Which Word Came First?

A fun quiz from M-W: Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

Come travel through time the dictionary way to figure out which words entered the English language first. Sometimes it’s easy to tell which one of two words came first: the word telephone probably came before the word Internet. Sure enough, telephone is from the 1844 along with classics like rumormonger and goatee. Internet hails from 1974 along with junk bond and microgravity.

(Note to M-W: You might want to fix “the 1844.”) I’m annoyed with myself for getting three wrong; one would have been hard to get right, but the others were just hasty un-thought-out responses. Maybe next time I’ll turn off the timer…

Also: The Time Traveler, where you can pick a year and see which words are first attested then.

Comments

  1. David Eddyshaw says:

    Two wrong: “fun”, and I can’t remember the other one.

    Apparently I scored 3740/5200. No idea how that works …

  2. I missed “fun” too!

  3. Owlmirror says:

    I think the score is based on how many seconds it takes for you to answer. Answering every question correctly as fast as possible should give the maximal score (possibly less than perfect due to communication lag and reaction time).

    And I’d bet that Crangou (currently #1 with 5180 out of 5200 on the leaderboard) cleared their cookies and did the test again to attain that score.

  4. 11/12. But I was forewarned about “fun”. 🙂

  5. 9 out of 12. Score was 3600 or thereabouts. No problem with “fun” but silly mistakes on a couple of others.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    3840 points at 10/12 correct. I was also forewarned about “fun”, but missed one that was obvious in retrospect and one where both words were unfamiliar and I essentially guessed randomly.

  7. 9/12 and got tripped up by “fun” as well, having taken the quiz spoiler-free.

  8. Three words that might be older than you think:
    broadcast
    skyscraper
    telegraph

  9. Anyone who ever read the back of a seed packet would know about “broadcast”.

  10. Russian word for “airplane” (“samolyot” or literally “self-flying”) is so old that it features in Russian folktales (“flying carpet” is literally “carpet-airplane” in Russian).

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    That’s nothing. The Kusaal word* for “aeroplane” is nasaasilʋg, where nasaa- is from the Arabic for “Christians”, and silʋg is from the millennia-old Oti-Volta root for “hawk.”

    *Actually, I never heard anybody actually use this. What people really say is alɔpir, which might just possibly be a loanword …

  12. Y–
    Touché. And the other two are similar.

  13. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The first optical (e.g. semaphore arm) telegraphs were set up around 1800, but I don’t know if there was anything earlier than that.

    This came up in discussion with a friend recently, when I suddenly wondered what was wireless about a wireless. (Radio rather than internet.) He said it was because of telegraphs, which confused me more because early telegraphs were wireless too. But apparently they’ve been wireless and then wired and then wireless again!

  14. I am skeptical about fun vs excitement.
    Middle English had “fonne,” meaning a fool, and as a verb, to fool, play a trick. This became fon, a dialectal Modern English word with the same meaning. The spelling fun originally had the same meanings. They survive to some extent in “make fun of” and the dialectal (perhaps obsolete) verb fun, as in “I was just funnin’ you.”
    So when did the spellings “fonne” and “fon” become fun? I suspect that the variant spellings existed alongside each other for a long time and the first appearances of the spelling “fun” are probably earlier than the quiz admits,
    It may be that “excitement” in its modern meaning may be older than “fun” in its modern meaning, but that’s not the question the quiz puts to us.

  15. In various armies around the world, wireless optical telegraph (called heliograph) remained in service well into the 20th century. In fact, some armies probably had two kinds of wireless at the same time – radio and helio.

    Helios feature prominently in famous Kipling’s poem about English veteran of the Boer War:

    Me that ‘ave watched ‘arf a world
    ‘Eave up all shiny with dew,
    Kopje on kop to the sun,
    An’ as soon as the mist let ’em through
    Our ‘elios winkin’ like fun —
    Three sides of a ninety-mile square,
    Over valleys as big as a shire —
    “Are ye there? Are ye there? Are ye there?”
    An’ then the blind drum of our fire . . .

  16. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The OED dates ‘fun’ in any sense (the trick sense, first) back to 1699 and ‘excitement’ in any sense (something which causes something else to happen) to 1604, which would make the answer right but the explanation misleading.

    ‘Fon’ is earlier if it’s the same word, but if I’m understanding them correctly it vanishes completely quite a while before ‘fun’ appears with a similar but separate meaning.

    ‘Reefer’ is the same – I thought it would be like ‘batman’, but it turns out that ‘ganja’ is older than I thought. (Actually, the OED’s first quotations for both ganja and the midshipman meaning of reefer are from 1800, but if M-W says 1689, who am I to argue.)

  17. it turns out that ‘ganja’ is older than I thought.

    Same here!

  18. January First-of-May says:

    ‘Reefer’ is the same – I thought it would be like ‘batman’, but it turns out that ‘ganja’ is older than I thought.

    Ditto; I didn’t recognize either word, and chose the one that looked more likely to have an older meaning.

  19. David Eddyshaw says:

    Fon “fool” is the same stem as “fond” (which meant “daft” in the Good Old Days.) So not the same etymon as “fun” unless the sound has changed, and not merely the spelling (which could indeed have represented either, cf “son” etc.)

  20. David Eddyshaw-
    The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology (subscription but you can see enough for free at its website) thinks that fun originated as a dialectal version of fon.

  21. Owlmirror says:

    Speaking of fun/fon, I wondered if there was some connection between “sard” and “sod”, but the OED says that sard/serd is from Scandanavian, while “sod” is actually a verbing of the noun form, itself a shortening of sodomite, of course. There was a couple of centuries, I guess, where neither term was used.

    Oddly — and bringing it back to “fun” more directly — the OED gives no definition for “sard” directly, but points to “jape v. 2”. Huh. I did not know that jape meant that.

    Is that redirect because sard is dirty, or because it’s obsolete?

    Example use: “Go teach your Grandam to sard; a Nottingham Proverb.” Oh, those naughty Nottinghamites.

    Another example: “1535 D. Lindsay Satyre (1871) 3028 Freirs, Quhilk will, for purging of their neirs: Sard up the ta raw, and doun the uther.”

    What the heck is “ta” or “ta raw”, here?

  22. Good question; I googled the phrase but could find no helpful exegesis. I did find, however, that I’d quoted the same Lindsay citation five years ago.

  23. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    ‘Row’, I think, possibly in the sense of a street of houses.

    I don’t know why ‘ta’, exactly – the DSL gives it as a variant of ‘twa’, but in that position it seems like it would have to be one/ane these days. They have another quotation, though, from the Records of the Burgh of Peebles in 1456, with the same ‘first one and then the other’ meaning:
    at thwa termis, that is to say Beltain the ta half and Bartylmes the tothir half

    I have a copy of the Satyre somewhere, I think, but whether I could actually lay my hands on it to see if it gives a different version…

  24. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    I did! Amazed!

    The spelling is the same, but it glosses:
    neirs kidneys
    sard copulate
    ta one
    raw row

    So there you go.

    (Also I found the Aeneid, which I couldn’t find anywhere when I wanted to read it in the spring, hiding in a pile of Scottish literature, so thank you!)

  25. Owlmirror says:

    OK, so up one row and down the other.

    Is there something that gives context? One row of what, exactly?

    neirs kidneys

    Huh, really that specific?

    I thought it was an obviously elided form of “nethers”, and referred to organs a bit lower than the kidneys.

  26. David Eddyshaw says:

    Go teach your Grandam to sard

    There is a suggestion of the Grandfather Paradox about this …
    What happens if you fail?

  27. OED s.v. neer, n.1 “A kidney, esp. of an animal; (also, by extension) the region of the kidneys, the loin”:

    Etymology: Either the reflex of an unattested Old English word (probably with Old English -ēo-) cognate with West Frisian nier, Middle Dutch niere (Dutch nier), Middle Low German nēre, neyre, nyere, etc., Old High German nioro, niero, nier, etc. (also in sense ‘testicle’; Middle High German niere, nier, German Niere), Old Icelandic nýra, Norwegian nyre, Old Swedish niure (Swedish njure), Danish nyre, Old Gutnish niauri (in vigniauri testicle) < the same Indo-European base as ancient Greek νεϕρός kidney, also (in plural) testicles (see nephro- comb. form), classical Latin (Praenestinian) nefrōnēs, (Lanuvian) nebrundinēs (plural), probably ‘testicles’, or perhaps a borrowing of the corresponding word in Middle Low German. Scandinavian influence may be shown by the East Anglian forms nyre, nire.

    At the beginning of the 20th cent. the word was still attested in common regional use in northern, north-midland, and eastern counties of England as well as in Scotland. 20th cent. evidence for England is limited: the only relevant item in the Surv. Eng. Dial. questionnaire is ‘What do you call the inner layer of fat round the kidneys of a pig?’, for which near-fat /nɪəfat/ is recorded as a response only from Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Nears ‘kidneys’ is also recorded in a glossary from Lincolnshire in the mid 20th cent., and there is also limited evidence for near in the sense ‘kidney in suet’ from Derbyshire in the same period, although in all areas where it occurred in the 20th cent. the item would appear to have been recessive.

    Spellings in ea among α, β, and γ forms probably show lowering of Middle English close ē to open ē before r , although in some more recent instances confusion or analogy with other words may also be a significant factor (compare near adj.). The β. forms apparently show metanalysis (see N n.), although analogy with ear n.1 may also have played a part; F. Grose Provinc. Gloss. (ed. 2, 1790) at Inear, Near notes the resemblance of a kidney when cut lengthwise to an ear. The γ. forms (earliest in quot. 1788 at main sense and in F. Grose Provinc. Gloss. (ed. 2, 1790), and subsequently in a number of 19th-cent. Yorkshire glossaries) are harder to account for: Grose suggests confusion with inner adj.; perhaps compare innerer adj. Eng. Dial. Dict. also records a form nurses in the sense ‘kidneys’ from Lancashire, probably arising through analysis of the plural word as singular, and with typical Lancashire merger of /ɛə/ and /əː/.

  28. neirs
    That looks like a cognate to German Niere “kidney”.

    Edit: Ninja’d by LH 🙂

  29. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    DOST (the pre-1700 bit of the DSL) gives the first meaning of raw as ‘A line of houses; the line, or lines, of houses making up a street; a street so demarcated’ – I haven’t come across anything more likely.

    It’s general denouncing of the state of the church, at a point where it’s still a bit unclear whether it will manage to reform itself or be Reformed (8 years before the capital-R Reformation).

    The introduction quotes from a ‘catechism’ written by the archbishop of St Andrews in the same year, on reform among the clergy:
    The office of a Preist and Byschop is nocht to leive in in idilnes, nocht to leive in fornicatioun and huirdome, nocht to be occupeit in halking and hunting, bot to leive ane haly lyfe…

  30. Owlmirror says:

    So it’s sort of a metaphorical exaggeration? Not my row of houses, or yours, or anyone’s in particular, but rather the universal, archetypal row of houses?’

    NB: As I type this, an unbalanced [em] tag (after “nefrōnēs”, I think) seems to be emphasizing all comments following that comment.

  31. Sorry about that; I’ve added a couple of close-ital tags to my comment but everything’s still ital!

  32. Stu Clayton says:

    The all-italics mode starts with the comment by Hans. That’s where a </i> is missing.

    Look how easy it is to bomb a website, by accident even. There are German “experts” who want to completely digitalize the financial system, eliminating paper money. They actually trust software !!

  33. I’m not sure where you put the tags. The word “nefrōnēs” is still missing the close [/em] after it.

    It can’t be Hans’ comment. Mere commenters cannot put in unclosed tags; the comment system autocloses them.

    The site owner, who can edit comments after they have been posted, can make an editing error and leave a tag unclosed.

    If you view the source for this page in Firefox, you can see that the paragraph with the missing [/em] has a red [/p], and then further down, a red [/blockquote], and then a red [/div], and a red [/li]. I think that’s to indicate that the tag imbalance was detected there.

  34. Stu Clayton says:

    The “comment system” does no such thing. I often mistype the close-italics tag when posting in haste from my small cellphone with tiny key symbols. When I see the result (all italics after the place I started them) , I edit it to add the /.

    There may be another, adventitious problem now. The root problem is that HTML does not require balanced tags.

  35. Hm.

    Does this close or not?

    Edit: Yes, it does. View source after I posted the above with an unclosed tag showed:

    <p>Does this <i>close or not?</i></p>

  36. Stu Clayton says:

    Nope. Your comment still appears in all-italics. I started my penultimate comment with three unbalanced close-italics tags (you can’t see them). That made no difference.

    I have refreshed the page. No change for the better.

    “View source” … showed:

    I inspect only the contents of the edit box. Maybe a close-tag is added to the generated HTML when there are no tag-like artefacts following the open-tag. What often happens to me is that I post something like

    <i>xxx yyy<i>

    or

    <i>xxx yyy</>

    Everything following the open-tag then appears italicized. No matter what is added or not in the HTML.

  37. I can’t see the unbalanced close tags that you put in because the the system strips out unbalanced tags. My comment is in italics because the original problem is still persisting.

    Maybe a close-tag is added to the generated HTML when there are no tag-like artefacts following the open-tag.

    Yes, exactly. That’s what I meant by the comment system autoclosing open tags, and what I tested in my comment from 10:45 pm.

    Everything following the open-tag then appears italicized. No matter what is added or not in the HTML.

    Ah, yes, the comment system doesn’t try to guess where you meant to put the close tag, and simply puts it at the end of your post.

  38. Stu Clayton says:

    # If you view the source for this page in Firefox, you can see that the paragraph with the missing [/em] has a red [/p], and then further down, a red [/blockquote], and then a red [/div], and a red [/li]. I think that’s to indicate that the tag imbalance was detected there. #

    Those are developer tools. They can “detect” all they want, it doesn’t affect the result. The HTML is still interpreted by the renderIng engine according to the rule “anything goes”.

  39. What happens when I try multiple paragraphs with an unclosed tag? Start bold, add some text, hit enter:

    Type some more stuff, another sentence. Hit enter again.

    One more line, and let’s see what happens.

  40. As can be seen, the bold tag is closed in my last line.

    Those are developer tools. They can “detect” all they want, it doesn’t affect the result. The HTML is still interpreted by the renderIng engine according to the rule “anything goes”.

    Sure. The rendering engine doesn’t try to second-guess where you meant to put the close tag — it just detected that there was a problem.

    In fact, I noticed that my paragraph with the unclosed bold tag got a red [/p], and a red [/b]. That’s because really, it’s bad nesting: text formatting tags should be enclosed inside [/p] tags, and never cross them (W3C standards). But the rendering engine shows it anyway.

  41. Speaking of “problems detected”, another line that’s in red is the link for the “Germanic Lexicon Project”. That’s because there’s an unclosed [/a] tag for the line above it, the “Etymological Dictionary of Arabic”.

  42. Stu Clayton says:

    Dealing with HTML is a job for Eloi. I stay underground and build massively concurrent espresso machines.

  43. Stu Clayton says:

    # As can be seen, the bold tag is closed in my last line. #

    All I see is unbroken boldface following the word “Start”. I look at what is rendered, not at HTML source. As Kohl once remarked: Entscheidend ist, was hinten rauskommt.

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    # a job for Eloi #

    Just so. Eat them, I say. Nobody really needs html, and Eloi go nicely with a good coffee.

  45. All I see is unbroken boldface following the word “Start”.

    Ah, but you can also see that the boldface stops when the comment ends, and does not continue to the next comment.

    Surely your epistemological system has room for negative evidence?

  46. I didn’t know that I had the power to italicize a whole thread…. Sorry!

  47. Just so. Eat them, I say. Nobody really needs html, and Eloi go nicely with a good coffee.

    But he literally just wrote that he posts using HTML! Are you telling him to eat himself?!?!

    Oh, those naughty Welsh Morlocks.

  48. David Eddyshaw says:

    # those naughty Welsh Morlocks #

    We prefer “Morllogion.”

  49. Stu Clayton says:

    # Surely your epistemological system has room for negative evidence? #

    Sure. I file it under “alternative facts” with a reminder flag.

    # But he literally just wrote that he posts using HTML! #

    I don’t use HTML. I use an edit box. HTML is a substrate used by further processes over which I have no control. I implicitly rely on them and it, sure. Just as I implicitly rely on the physiochemical antics of my body. Gotta start somewhere.

    For all I know or care, the HTML substrate might rest on a further substrate of carrier pigeons. Provided they don’t shit italics on my monitor, I’m fine

  50. I don’t use HTML. I use an edit box.

    If you want to split this hair even finer, you could say that you don’t use an edit box, you tap on the keys or screen of a machine, and accept on blind faith that what you think you’re typing will show up somewhere, somehow.

    There’s probably an xkcd for this.

    For all I know or care, the HTML substrate might rest on a further substrate of carrier pigeons.

    RFC 1149 ; RFC 2549 ; RFC 6214

  51. Stu Clayton says:

    I just noticed that the entire LH website is now displaying in italics ! It’s an outbreak of Italics-19.

  52. Stu Clayton says:

    IPoAC is exactly what I was referring to.

    # If you want to split this hair even finer, you could say that you don’t use an edit box, you tap on the keys or screen of a machine, and accept on blind faith that what you think you’re typing will show up somewhere, somehow. #

    Just so. Everything works reasonably well until it doesn’t. Then you call in an expert who charges astronomical fixit fees. That’s why I work in IT.

  53. Disaster strikes LH.

  54. David Marjanović says:

    halking and hunting

    Is that hawking?

  55. Lars Mathiesen says:

    The rules of HTML are passing arcane, and LH is indeed set to display in anything-goes mode. (“XHTML 1.0 Transitional” which was supposed to live for a year or two after 2002. WordPress should get with the program).

    The problem is indeed the badly nested <em> tags in Hans’ post (I fetched the HTML and edited it to check); what I see in the Chrome debugger is that the HTML parser feels called upon to repair this by closing the tag at the end of each enclosing level and resuming it at the next level out.

    There are actually two levels of <em> in that paragraph and the inner level is opened and closed several times. That might be why the outer level of emphasis doesn’t get closed properly at the end of any of the enclosing units. (<em> isn’t supposed to be able to nest, but once we’re in uncharted territory, all bets are off. Owlmirror’s test didn’t have nested levels of boldface and got closed properly at the end of the comment).

  56. Stu Clayton says:

    @Lars: There are actually two levels of <em> in that paragraph and the inner level is opened and closed several times. That might be why the outer level of emphasis doesn’t get closed properly at the end of any of the enclosing units.

    You have revealed to the hacker masses the details of the Italics-19 exploit against WordPress.

  57. Are you talking about Hans’s comment beginning “neirs”? Because I just removed all HTML tags from it and the itals are still there.

  58. I just added the close-a tag on the Etymological Dictionary of Arabic link; thanks for the heads-up!

  59. Stu Clayton says:

    I surmised that Hans’ comment triggered this panitalicsia. Lars analyzed a comment, perhaps a different one, and found a nested tag problem. Perhaps the page will have to be regenerated from scratch, by clearing the page cache (I’m guessing a cache of some kind is involved).

  60. Lars, can you elaborate, and perhaps tell me exactly what I should do to end the madness? I’m afraid I don’t even know how to clear the page cache.

  61. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I got confused, it’s LH’s own comment. Add </em> after nefrōnēs, and all will be well with the world.

    (There is a “blockquote p { fontstyle: normal }” in the CSS, which is why blockquotes like this are not affected).

    Also there is a lone < earlier in the paragraph which really should be spelled &lt;, but it wasn’t the cause of the problem and at least Chrome patches it up and displays it anyway.

  62. Stu Clayton says:

    “I’m guessing” means I know almost nothing about web servers. I merely see a resemblance to a typical IT phenomenon: if something is coming out wrong, you identify the cause and correct it, and yet whatever it is still comes out wrong – then you’re seeing a copy. The fancy term for where copies are held is “cache”.

  63. But there is an </em> after nefrōnēs! I added another one just to be sure, and then removed the blockquote in case that was causing the problem, and the itals are still there!

  64. Aha! I finally figured out I had forgotten to replace a “derived from” < by the necessary HTML code. Once I did that, all was well, and I replaced my blockquote and Hans’s itals.

  65. Stu Clayton says:

    Yay, back to normal !

  66. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Something was lagging, probably a cache like Stu mentions. Now I see the <em> when I download the HTML to a file, and on refreshing in the browser the italics are gone.

  67. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Is that hawking?

    I just assumed it was without looking it up, but I have, and it still is 😀

    I don’t think there are any kind of login restrictions on the DSL – not that I have any objection to looking things up in it. https://dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/halking

  68. halking

    Is that from hawk, or does it have something to do with Spanish halcón? (Those two, it turns out, are unrelated.)

  69. @Owlmirror: The relevant xkcd is probably 722: Computer Problems.

    IP over Avian Carriers is still at a rather crude stage. The mature version of the technology is my favorite SCP.

  70. Trond Engen says:

    RFC 1149

    Wikipedia:

    On 28 April 2001, IPoAC was implemented by the Bergen Linux user group, under the name CPIP (for “Carrier Pigeon Internet Protocol”).[4] They sent nine packets over a distance of approximately five kilometers (three miles), each carried by an individual pigeon and containing one ping (ICMP Echo Request), and received four responses.

    My brother was central in that and wrote the preliminary writeup (and pretty much everything else, I believe). I’m sure there also used to be a blogpost or a webpage with photos of pigeons over Bergen and a less technical descrption of the event.

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Jen in Edinburgh: I don’t know why ‘ta’, exactly – the DSL gives it as a variant of ‘twa’, but in that position it seems like it would have to be one/ane these days. They have another quotation, though, from the Records of the Burgh of Peebles in 1456, with the same ‘first one and then the other’ meaning:
    at thwa termis, that is to say Beltain the ta half and Bartylmes the tothir half

    That’s extremely interesting. Is it a definite form parallel to the transferred -n of a nother?

  72. Yes, the tother < that other, where that is a fossilized neuter article. Also the tither, which my mother (born Eastern Kentucky, 1920) would say jocularly. (I suspect, though, that she knew such forms only from ballads.)

  73. Ah, so it’s “the t’a half” and “the t’other half,” where a = ae ‘one’!

  74. John Cowan says:

    And this brings up the “Yorkshire article” t’, which should really be written ‘t because it is the cognate of Dutch het and West Frisian it /ət/, as distinct from the WF and Eng 3sg pronoun it /ɪt/). With the loss of gender, it must have generalized.

  75. Trond Engen says:

    So that ae “the one” reinterpreted as the tae with semantics similar to Scand. den ene “the one, a specific one of more”, with the specificity provided by the weak (definite) adjective ending on en. t- as a particle of specificity.

  76. Thanks to this thread, I just noticed “The tone of us shall die” (= one or the other of us) in a ballad. From Child Maurice, jealous husband speaking:

    ‘Ffor thou hast sent her a mantle of greene,
    As greene as any grasse,
    And bade her come to the siluer woode
    To hunt with Child Maurice.

    ‘And thou [hast] sent her a ring of gold,
    A ring of precyous stone,
    And bade her come to the siluer wood,
    Let ffor noe kind of man.

    ‘And by my ffaith, now, Child Maurice,
    The tone of vs shall dye!’
    ‘Now be my troth,’ sayd Child Maurice,
    ‘And that shall not be I.’

    And the same formula appears in medieval verse romances like the Stanzaic Morte Arthur and Bevis of Hampton.

    “The tone … the tother” seems to have been common in medieval English, going by EEBO. In the Wycliffe Bible:

    Luke 16:13 No seruaunt may serue to twei lordis; for ether he schal hate the toon, and loue the tothir; ethir he schal drawe to the toon, and schal dispise the tothir. Ye moun not serue to God and to ritchesse.

    And one of Thomas More’s dialogues, now known as A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, had the original title-page:

    A dyaloge of syr Thomas More knyghte: one of the counsayll of oure souerayne lorde the kyng & chauncellour of hys duchy of Lancaster. Wherin be treatyd dyuers maters, as of the veneration & worshyp of ymages & relyques, prayng to sayntys, & goyng on pylgrymage. Wyth many othere thyngys touchyng the pestylent sect of Luther and Tyndale, by the tone bygone in Saxony, and by the tother laboryd to be brought in to Englond.

    I guess “the tone, the tother” must have dropped out of prestige English not too long after that.

  77. @ktschwarz: Confusingly, “Child Maurice” is Child Ballad 83, although it seems not entirely clear whether the title should really have “Child” or if it was meant to be an ironic invocation of “Childe.” Moreover, it is known by other names in other dialects, such as “Gil Morice,” which is a Scottish version and apparently the first version of the song to be recorded, by Ewan MacColl.

    (I have one song by MacColl in my YouTube playlist, “The Ballad of Tim Evans/Go Down Ye Murderers,”* which I previously mentioned here. Unfortunately, copyrighted music that people have uploaded without permission tends to disappear after a while. I have developed a system for dealing with this when it happens; when one version gets taken down, there is usually another upload to replace it—increasingly frequently a genuinely legal upload. I had MacColl’s original recording in my list, in which the last verse is:

    They sent Tim Evans to the drop
    For a crime he did not do.
    It was Christy was the murderer
    And the judge and jury too.
    Sayin’, “Go down, you murderers, go down.”

    However, only the rerecorded version with milder lyrics seems to be available now.

    It was Christy was the murderer
    And everybody knew.
    They sent Tim Evans to the drop
    For a crime he didn’t do.
    Sayin’, “Go down, you murderers, go down.”

    There is also a terribly remastered and sweetened version, on YouTube now, but that’s a separate problem.)

    * MacCool also wrote “The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh,” which I cannot recommend either musically or politically.

  78. This is so late that it’s hardly worth it, but on fun, fon, fonne –

    my son asked me a question today about something to do with John Donne, and the pronunciation of his name reminded me of this post. And then I remembered the lines in the opening of the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales:

    The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
    Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,

    So the word once spelled fon or fonne may well be the same word as the modern fun. There are experts who would know, perhaps the folks who have worked up Original Pronunciation for Shakespeare.

    And that’s all for tonight.

  79. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    ‘Gil’ could be Scots gillie ‘lad’ (Gaelic gille ‘boy’), but apparently it has also been recorded as ‘Bill Norrie’, which looks like a plain mishearing.

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