TITYRE-TU.

I was trying to determine whether there was an English word “titulature” (it seems to exist on the very margins of the vocabulary as an equivalent of Latin intitulatio—it is not in any of my dictionaries, but the OED recognizes a word “intitulation,” and some authors use both at apparent random: “The Uigur Qaγans, except Bügü Qaγan, are known only through their official titulature. In official titles the intitulation can be dropped off…”) when my eye fell on one of the most unexpected entries I’ve seen in Webster’s Third New International:

tityre-tu \ʹtid-ərēʹt(y)ü\ n -s usu cap 1st T [fr. L Tityre tu (patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi) Tityrus, thou reclining beneath the shelter of the spreading beech tree, opening line of the 1st Eclogue of Vergil; fr. their being regarded as wealthy and idle]: one of a gang of roistering brawling young blades in 17th century London similar to the Mohocks

In the first place, what an etymology! In the second place, could this conceivably have been regarded as a useful entry for an American dictionary in the year 1961? I think the editors just couldn’t say no to it, and I can certainly understand. (Oddly, having swiped that entry from the OED, they didn’t take the following one: “Tityrus… a fictitious monster supposed to be bred between a sheep and a goat.” Why this prejudice against fictitious monsters and in favor of roistering rowdies?)
As far as the Vergil quote is concerned, M. Owen Lee, on p. 49 of Death and Rebirth in Virgil’s Arcadia (SUNY Press, 1989), says it is “almost surely intended to call to mind and ear the hády ti tó of Theocritus’ opening” [Ἁδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς, αἰπόλε, τήνα, the first line of Idyll 1], for what that’s worth.

Comments

  1. Trap word perhaps?
    I hadn’t heard of “Mohocks” but they sound related to the French “Apache”.

  2. Yay Bügü Qaγan! Yay Uigurs!

  3. There were organized gangs of rowdies in Justinian’s Constantinople. It seems to be a feature of great cities. Justinian favored one gang and, IIRC, hired from them.

  4. I have always been terrible at dictionary pronunciation alphabets. Would that render in IPA as /’təɪdəri,t(j)u:/?, barring full transcription of the /r/?

  5. It’s /ɪ/, not /əɪ/; it could be respelled as “tittery-too.” (The pronunciation in the dictionary actually has both upper and lower stress marks before both the marked syllables, indicating that either can have primary stress, the other having secondary, but I have no idea how to stack stress marks in HTML, so I compromised by using two primaries.)

  6. John Emerson: I knew you would like Bügü Qaγan, and included the quote partly for that reason.

  7. Tityrus… a fictitious monster supposed to be bred between a sheep and a goat.
    That sounds … somewhat less than monstrous.

  8. It was a PG-rated monster.

  9. Well, what if it was bred between a sheep and a very large and ugly goat? Eh? What then?

  10. Or a tough, working class Yorkshire sheep and one of Crunk’s foofoo goats?

  11. For a contrary opinion to Brewer’s origin, which was quoted uncritically by the OED, and a more direct association with that next headword, see “Some Greek, Roman and English Tityretus.”
    In Macaulay’s note on Milton given as the latest quotation, he goes on to suppose that they were the Sons of Belial.

  12. The mythical beast appears to have looked like this. Inheriting a separate set of horns from each parent may have enhanced its fiercesomeness.
    The parent page to that has an entertaining list of heraldic hybrids. I was particularly taken by the fiber, a “fictitious amphibian with the body and hind feet of a hound, the forefeet of a goose and the tail of a fish” (evidently related to the beaver) which appears to have been known for biting off and presenting his own testicles to anyone hunting it.

  13. The mythical beast appears to have looked like this. Inheriting a separate set of horns from each parent may have enhanced its fiercesomeness.
    That beast is basically a four-horned sheep. Such creatures are neither ferocious nor mythical; I’ve personally sheared one.
    And it may well be “monster” in its original sense, from “monstrum”, meaning a deformed creature serving as a portent of things to come.
    I hadn’t heard of “Mohocks” but they sound related to the French “Apache”.
    But almost two centuries earlier (early 18th vs late 19th). The tradition carries on; in the mid 20th century the Glasgow razor gangs were known as the Tongs, after the Chinese criminal society; I think there was even a Zulu Tong.

  14. More interesting to me than a sheep-goat cross is the chevrotain, aka mouse-deer. From this Wikipedia article and a couple of others I learnt that, though some people are betting on hippos, there’s a pretty good chance that whales & dolphins evolved from goats: one probable ancestor of the whale is the aquatic pakicetid, whose fossils are found in Pakistan. Note that the national animal of Pakistan is the markhor goat. Coincidence? I think not. And it’s surely no accident that there’s a herd of 200 wild markhor goats in Wales.

  15. That beast is basically a four-horned sheep. Such creatures are neither ferocious nor mythical; I’ve personally sheared one.
    Yes, that “mythical” beast looks remarkably like a Manx Loaghtan.

  16. … known for biting off and presenting his own testicles to anyone hunting it …”
    Would that be the origin of the expression “nuts to you”?

  17. I just ran across this entry in a bibliography:
    Reichsidee und Reichsorganisation im Perserreich, ed. Peter Reich and Klaus Koch
    That’s a lot of Reichs.

  18. I think it should be translated as My Idea and My Organization among My Persians, by me, Peter Reich.

  19. In other news, it’s very hot here and my brain is melting.

  20. Would that be the origin of the expression “nuts to you”?
    and also of the word “castoration”?

  21. David Marjanović says:

    there’s a pretty good chance that whales & dolphins evolved from goats

    Not at all. Whales, including dolphins (which in turn include the killer whales and the porpoises), and hippos are each other’s closest living relatives. The pakicetids are considered whales. Indohyus (and its fellow raoellids, which are only known from teeth) is the whales’ closest known relative, and it was similar to the chevrotains. The chevrotains themselves are ruminants; whales + hippos and ruminants are probably sister-groups, and the chevrotains are the sister-group to all other ruminants together, goats included.
    Links to Indohyus: 1, 2.

  22. You may think that, and thank you for your explanation, which I will file, but I choose to continue to believe that the whale is descended from the goat and that the hippo is a red herring.

  23. I started reading some of the comments on your links, and found one that said much the same about sister groups as you had… only to find it was written by one David Marjanović.
    Seriously, I find this all most interesting, and thank you for mentioning it. Btw, I don’t like the Indohyus being rendered with what looks like rodent fur; that seems a confusing speculation (but what do I know?).

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