Even after all these years of looking up words, there are still plenty whose origins and history I’m unfamiliar with. Sometimes when I look one up, I nod and think “about what I expected”; sometimes I’m surprised; and sometimes I’m so taken aback that “astonished” doesn’t really cover it. This just happened to me with a word I’d been meaning to look up because I kept running across it in Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, a series of novels about WWI my wife and I are currently reading. Now I learn from a Wordorigins thread that it meant “A man in charge of a bat-horse and its load; a military servant of a cavalry officer. Now generally, an officer’s servant” (“now” being 1885, when the unrevised OED entry was written), that the “bat” in both batman and bat-horse was French bât ‘pack-saddle’ (Old French bast < late Latin bastum), and that the old-fashioned pronunciation was /ˈbɑːmən/, with French-style /bɑː/! Now I want to know when the spelling pronunciation /ˈbætmən/ came into use; from the OED citations (1844 “A Bât Man is allowed to the Surgeon for the care of the horse carrying the Instruments,” where the â clearly indicates a French-style pronunciation; 1855 “The English loss was..a waggoner, three bat-men, and a horse,” where it’s ambiguous) I’d guess the mid-19th century. At any rate, by WWI I imagine only the most aged of officers still said /ˈbɑːmən/; my Daniel Jones Pronouncing Dictionary (13th ed., 1967) doesn’t even mention it, and it’s pretty careful to include obsolete forms that might still be encountered.


  1. by WWI I imagine only the most aged of officers still said /ˈbɑːmən/ ► C’est là que le bât blesse (idiom for “the main point of friction”): old officers tend to die, even when there is no world war, and this how things get lost forever. And we are then left with a bunch of ânes bâtés* only. Ignorance becomes ripe. O tempora…

    * thick-witted fool (ass)

  2. Alfred Pennyworth is famously “Batman’s batman”.

    I wonder how much incentive to sound the T was provided by the possible confusion among nonrhotics of “batman” with “barman”. Then again, in those days they were probably called “tavern factotums” or somesuch.

  3. Alexander John Ellis (1814-1890), who on account of his social background and Eton/Cambridge education can be regarded as a model user of Old Received Pronunciation, reports “bauman” as his own pronunciation of batman. He also had “vauz” for vase (this one is still remembered as “formerly standard”), “burjóys” for bourgeoise, “tos’l” for tassel, “ohboy” for oboe, and many other equally odd pronunciations.

    I do not remember ever meeting with a person of general education, or even literary habits, who could read off without hesitation, the whole of such a list of words as … [there follows a list of words including the ones mentioned above]. A. J. Ellis, 1869, On Early English pronunciation, London: Asher & Co., p. 625-626 (footnotes).

    Ellis’s self-report shows that the customary substitute for French retracted /ɑ/ was British English /ɔː/, at that time with a much lower quality than its Modern RP (or rather Standard Southern British) reflex.

  4. Wow. I knew a rare word before Hat did. Guess, watching Downton Abbey wasn’t a complete waste of time.

  5. Wow. I knew a rare word before Hat did.

    I said I was unfamiliar with its origin and history, not the word itself. I watch Downton Abbey too.

  6. D.O., the question is whether you knew the etymology and the original pronunciation. I’m pretty sure Hat knew the word. Don’t they pronounce the “t” on Downton Abbey?

  7. Incidentally, the first Batman in film history was not who you think it was. A certain Private Peter (Alexander von) Ustinov was appointed (or rather had to pose) as Batman to Lieutenant Colonel (James) David (Graham) Niven of the Rifle Brigade and the Army Film Unit. Details here.

  8. I doubt 1942 qualifies as even early, let alone the first. I’ll bet they were making films about the Boer War with batmen in them back in the days of the Lumière Brothers.

  9. Granted, but Ustinov was a real batman (even if the appointment was a bureaucratic trick).

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    The assistant to a shaman (surely they have them?) should be a shaman’s baman.

  11. I wasn’t entirely sure that batman contained man, unlike shaman or dragoman.

  12. All right, all right. Now I need another reason to indulge…

  13. Until Hat’s explanation today, I would have confidently stated that batman derived from a Turkish military term. I’m not sure how I became so convinced of this fact – quite possibly it’s a combination of the Turkish place name Batman and Turkic/eastern nouns such as Ottoman, Turcoman, dragoman, shaman etc. I must have subconsciously classified ‘batman’ as a similar type of word.

    The OED does have a second entry for batman which is a Turkish word and is a unit of measurement.

    Certain very senior British officers are still entitled to a batman. Other senior officers have orderlies which are a sort of combination of batman and PA – these are commonly referred to as batmen though apparently use of the term is officially discouraged.

  14. And hangman is, etymologically, a pickpocket-type exocentric compound in which the first member is a verb and the second member its object (cf. spendthrift, cutthroat, scarecrow, etc.); so a hangman is ‘one who hangs men (well, women too)’ rather than ‘a man who hangs (people)’. God knows what the “historically correct” plural should be in such cases — probably *hangmans, just as the plural of sabretooth is sabretooths — but the attraction of the endocentric type (postman etc.) made it adopt the plural hangmen already in Middle English.

  15. Strange, I would have thought that Hat would have known the word from this:

    I was Kaiser Bill’s Batman.

  16. Sorry, I see that Hat did know the word, but surely it must have been before Downton Abbey. Very interesting etymology.

  17. Yes, I imagine it turned up somewhere in the reading of my youth; I only mentioned the Abbey because D.O. did.

  18. So a female hangman would still be a hangman, just as a male midwife would still be a midwife.

  19. Dragoman:

    The word may have been adopted by Turkish, but it’s Semitic in origin. The AHD provides as its origin: Middle English dragman, from Old French drugeman, from Medieval Latin dragumannus, from Medieval Greek dragoumanos, from Arabic tarjumān, from Aramaic targəmānā, from Akkadian targumannu, interpreter; see rgm in Semitic roots.

    To say, speak, call, shout, contest, lay claim to.
    a. DRAGOMAN, from Arabic tarjumān, translator, from Aramaic targəmānā, from Akkadian targumannu, interpreter, either from Akkadian ragāmu, to speak, call, contest, or from an earlier Semitic verb in a derived stem, *t-rgm, to speak to one another, translate.
    b. TARGUM, from Mishnaic Hebrew targûm, translation, from Aramaic targəmā (< *targumā), back-formation from targəmānā (see above).

    FWIW, the Rutgers University student paper is called The Daily Targum.

  20. Le Robert’s dictionnaire historique de la langue française says that the word was used in the south of France first (Mediterranean regions), before moving north where it replaced somme, of which you have already talked —

    It is as from the mid-18th century only that it was written bât instead of bast. (By contrast, asne (asinus) became âne during the 13th century.)

  21. George Gibbard says:

    Piotr — wait, how do you know that
    > a hangman is ‘one who hangs men (well, women too)’ rather than ‘a man who hangs (people)’
    I’m sure you have your reasons for saying this, I just want to know what they are.

  22. And also according to Wikipedia “shaman” is not from a Turkic language but from Tungusic (a different branch of Altaic).

  23. Another pronunciation question, from an American point of view, is the quality of the second vowel: there are some -man words, like businessman, doorman, madman, milkman, which tend to use [æ] in AmEng but [ǝ] in BrEng, but there are also many that use [ǝ] in both varieties. From what I can tell, American dictionaries only attest batman with [ǝ], placing it in the latter category – which does make it consistent with other military nouns like helmsman, infantryman.

  24. George:

    (1) The non-existence of parallel formations: all other Early English nouns with -man as the second element have a noun (or sometimes an adjective), not a verb, as their first member. Even ploughman and waccheman ‘watchman’ are N+N, not V+N (like ploughwrighte and waccheword). We have slaughterman but no *slẹ̄man; horsman but no *rīdeman. The same goes for other endocentric compounds. Hangglider is possible today, when zero-derived nouns are indistinguishable from verb stems, but in ME hang(e)man, hong(e)man, heng(e)man, the first member is unambiguously a verb. Some counterexamples admittedly existed, e.g. ME whetstǭn (< OE hwetstān) ‘whetstone’, grīndstǭn and rīdewei ‘riding-path’, OE rīdehere ‘cavalry’ (beside more common rǣdehere, with rǣde ‘mounted’), but they seem to have been rare at the time, and I haven’t been able to found any among ME occupational terms.

    (2) The existence of exocentric parallels (hangdog, whose original meaning was ‘municipal dog-killer’ — a low-prestige profession, it seems).

    (3) The actual (if rare) attestation of the expected exocentric plural in Middle English (hengmannis).

  25. So, if batman is not a compound, how is it that Batman has a picture of a bat on his uniform? 😉

  26. Looks cooler than a packsaddle. (Also, it is a compound.)

  27. Hangglider is possible today, when zero-derived nouns are indistinguishable from verb stems

    I’m reasonably sure that hang glider is synchronically the dvandva verbal compound hang glide plus -er, Historically, hang glide is undoubtedly backformed. Looking in COCA finds 9 hits for hang glide, 75 for hang glider / hang-glider.

    Admittedly, a hang glider is the instrument rather than the agent. Still, typewriter once also meant ‘typist’, and I once received a letter from my daughter’s school mentioning that several of her classmates’ parents, presumably including me, were “experienced browsers” of the Internet.

  28. Hang glider can refer to the person too: “Hang Glider Extracted From Tree at Own Expense”.

  29. Shaman is not native in Tungusic (Evenki) either. It is thought to be a borrowing from Sogdian (samane). ultimately from Sanskrit “cramana” (Buddhist monk).

  30. My favourite -man term is henchman. Who would have thought that the first element was OE henġest ‘steed’, as in “Hengest and Horsa”?

  31. Sanskrit “cramana”

    śramaṇá-, to be precise. The PIE root is *ḱremh₂- ‘hang, droop, be weary’, which makes a shaman a kind of hangman 😉

  32. Stephen Bruce says:

    @Siganus, “(By contrast, asne (asinus) became âne during the 13th century.)”

    It was still asne in the 1694 Dictionnaire de l’Académie française.

  33. George Gibbard says:

    Thanks, Piotr!

  34. Stefan Holm says:

    a shaman a kind of a hangman

    That would – on this Woden’s day – make sense to the stanzas in Havamal:

    138 Wounded I hung on a wind-swept gallows / For nine long nights / Pierced by a spear, pledged to Woden / Offered, myself to myself / The wisest know not from whence spring /
    The roots of that ancient rood

    139 They gave me no bread / They gave me no mead / I looked down; / with a loud cry / I took up runes; / from that tree I fell.

    Too much mead and fly agaric I presume.

    (There’s no evidence though, that the vikings used fly agaric as an intoxicant. It’s a supposition from an 18th c. Swede based upon reports, that it was a custom among Siberian shamans.)

  35. David Marjanović says:

    That’s fascinating about shaman.

    Were there exocentric compounds in Old English, or is the idea taken from French?

  36. Interestingly, reconstructible PIE compounds are very rarely endocentric, of the now-common toothbrush type (some have speculated that the whole class was totally unknown to PIE-speakers, which is certainly an exaggeration); the exocentric “bahuvrihis” were clearly the most popular type (followed by verbal governing and copulative compounds). They were still used to great effect in old Germanic poetry, cf. the Beowulf poet’s hringed-stefna ‘ship’ or stearc-heort ‘(one possessing a) stout heart’, though by that time the vast majority had the structure Adj+N (the redbreast type), and only exceptionally N+N. V+N exocentrics like cutpurse do not resemble any “classical” IE or Germanic compounding pattern; they are often claimed to be a French import, and there’s no evidence of them in ME texts until the middle of the 13th century. Still, a few make an earlier appearance as personal (nick)names, so they may have occurred in informal early English at a slangy level before getting reinforced by French influence.

  37. Batmen were an entitlement for most officers before and after WW2, but during the war they were removed to save manpower, leaving officers to clean their own service dress (or resort to the baggy and unstylish battledress) and causing Bernard Fergusson (Highland major, Chindit commander, occasional poet) to lament:

    Lang syne I had a batman
    When I was young and svelte
    But now, a middle-aged fat man
    I clean my boots and belt
    With swearing and with rudeness
    With elbow grease and sweat!
    (I have not sunk, thank goodness,
    To Battle Dress as yet).

  38. And I am very surprised at the “hangman” aspect. Both the “hangman” aspects.

    Verb plus noun “-man” words: what about “steersman”?

  39. OE stēores-man (also stēor-man, cf. Old Icelandic stýri-maðr) > ME stẹ̄resman. The first member is the noun ‘steer, rudder’; stēores is its genitive singular. Helmsman, sportsman, statesman are similar but younger formations.

  40. 2012 LH discussion of noun + genitive s + man compounds.

  41. Stefan Holm says:

    It’s probably all about the breakdown of the old inflection system (gender and case).In Swedish it’s all haywire when it comes to compounds: ‘Skog’ (forest) lack the genitive ‘s’ marker in e.g. skogvaktare, ‘forester’, litt. ‘forest guard’ and skogklädd, ‘forested’, litt. ‘forest dressed’. Others have it like: skogsväg, ‘forest road’ and skogshuggare, ‘lumber jack’, litt. ’forest hewer’.

    It’s distinctive in meaning in landsvägen, ‘the country road’ vs. landvägen, ‘overland’ (not by sea).

    Old genitive markers are otherwise all over the place like in: kyrkogård, ‘churchyard’; gatukorsning, ‘street crossing’, mannaminne, ‘living memory’, litt. ‘men’s memory’, domedag, ‘doomsday’.

    One rule is though upheld: If a compund has more than two components only the second last gets a genitive ‘s’. Vinglas, ‘wineglass’ vs rödvinsglas, ‘red wine glass’

  42. A batman was but a memory when I was a young Canadian Army subaltern. But on the door of the utility room at the end of the corridor on my floor of the single officers’ quarters, barely perceptible under several coats of paint, were the words BATMAN’S ROOM.

  43. That must have given considerable pleasure to those who discovered it.

  44. N_GEN+man compounds were rare in Old English. Beside stēores-man, attested examples include tūnes-man ‘inhabitant of a tūn‘ (cf. townsman), rǣdes-man ‘counsellor, steward’ — and that’s more or less it (perhaps I have missed one or two). By contrast, the N+man variant was very common. Some of those later developed a secondary -s-, e.g. OE hyrde-manherdsman (15th c.), OE lād-man ‘leader, guide’ → ME lǭdes-man ‘pilot, loadsman’ (13th c.).

  45. Russian has a navy term “botsman” (from Dutch “bootsman” – boatswain)

    I note that English boatswain is boat +‎ swain (“boy, servant”), from Old Norse sveinn (“boy”).

    This is very strange, since in my understanding, boatswains always were adult men of considerable experience.

  46. This is very strange, since in my understanding, boatswains always were adult men of considerable experience

    Young boatswains get old.

    In the USA, even into the 1960s, many white people (especially in the southern states) thought nothing of addressing black workers as “boy” or “girl”, depending on the sex – no matter how much experience these had or how old they were.

  47. Alan Garner’s novel “Thursbitch” is a tale of shamanism and fly agaric in 18th century Cheshire, notable for being written in an impenetrably uncompromising dialect.

  48. When I was twentyseven I was a messboy and a motorboy on a Swedish ship (English was the working language, as it is today in ESA’s Mission Control in Darmstadt), and a cabinboy (I cleaned the deckcrew’s cabins) on a Norwegian ship when I was twentynine, and deckboy on a Danish ship when I was thirty.

    The term ‘boy’ was traditionally the entry-level position in the Royal Navy and in many jobs.

  49. @ Keith Ivey – perhaps hang gliders (the people) should be called hanggliderists to distinguish them from the machine, much as metal detectors (the devices) are distinguished from metal Detectorists (the people).

    @ John Cowan re typewriters – similarly, of course, “computers” used to be the people doing the computing and only in the mid-20thC was the word applied to machines. Computer users could be and indeed apparently have been called computerists, but I can’t say I have heard it in the wild.

    Perhaps in future “doctors” will be medically specialised AI robots capable of diagnosis, advice, prescription-writing, innocculation and surgery, and “doctorists” will be the medical staff who program, operate, and troubleshoot these machines.

  50. Piotr: thanks!

    Just to reassure everyone that the batman is still a role in the modern British army, at least in the Household Division… and not just for officers either; regimental sergeant-majors get batmen too.

  51. And I cannot think of a more terrifying role than being personally responsible for the condition of the boots of a Household Division RSM.

  52. Stefan Holm says:

    Narmitaj: Perhaps in future “doctors” will be medically specialised AI robots capable of diagnosis, advice, prescription-writing, innocculation and surgery, and “doctorists” will be the medical staff who program, operate, and troubleshoot these machines.

    The suppressed language police inside would recommend that the doctors keep their title. The Latin word after all means ‘teacher’ or ‘lesson giver’ and that seems appropriate for people teaching the AI robots what to do. For the robots, the real care or treatment givers, you could reintroduce the parallell Scandinavian word for a (medical) ‘doktor’: Sw läkare, from läka, ‘treat, cure, heal’. Once upon a time it was pan-Gmc: Goth lĕkeis, OHG lähhi, OE læce. Suspected to be borrowed from Celtic: Old Irish liaig, (medical) ‘doctor’.

  53. @Stefan Holm: Unfortunately the English for this is leech, now obsolete for “physician” but still in use for a bloodsucking worm once favored by same; also a parasitic person.

  54. Stefan Holm says:

    Actually I wondered, Rodger C, how to make a modern English word of this. ‘Lake’, ‘leak’, ‘leek’, ‘leach’ are already occupied. The same I thought about leech. Thank you for enlightening me. It’s in Swedish ‘blodigel’ and that blood sucking creature was always thought of as having important healing capacities.

  55. Stefan Holm says:

    By the way: the second part of ‘blodigel’ is by the Swedish Academy’s Wordbook explained as from PGmc *ezila- from a PIE root *egh- found in Greek ἔχις, ‘snake’ or ἔχιδνα, ‘snake, lizard’.

  56. This is very strange, since in my understanding, boatswains always were adult men of considerable experience.

    The semantic “maturation” of words for ‘boy’ is commonplace. One particularly familiar example is OE cneoht, cniht ‘boy, youth’ → ‘attendant, page, servant’ → ‘retainer to a nobleman, servant of the shire’ → ‘cavalryman, mounted warrior’ → ‘knight, member of the ruling class’.

  57. Sweyn Forkbeard (Sveinn Tjúguskegg, c. 960 – 1014) was king of Denmark and Norway, and for a few weeks of England, so by that time the meaning ‘boy’ was obviously no longer prominent.

  58. ‘“burjóys” for bourgeoise’ – when type sizes had names, rather than being distinguished by their height in points, “bourgeois”, “a size of printing-type measuring about 100 lines to the foot, next larger than brevier and smaller than long-primer”, ie about 9pt, was pronounced “burjoyce”. Mind, “long-primer was pronounced “long-primmer” and brevier “breever”, while the size two down from brevier, nonpareil, was pronounced “non-prul”; what you might call a plethora of shibboleths.

  59. Stefan Holm says:

    Scandinavian Svein (west), Sven (east) is a very common male first name. Its original meaning is not so much ‘boy’ as ‘young man’. The spelling with two ‘n’:s in Sveinn Tjuguskägg is the nominative masculine marker, ‘r’, which after an ‘n’ becomes – an ‘n’. ‘Tjugu’ is the (old) genitive of ‘tjuga’ – hayfork. So his name litterally means something like ‘Adolescent Hayfork’s beard’.

    ‘Man’ without specifying age is in Swedish karl, alluding to the physical characteristics of a man while man more alludes to the mental part of masculinity. (Every boy wants to – and will – become a ‘karl’ but the task is to make a ‘man’ out of him). ‘Anders’ is the Swedish variety of ‘Andrew’ (‘man’ in Greek) so the quite common first name ‘Carl-Anders’ really means man-man.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    Sw läkare

    Promptly passed on to Slavic: Serbian lekar “doctor”, Russian лекарь “battlefield doctor”.

    German has an interesting alternative for “physician/surgeon”: Arzt, a very early borrowing of archiater (the king’s top doctor, or suchlike).

    from PGmc *ezila- from a PIE root *egh-

    Is that z supposed to be a ȝ, meant to represent [ɣ]?

    And how did German get both Egel “leech” and Igel “hedgehog” out of that?

    OE cneoht, cniht ‘boy, youth’ → ‘attendant, page, servant’ →

    See also German Knecht “farmhand”, also used to translate “slave” in the Bible (where the KJV opts for “manservant”).

  61. David Marjanović says:

    Sven, with short [ɛ], is a fairly common name in northern Germany now. So is Torsten (sometimes with Th-) [ˈtʰɔːstn̩], likely helped along by the native Karsten/Carsten [ˈkʰaːstn̩] “Christian”.

  62. Stefan Holm says:

    And how did German get both Egel “leech” and Igel “hedgehog” out of that?

    In Swedish leech is blodigel and hedgehog is igelkott. These two ‘igel’ have different origins (or at least interpretations of the root) according to the Swedish Academy’s Wordbook. The one in the leech word is, as I mentioned from a root *egh- for ‘snake’ or ‘lizard’. (Unfortunately I’m too ignorant to tell what the ‘z’ in *ezila represents).

    About ‘igel’ in the hedgehog word the Wordbook says:

    “Probably to a Gmc basic form *eȝila- (*eȝula-,* eȝala-) to the root *egh-, ‘sting’, found in Greek ἐχῖνος, Lithuanian ežys, OCS ježb, hedgehog.”

    ‘Snake’ and ‘sting’ are of course semantically close. As for the ‘-kott’ part they have nothing better to say, than it’s a folk etymology from ‘katt’ (cat), i.e. ‘stinging cat’. The only Swedish word close enough is ‘kotte’ (cone – from a pine etc.), which of course makes no sense at all.

  63. Here is the full list of Ellis’s Old RP shibboleths. The spelling and Ellis’s simplified transcription (“glossotype”) follow the original:

    1. bourgeois “burjóys”
    2. demy “deemúy”
    3. actinism “áktiniz’m”
    4. velleity “veléeity”
    5. batman “bauman”
    6. beaufin “biffin”
    7. brevier “breevéer”
    8. rowlock “rulluk”
    9. fusil “fiwzée”
    10. flugleman “fiwg’lman”
    11. vase “vauz”
    12. tassel “tos’l”
    13. buoy “boy”
    14. oboe “ohboy”
    15. archimandrite “áhrkimándruyt”

    Demy, actinism, velleity, rowlock, buoy, archimandrite can still be pronounced as indicated by Ellis (at least in British English), though rowlock is perhaps more common with the vowel of LOT. Brevier, if used at all, is /brɪˈvɪə/ (pretty close). Beaufin (a kind of apple), flugleman are now spelt biffin, fugleman (problem solved). Ellis’s pronunciation of fusil, bourgeois, batman, vase, oboe is obsolete today. I woder if he meant fusil as a heraldic or a military word (and whether it made a difference; the L is of course mute in French). Thanks to Ellis, I was reminded of the existence of velleity — a nice word which I recognise but have never used.

  64. “Primmer” is the normal pronunciation of primer, except when referring to paint, where it is a derivative of the verb prime ‘prepare (e.g. a surface)’.

  65. It is “primmer” in American English, but it has /aɪ/ in the UK.

  66. Ellis’s pronunciation of fusil, bourgeois, batman, vase, oboe is obsolete today.

    And tassle with the LOT vowel, of course. It had an early spelling variant, tossel, suggesting a folk-etymological association with toss. In Early Modern English short a and o were often confused. The latter tended to undergo unrounding (the tendency became fixed in American English), hence some inverted spellings with o for historical /a/.

  67. Stefan Holm says:

    Sven, with short [ɛ]

    …is the same in Swedish. A guy like me, interested in soccer, noticed that the German Mannschaft winning the World Championship in Brazil this summer included the players Erik (not Erich) Durm, Per Mertesacker and Lars Bender. A couple of years ago I enjoyed the performance of Olaf Thon.

    As for Torsten there is an ambiguity whether to pronounce the name with the single or the double tone accent – i.e. is it one word or a compound of two (‘Thor’ + ‘stone’)? The single tone variety dominates today but the prosody in a verse from early 19th c. national-romantic poet Esaias Tegnér points to a double tone one.

    Voro nu satta i hög / kung Bele och Torsten den gamle. ’Were now set in a mound / king Bele and Torsten the old one’.

  68. How does that work? How does prosody imply tone?

  69. The pronunciation of primer with “long” i for an elementary textbook seems to be spreading in America, perhaps first of all among people more familiar with paint than with textbooks.

  70. Stefan Holm says:

    Hat, if I give the rhythm by a /´/ marking primary stress and a /`/ marking secondary (and a rise of pitch) you will understand:

    Vórò nu sáttà í h`ög / kúng Bèle och Tórstèn den gámlè. (Copying the way I would write a iambic pentameter – without tone of course – as to bé or nót to bé that ís the quéstion).

  71. Thanks!

  72. “burjoice” is in P. G. Wodehouse, who was several generations later than Ellis.

  73. It’s given as the only pronunciation (of the type size) in Daniel Jones (1967).

  74. Yes, and turquoise vacillates between /-kwɔɪz/ and /-kwɑːz/ in UK English. Chamois (animal) is /ˈʃæmwɑː/ (formerly also with /-wɔː/), but chamois (leather) can still be “shammy” /ˈʃæmi/ today. In Early Modern English chamois, toilet were pronounced (and even spelt) “shamway, twaylet”, with EME /wɛː/ reflecting the contemporaneous French pronunciation of oi. Tortoise and porpoise have so far kept the traditional pronunciation of their unstressed second syllable (as in Lewis Carroll’s “because he taught us“), but spelling-pronunciations have been creeping in for some time.

  75. Thackeray mentions a printer named Burjoice in Vanity Fair (that’s twenty years before Ellis).

  76. marie-lucie says:

    Off the top of my head: (meaning, without consulting reference works):

    bourgeois “burjóys”: The second syllable preserves the French pronunciation that was current around the time of the development of printing.

    velleity “veléeity” : Obviously the French word (la) velléité which has four syllables. It refers to a desire to do or achieve something coupled with psychological inability to carry it out.

    brevier “breevéer” : I wonder if this represents French (le) bréviaire, a book indispensable to a Catholic priest. I think the English name for this book is “breviary” or something similar.

    vase “vauz” : Traditionally the French word is pronounced as with “â”. (I presume it refers to le vase, a vessel for cut flowers, rather than to la vase, a type of river mud – which are homophones in French).

    14. oboe “ohboy” : there is an older form “hautboy”, from French (le) hautbois, which reflects the -s truncation as in “pea” or “cherry”. “Oboe” looks like a revised spelling at a time when French oy had become (as shown by the spelling françoèze (now française) used by a 16C French grammarian and spelling reformer).

  77. marie-lucie says:

    Oops, for the last set I meant:

    oboe “ohboy”

  78. marie-lucie says:

    Stu: In the USA, even into the 1960s, many white people (especially in the southern states) thought nothing of addressing black workers as “boy” or “girl”, depending on the sex – no matter how much experience these had or how old they were.

    When I first saw the film Casablanca, I was shocked to hear the leading lady, in the role of a Norwegian (I think) woman, refer to Sam the Black pianist as “the boy”. This was proof positive that the movie was American. I cannot imagine that a European woman (or a non-American scriptwriter) would have used this word, rather than “the Negro” (a neutral term at the time, I think), or simply “the pianist”, since he was not a member of the serving staff.

  79. Well, but she’d been hanging out with Rick, who presumably referred to him that way, and so presumably picked up his usage.

  80. brevier “breevéer” : I wonder if this represents French (le) bréviaire, a book indispensable to a Catholic priest. I think the English name for this book is “breviary” or something similar.

    Good guess. The OED entry (not fully updated since 1888) says: “< Old French or Anglo-Norman *brevier < Latin breviārium breviary n.; apparently because this type was used in printing breviaries.”

  81. Hellquist 1922 derives Sveinn / PGmc *swainaz from the locative (what!?) of the reflexive pronoun with the usual personifying (masculine) -no suffix and some handwaving about ablaut. Essentially: our boy. As in, ‘Our boy can mind thy kine the while’.

    (And tjuga is not just a pitchfork, it’s something forked in general).

  82. “Oboe” looks like a revised spelling

    Specifically an Italian spelling, the spelling used in Italian for the borrowed form of French hautbois, /obwe/ at the time. It was then borrowed by English from Italian and given the spelling pronunciation /obo/.

  83. marie-lucie says:

    JC: “Oboe”the spelling used in Italian for the borrowed form of French hautbois, /obwe/ at the time.

    That spelling is the one that would have been used by a French grammarian and spelling reformer of the time (the name escapes me): oboè. English of course would ignore the diacritic.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    The person in question was Henri Estienne, a printer and scholar.

  85. Estienne (‘Henricus Stephanus’) was apparently quite the character.

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