Tuesday 12 May 2020

Received Ideas about Etymology in Quotes 16

In the 16th century, following King Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church and the decades of anti-Catholic sentiment that followed, Pope's Head pubs were renamed King's Head, a safer declaration of allegiance. (Ordnance Survey website)

Titled undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge were entitled to wear golden, rather than plain black, tassels on their academic caps. In the late 17th century these became known as “tufts” and this name was then given to the wearers, with those who followed and looked-up to them being known as “tufthunters” so the sense here is an obsequious sycophant. “Tuft” changed over time to become “Toff”. (worldwidewords.org)

In November 1884 the comedian changed his stage name to Little Tich, which derived from Tichborne, and "Tich" or "Tichy" became a common term meaning small. (BH. Tich was tiny and the “Tichbourne claimant” was known for being huge.)

I've heard a tale that these Spaniards are the origins of the Irish surname Cassidy. (Via Facebook.)

Goosey Goosey Gander,
whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
and in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
who wouldn't say his prayers,
so I took him by the left leg
and threw him down the stairs.

Chris Roberts, author of Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, claims that "the word 'goose' meant prostitute". Henry VIII took land from the Catholic Church, and the rhyme is part of his propaganda justifying his activities. "The rhyme associates the Catholic Church with prostitution." Furthermore, "left-footer" is English slang for a Catholic. "And so there you have the rhyme linking the Catholic Church to immoral acts.

He goes on to explain that Baa Baa Black Sheep goes back to "the 12th century at least". "The Lord Chancellor still sits on a woolsack in the House of Commons to remind everyone about that England's wealth was built on wool. [Not since 2006 – it's now the Speaker's seat, and it's in the House of Lords, not the Commons.] He goes on: "Baa, Baa Black Sheep was a lament from the farmers of England who are represented by the little boy. The master is the king or the king's representatives ... and the dame is the church. So you have these very punitive tax rates of 66 percent; a third to the church, third to the church and a third left for the farmer."

Edinburgh was once home to Nor Loch, also known as the Lost Loch ... where the gardens at the foot of Edinburgh Castle are now. A stagnant pool of waste water, Nor Loch is said to have produced a less than pleasant aroma that could be smelled from miles away. It was this awful stench that gave Edinburgh the less than pleasant nickname Auld Reekie. There are those, however, who believe that Auld Reekie refers to the stench that came from the smoke of the coal fires used by the residents of Edinburgh. (Quartermile blog. The name means “Old Smoky” and has nothing to do with smell.)

The ‘h’ in ‘ghost’ was randomly added by a single hand. A typesetter from Flanders, working for William Caxton, didn’t like the look of the English ‘gost’ and lobbed in an ‘h’ to make it look more Flemish. (Susie Dent)

Caxton was not an adequate translator, and under pressure to publish as much as possible as quickly as possible, he sometimes simply transferred French words into English; but because of the success of his translations, he is credited with helping to promote the Chancery English he used to the status of standard dialect throughout England. (Wikipedia. The encyclopedia's article on Middle English claims more modestly that the printing press helped to spread "Chancery Standard" English, based on the London dialect.)

More here, and links to the rest. And here's the whole book.

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