, some 300 people were burnt at the stake for heresy (including a few already buried who were dug up.)

Bloody_Mary_Latimer_Ridley_Foxe_burning

Latimer & Ridley burnt at the stake, from Foxe’s 1563 1st edn. “Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

 

(In fairness, in the reigns of her father, brother, and sister, human barbecuing was not unknown, but only on a minor scale in comparison.)

However, such is Mary’s notoriety that her sobriquet is translated into other languages, e.g. Marie la sanglante, Maria la Sangrienta, Marie die Blutige.

Wikipedia lists other pretenders to the name, including the silent-era Hollywood actress Mary Pickford and a waitress called Mary, but itsh true originsh sheem to be losht in the alcohol-shrouded mishtsh of time. Sho, I shall shtick with royalty.


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When was Queen Mary first called “bloody”?

P

Mary’s portrait in the Prado, by Antonio Moro.

The first citation (1657) for “bloody Mary” in the OED comes from well after her reign. It appears in an Epistle Perambulation by the possibly somewhat demented millenarian John Rogers (b. 1627) to the curiously modern-sounding Time of End, by J. Canne, a non-conformist cleric.

We see it [sc. government] and feel it every day to be of the Beast, and more bruitish then those that have gone before; bloody Mary her self abhorring to make it Treason for words as they have done.

The OED also shows that “bloody Queen Mary” had earlier been used by the same John Rogers in 1654, in Sagrir or Doomes-Day Drawing Nigh:

Which Tyranny and accursed cruelty of theirs is condemned by bloody Queen Mary her selfe.

(The claim in the Wikipedia entry on the drink that it was in Foxe’s Actes and Monuments (“Book of Martyrs”) that Mary was first called “bloody” cannot be true, otherwise the recently revised OED entries mentioned above would have mentioned it. A search of the online editions, however, does reveal, for example, references to “the bloudy regiment of Queene Mary” (regiment here = rule, government, or reign).

The OED entry for bloody has no fewer than 15 senses (excluding its use as an intensifier) and bloody Queen Mary is cited bloodthirstily under meaning 4: “Of a person or animal: addicted to bloodshed, bloodthirsty; cruel”, a use that goes back to Old English.

What about the drink, then?

The OED’s first citation is from the N.Y. Herald Tribune for 2 December 1939. At that stage it seems to have been a simple half-and-half mixture:

George Jessel’s newest pick-me-up which is receiving attention from the town’s paragraphers is called a Bloody Mary: half tomato juice, half vodka.

If the OED is anything to go by, the drink took some time to cross the Atlantic – or at least to appear in print this side of the pond:

Those two…are eating raw steaks and drinking Bloody Marys.

Punch,  15 Aug., 1956.

Since the early days, Bloody Marys have become more complicated. The OED defines the drink as “A cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, and other (usually pungent) flavourings, typically served with a celery stalk or similar garnish.”

Nowadays there are trillions of variations, with different alcohols, such as Tequila, and all manner of flavourings and garnish, from horseradish to olives, wasabi to bacon strips (personally, yuck!), oysters to clam broth. bloody-Mary_image

Forgive me, but I like to keep mine simple at home: vodka, good tomato juice, celery salt, a teeny pinch of garlic salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, a splosh of dry sherry, ice, and a slice of lime. (I’m too mean to buy the obligatory celery just for a drink!)

Mmmm, perhaps not that simple after all.

A Virgin Mary…

is the punningly alcohol-free version. The OED first records it from 1976, labels it “chiefly US”, and defines it as merely a glass of tomato juice. Later citations, however, show clearly that it’s a detoxicated Bloody Mary:

A waitress approached the table. ‘A Virgin Mary… A Bloody Mary without the vodka.’

Five Roads to Death, J. Philips, 1977.

This quote from a title published in England in London in 1981 conveys a certain British snobbishness about the name:

Crombie ordered himself a straight tomato juice with…Worcester. The Colonel did not, Bognor noted with approval, refer to the drink as ‘a Virgin Mary’.

Murder at Moose Jaw, T. Heald, 1981

Btw, the plural of Mary is Marys, not Maries.

It’s a standard spelling convention that if a common noun ends in a consonant plus the letter -y, you pluralize it like berry -> berries. However, most grammars agree that proper nouns are an exception; you just tack on an -s for the plural. For that reason, you write the Kennedys, the two Germanys, he has won six Tonys, etc. (although the alternative spellings Kennedies, Germanies, etc. are also used.)

[In Scottish history, the four Marys are the girls of noble birth (the Marys Beaton, Seaton, Fleming, and Livingston) who accompanied Mary, Queen of Scots, to France in 1548.]

by Hans Eworth, oil on panel, 1554

Mary Tudor, by Hans Eworth, oil on panel, 1554

Bloody Mary has been vilified down the centuries. The Horrible Histories/Kate Bush parody redeems Mary from her ghastly reputation with tongue-in-cheek humour. The complete lyrics are below the link.

King Henry 8th my father hoped I’d have some Tudor brothers.
Mum had no sons,
So rather I got plenty of stepmothers.
When at last prince Ed was born,
The crown I bid adieu;
I said as king he must be sworn,
Boys go first in the queue.
But there’s no need to worry if at first you don’t succeed,
When Ed died
I swept aside the rest and was decreed…

Mary the first, that’s me,
Tudor lady and queen of England, not to be confused
With Mary Queen of Scots.
Not the same, see,
Though, weirdly, she’s a cousin to me.

Some tried to say Lady Jane Grey
Should be queen after Ed,
But England wanted me, hooray,
So poor Jane lost her head.
The Protestants were saying
That my ruling made them sick,
‘Cause when it came to praying,
My tastes were Catholic.
They revolted, challenged me, fuelled my great desire
To tie 300 to a stake,
Light touch paper then retire.

Mary the first, that’s me,
Called the bloody queen of England.
Not what I intended,
Tried to be
Good, you see,
But history only remembers
I was a catastrophe.

bloody_Mary_philip_Leoni

This magnificent classicizing bust of Mary’s husband Philip II does its best to disguise his inbred prognathous Hapsburg chin .

Married Philip king of Spain,
Who then left me.
England thought he was a pain,
Especially
‘Cause he told me
To attack France with troops
and when the French advanced
We lost Calais. Oops!
Throughout my reign it rained and rained,
It poured upon the poor,
The harvest failed, no food remained,
And flu killed many more.
Burned Protestants and wed a fool,
Led armies to defeat.
Burned more Prots, I say my rule
Was short but not that sweet.
I had no kids,
Named half-sis Liz
As big Queen Bess to be,
So long as she would rule the land
As a catholic queen like me.

Lizzie didn’t listen,
She made the country Protestant,
Meaning my legacy was ruined.
See everything I tried to achieve
Went down the swanny

Bit embarrassing really!

 


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Alice bands and Alice in Wonderland

What’s in a name?

We all know that the wellies we might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the first Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. wellies_with_flowersPerhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gave us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name.

aliceband_chanel

A male-dominated field

As in so many areas, when it comes to items of apparel [*] or ornament there is a severe gender imbalance. While the list of male-named clothes includes wellies, cardigans, knickers, leotards, raglan sleeves, Nehru jackets, Mao collars, Van Dyke collars, Prince Alberts, etc., the roll call of those named after women is rather shorter. One that easily springs to mind is Alice band.

Alice band – a flexible hairband of cloth, elastic, plastic, or other material that women and girls wear to keep their hair in place.

The Alice in question is the protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) [AAIW] and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found there [TL-G] 1871. The term was obviously inspired by (Sir John) Tenniel’s (1820-1914) illustrations, but was first recorded only as late as 1944, at least according to the OED.

Now you see it, now you don’t.
Alice in Wonderland vs Through the Looking Glass

In Tenniel’s illustrations (woodblock engravings) for AAIW, Alice is not once portrayed wearing anything in her hair. In the whole text the word hair is only mentioned seven times, including at the Mad Tea-Party (often known as the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”, though Carroll did not use the phrase “mad hatter”) alice_b-w-teaparty

“Your hair wants cutting,”

said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

“You should learn not to make personal remarks,”

Alice said with some severity;

“it’s very rude.”

The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was,

“Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”

[**]

Nearly at the very end of the story, Alice’s older sister (who is nameless) also falls into a dream, in which “she could hear the very tones of her [Alice’s] voice, and see that queer little toss of her head to keep back the wandering hair that would always get into her eyes”.

In TL-G, where Alice’s hair plays a more important role, aliceAlice is uniformly presented as having her formerly unruly hair kept in place by what looks like a broad ribbon tied in a neat bow. Such a hairstyle seems to have been standard for Victorian girls at the time.

In 1890, Tenniel selected, adapted and added colour to 20 of his original illustrations from AAIW for a nursery version (complete set of images at the British Library: here). Perhaps by this stage Alice’s ribbon or headband had become an integral part of her image: at any rate, Tenniel added one, which the original illustration lacked, as well as making changes to Alice’s dress. [***]

alice_band_alice_tenniel_first_publication

Illustration from The Nursery Alice.

Illustration from AAIW.

Illustration from AAIW.

A male accessory?

But Alice bands are not worn only by women or girls. Footballers with long hair also wear them to keep their locks out of their faces when playing the beautiful game. The first sleb footballer to have worn one seems to have been uber-metrosexual David Beckham alice_band_Beckham_Hair8. Others have emulated him, including Ronaldo. But the fashion is still hardly mainstream: when Gareth Bale wore one, it was newsworthy enough – at least in the eyes of the journo who wrote it – to merit comment on The Independent’s website.

Tangentially, there is also a question of definition: when does an “Alice band” become a “headband”? It must be all to do with the width of the band, as in this photo of Nadal.

alice-band_nadal_headband

After all, what man is going to buy an Alice band when he can buy a headband?


[*] Another of those myriad British/US English differences. Apparel sounds quaint & poetic in BrE, but is a standard word in US English used by shops where BrE would use “clothing”: a sale on summer apparel for women. There is even a verb: a designer who regularly apparels several of the presenters at the Oscar ceremonies. (Both examples from Merriam-Webster online.)

[**] Answer to the Hatter’s riddle: Lewis Carroll’s Author’s Note: Christmas, 1896. “Enquiries have so often been addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle … can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz. ‘Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat ; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however, is merely an after-thought : the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.”


[***] It seems that Carroll gave Tenniel very precise instructions about the illustrations. Until I did some online digging for this blog, I was unfamiliar with Carroll’s own illustrations for the forerunner of AAIW, Alice’s Adventures under Ground. Many of them foreshadow the better-known Tenniel versions, as here, and illustrate how a great graphic artist can turn a rough sketch into a compelling image:

Lewis Carroll's sketch.

Lewis Carroll’s sketch.

Tenniel's version.

Tenniel’s version.


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Greengages and other words named after people

What’s in a name?

We probably all know that the wellies we might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. wellies_with_flowers Perhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gave us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name. In modern Greek, επώνυμο (eponimo) is the word for “surname”.

Greengage-Jam-18-680x614

greengage – This is a type of greenish or yellow-green plum, beloved of jam-makers. As the OED defines it, “The small oval fruit of a cultivated variety of plum, Prunus domestica subsp. italica, which has yellow to green skin and very sweet juicy flesh, and is used for eating and for making desserts and preserves”.

No less an authority than the BBC Gardeners’ World praises greengages lip-smackingly:

If your standard Victoria plum is good plonk, then a perfectly ripe greengage is a fine wine in a vintage year.

The word apparently combines the colour of the fruit with the name of the botanist and cricket enthusiast Sir William Gage (1695-1744) who, around 1725, first introduced it to Britain.


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The first citation in the OED of the fruit being called “green-gage” (hyphenated) is from 1718, in the work of the cleric John Laurence, a sort of Monty Don with a dog collar who, to judge by his literary output, must have spent more time tending his garden than writing sermons.

The Clergyman’s Recreation, Shewing the Pleasure and Profit of the Art of Gardening (1714) was his first venture into publishing. His third book in this genre, The Fruit-Garden Kalendar (1718), contains the relevant citation:

We are also now presented with some of the most excellent Plums, viz. the Blue and White Perdigrans, the Sheen, or Fotheringa …, the Green Gage, the Muscle, and the Orleance.

(A plum called a Muscle? No wonder it didn’t catch on.)

It was not until some time before 1768, again according to the OED, that the connection between Sir William and the fruit was made explicit, in an 1843 book  by Lewis Weston Dillwyn, cataloguing the plants of an earlier horticulturist: Hortus Collinsonianus: an account of the plants cultivated by the late Peter Collinson, Esq., F.R.S., arranged alphabetically according to their modern names, from the catalogue of his garden,… :

I was on a visit to Sir William Gage..; he told me that..in compliment to him the Plum was called the Green Gage; this was about the year 1725.

A fruit fit for a queen

The common or garden Victoria plum, damned with faint praise by the Gardeners’ World horticultural savants, was named after Queen Victoria. But it is not the only variety of plum with a royal connection.

Claude_de_France_(1499-1524)

Queen Claude, portrayed 30 years after her death in Catherine de Médicis’ Book of Hours

In French a greengage is une reine-Claude (Queen Claude) after Claude (1499-1524), the wife of Francis 1 of France

According to the OED, “it was common in early modern France for noteworthy varieties of fruit to be named in honour of queens and other members of the nobility.”

The French name was also borrowed by other European languages: Dutch reine-claude (1763), German Reineclaude, now usually Germanized as die Reneklode (17th cent.), Swedish renklo (1835; earlier as †reine claude (1770), †reinklo (1825)), Danish reineclaude (1802 as †ræneklode; also reneklode), and Italian susina Regina Claudia “Queen Claudia Plum”.

All of which makes greengage a sort of multilingual eponym.

At the entry for greengage, the OED cross-refers to Reine Claude, which it defines as “A cultivated variety of plum; esp. the greengage.”

That word first appears in John Evelyn (the diarist)’s Kalendarium hortense: or, The gard’ners almanac · 8th ed., with … additions., 1691.

A Guardian quotation from 20 January, 1971 unites the two names:

 It is the land of … the honeyed Reine-Claude greengages.

The long-established British nursery Thomson & Morgan sells “greengages Reine Claude”.

And a translated French history of food from (1992) has this:

Greengages are called after the eighteenth century Sir William Gage, who brought the French Reine-Claude over to England, where it acquired a new English name.

johnson

Dr Johnson wondering what apophthegm will adequately convey his contempt for froggy words.

Whether the greengage and the reine-Claude are now exactly the same only a horticulturist could tell me. (The Thomson and Morgan catalogue entry suggests to me that greengage is generic and reine-Claude specific.) I am left wondering if Sir William changed the name because it was easier to pronounce. Or was it because of anti-French sentiment? We’ll probably never know.

But the notion brings to my mind Dr Johnson’s disparaging remarks in his 1755 Dictionary about certain French words being used in English, e.g. “ruse: a French word neither elegant nor necessary”.

For whatever reason, he found the word’s “trick” meaning objectionable, despite its going back to the sixteenth century and despite his using a quotation from the eminently respectable John Ray’s 1722 The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation.

cockney

Apples and pears and greengages

Back in the twentieth century, greengage became part of rhyming slang (though I don’t know how actively used it now is). The OED gives it two meanings: “the stage” (1931) and, as the plural greengages,  “wages” (1932), and includes a quote from Orwell’s Collected Essays (written before 1950), the fuller text of which is as follows:

Rhyming slang. I thought this was extinct, but it is far from it. The hop-pickers used these expressions freely: A dig in the grave, meaning a shave. The hot cross bun meaning the sun. Greengages, meaning wages. They also use the abbreviated rhyming slang, e.g. ‘Use your twopenny’ for ‘Use your head.’ This is arrived at like this: Head, loaf of bread, loaf, twopenny loaf, twopenny.

Hop-pickers at the start of the 1948 picking season, Kent. Note the age range.

Hop-pickers at the start of the 1948 picking season, Kent. Note the age range.

Hop-pickers were often East End families (i.e. from the home of Cockney) who mass-migrated to Kent for the hop-picking season.


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Paparazzi and other words named after people

What’s in a name?

We probably all know that the wellies we might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. Perhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gave us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name.

anita_ekberg

Phwoooar! (That’s enough!–Ed.)

 

paparazzo – a freelance photographer who pursues celebrities to take and then sell photographs of them. It may be a bit of a surprise that this word is an eponym; as in the case of knickers, the character who gave us the name is fictional. In Italian film director Federico Fellini’s classic 1959 La Dolce Vita, Paparazzo is the surname of a photographer who works with gossip columnist Marcello Mastroianni. The character is based on a real-life Roman celeb-snapper of the era, a certain Tazio Secchiaroli.


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As with some other Italian words (graffiti, spaghetti, panini), English does not always respect (and why should it?) the singular/plural distinction of the original Italian: 1 paparazzo, 2 paparazzi. Because paparazzi generally hunt in packs, the plural form paparazzi is much more frequent than the singular in any case, and is quite often used as a singular, instead of the technically “correct” paparazzo.

The Scottish guy I met who moved here to be a paparazzi has moved elsewhere.
Montreal Mirror, 2004.

He published the photographs – taken by a paparazzo who gatecrashed the wedding – to defend the economic interests of his magazine, he added.
Yorkshire Post Today, 2003

 Occasionally paparazzi seems to be interpreted, as far as I can judge, as a collective noun, and accordingly is used with the singular verb agreement obligatory for collective nouns in American English:

I was actually thinking that Michelle Obama will be the one that the paparazzi takes the most pictures of, you know, detailing, you know, her every outfit.
CNN (transcripts), 2008.

dolce_vita

 

 

 


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Leotards and other words named after people

What’s in a name?

We probably all know that the wellies we might wear to go on walks through muddy fields are named after the Duke of Wellington, the “Iron Duke”. wellies_with_flowersPerhaps less well known is the link between the mac – in British English, at any rate – that we might also wear and its inventor, the deviser of the waterproof cloth from which macs are made, Charles Macintosh (1766–1843), the Scottish inventor who patented the cloth. Many units of scientific measurement, both everyday and more specialized, are named after their discoverers: the Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta gave us volts, the Scottish engineer James Watt gave us, er, … watts, and the Belfast-born Lord Kelvin gave his name to the units in which absolute temperature is measured.

Such words, derived from someone’s name, are technically called eponyms, a word created in the 19th century from the Greek epōnumos “given as a name, giving one’s name to someone or something”, from epi “upon” + onoma “name” (ἐπώνυμος; ἐπί + ὄνομα, Aeolic ὄνυμα name). The same Greek word for “name” has given English also anonymous and synonym(ous). And when people refer to the eponymous hero of such and such a novel, e.g. Fielding’s Tom Jones, they mean that the title of the novel is its protagonist’s name. In modern Greek, επώνυμο (eponimo) is the word for “surname”.

leotard – The word for this figure-hugging one-piece garment, made of stretchy materials and donned by ballet dancers for practice and other people doing various forms of exercise, is written without an accent. But if you add the acute accent, you get the name of its inventor, Jules Léotard, a remarkable French acrobat.

Jules contriving to look butch in a fetching miniskirt.

Jules contriving to look butch in a fetching miniskirt.

In 1859 –  the same year that his compatriot Blondin crossed the Niagara Falls on a tightrope – he performed the world’s first aerial somersault and leapt from trapeze to trapeze. That provided the inspiration for the popular music-hall song That Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze. Sadly, his career was short-lived: he died at the age of twenty-eight in 1870.

The narrator tells the story of his lost love.

Once I was happy, but now I’m forlorn
Like an old coat that is tattered and torn;leybourne
Left on this world to fret and to mourn,
Betrayed by a maid in her teens.

The girl that I loved she was handsome;
I tried all I knew her to please
But I could not please her one quarter so well
As the man upon the trapeze.

He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease,
That daring young man on the flying trapeze.
His movements were graceful, all girls he could please
And my love he purloined away.

Some further verses chronicle how she fell in love with the trapezist and then eloped with him, before …

Some months after this I went to the Hall;
Was greatly surprised to see on the wall
A bill in red letters, which did my heart gall,
That she was appearing with him.

He’d taught her gymnastics and dressed her in tights,
To help him live at his ease,
And made her assume a masculine name,
And now she goes on the trapeze.

She’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease,
You’d think her the man young man on the flying trapeze.
Her movements were graceful, all girls she could please,
And that was the end of my love.

Am I the only one who is puzzled by the hint of sapphism in the last verse? Or is the word “girls” used because to replace it with “men” would be far too saucy?

Anyway, this photo highlights the effect on Victorian sensibilities that Jules L. must have had when he chose not to wear his modesty-preserving miniskirt. “Wardrobe malfunction” hardly does it justice.

leotard 3(1)

“I’m really quite pleased with my merguez and pickled lemons.”

And here’s a sort of hillbilly version of the song, from the 1934 film It Happened one Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert (“together for the first time”!). Note the American pronunciation of “trapeze” at the beginning, with a full /a/ not a schwa.