Last night my wife raised the question of how old brand names are (I guessed nineteenth-century, but if anyone has any good links on the subject, please share); in the course of looking up the word brand in the OED, I noticed the headword bratticing. When I told my wife it meant ‘the furnishing of the ramparts of a castle with temporary parapets or breastworks,’ she immediately said “Temporary breastworks? That would be a good word for a brassiere.” For the millionth time, I was glad I’d married her.
Today I looked at the definition again and saw the note “From the preceding illiterate Sc. spelling bertisene, Sir Walter Scott appears to have evolved the grandiose BARTIZAN, vaguely used by him for bretising or bratticing, and accepted by later writers as a genuine historical term”; sure enough, the etymology for bartizan is:
[In no dictionary before 1800; not in Todd 1818, nor Craig 1847. Apparently first used by Sir Walter Scott, and due to a misconception of a 17th c. illiterate Sc. spelling, bertisene, for bertising, i.e. bretising, BRATTICING, f. bretasce (BRATTICE), a. OF. bretesche, ‘battlemented parapet, originally of wood and temporary.’ Bartizan is thus merely a spurious ‘modern antique,’ which had no existence in the times to which it is attributed.]
Fie, Sir Walter! But at least his misunderstanding was less embarrassing than poor Browning’s.