A Beating for Generality.

Cyril Connolly talking about his “ideas of mortality, futility, and death” (via Laudator Temporis Acti):

Even when we say “I am happy” we mean “I was” for the moment is past, besides, when we are enjoying ourselves most, when we feel secure of our strength and beloved by our friends, we are intolerable and our punishment—a beating for generality, a yellow ticket, a blackball, or a summons from the Headmaster, is in preparation. All we can do is to walk delicately, to live modestly and obscurely like the Greek chorus and to pay a careful attention to omens—counting our paces, observing all conventions, taking quotations at random from Homer or the Bible, and acting on them while doing our best to “keep in favour”—for misfortunes never come alone.

Does anybody have any idea what is meant here by “generality”? I can find no relevant sense in the OED. And for that matter, what’s a yellow ticket? In Russia it meant you were a prostitute, but that’s hardly likely here.


  1. Connolly, from The Enemies of Promise:

    The captain of the school, Marjoribanks, who afterwards committed suicide, was a passionate beater like his bloody-minded successors Wrougham and Cliffe … in one satisfactory evening Majoribanks had beaten all the lower half of college. Thirty-five of us suffered. Another time we were all flogged because a boy dropped a sponge out of a window which hit a master, or we would be beaten for “generality” which meant no specific charge except that of being “generally uppish”…

    For yellow ticket, there is this.

  2. David Marjanović says

    So “generality” is what gave you 10 years in the Soviet Union?

    New arrival in the Gulag is being processed.
    “How long did you get?”
    “5 years.”
    “And for what?”
    “For nothing.”
    “LIAR!!! For nothing you get TEN years!!!”

  3. Xerîb: Impressive, you cleared up both issues promptly and thoroughly!

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    There should be beatings for generality. That is the whole point of Occam’s razor.

  5. Although you shouldn’t use the razor itself; the blood and scars bring all sorts of unpleasant questions in their wake.

  6. “for generality” ≈ “on general principles,” I would guess?

  7. Apparently so.

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    @hat, dale
    This is not what I get from the Xerib quote. “General uppishness” sounds more like a kind of indirect or passive insubordination in the military, which I imagine can and does lead to punishment. It is hard to give an example, I suppose in schools this would manifest itself mainly as insufficient display of subservience vis-a-vis masters, proctors or upperclassmen.

  9. Long since solved – I was going to suggest searching with “Eton”, which works.
    My blog, which you kindly link, has changed from .eu to .co.uk (I’m not allowed to use the .eu suffix since Brexit).

  10. Thanks for the heads-up — I’ve changed the Transblawg link (and congratulations for keeping it going all these years!).

  11. I’m not allowed to use the .eu suffix since Brexit

    What? Seriously? Is this the Brits being petty or the eu’s?

    Surely your blawg is as much about German as about English(?)

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Just re “generally uppish,” I thought “uppish” sounded a bit odd or off. Presumably what posh boarding-school Brits say instead of good old American “uppity”? Turns out wiktionary has examples of “uppish” from both Grahame (_The Wind In the Willows_) AND du Bois (_The Souls of Black Folk_). Live and learn, I suppose.

  13. [Brit here] I find nothing odd/off about “uppish”.

    Furthermore I’ve always taken Lewis Carroll to be echoing it in:

    “uffish,” which first appeared in “Alice” [in Jaberwocky] and recurs in “Snark”: “a state of mind when the voice is gruffish, the manner roughish, and the temper huffish.”

  14. @AntC: “Jabberwocky” actually was disseminated in 1855, long before Through the Looking-Glass. That’s significant, because the interval was long enough that by the time Carroll composed Humpty Dumpty’s exegesis of the poem, he may have forgotten some of what he was actually thinking when he wrote it.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    Like AntC, I find “uppish” quite normal (and I never went to a boarding school.)

    “Uppity”, on the other hand, strikes me as distinctly American, but I suspect that is because it immediately suggests one particular highly unfortunate collocation.

  16. I ran across uppish somewhere recently, I think in a Jeeves book.

  17. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I think we called the offence “attitude” in my day: in other words no particular crime apart from failing to show enough respect for one’s betters.

  18. @David Marjanović: “So “generality” is what gave you 10 years in the Soviet Union?”

    I believe 1984 owes no less to Orwell’s public school experience than to press reports from the USSR and Nazi Germany. The smell of dirty rags and boiled cabbage at the beginning is a memory from his school days but also a very Soviet smell.

  19. David Marjanović says

    What? Seriously? Is this the Brits being petty or the eu’s?

    This is ICANN: to use .eu, your website must be based in the EU, end of story.

    (Incidentally, the Basques seem to have jumped at the opportunity.)

  20. Lars Mathiesen says

    It’s the EU being petty. Well, actually the relevant wording in (Article 3 of) REGULATION (EU) 2019/517 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 19 March 2019 dates from before Brexit was a done deal, but it may well have been meant to exclude British businesses if Brexit happened.

    Actually Article 19 seems to say that anybody who registered a name under .EU before September 19, 2019 gets to keep it (and until that date, registration was wide open), BIANAL.

    EDIT: I never heard of ICANN demanding geographical association for domains under a ccTLD (of which .EU is notionally one, even though EU is not a country code). I just registered an IT name, for instance, and .nu and .tv, even .co, are widely used by companies that think the ending fits their business. But this may be a special case where ICANN can be blamed.

  21. David Marjanović says

    .nu and .tv were actually sold by their countries.

  22. Lars Mathiesen says

    So if the ICANN didn’t mind Niue selling their domain to the Swedes, the rule can’t be that general innit? (TIL that the recently deceased premier of Niue thought they got cheated, but that’s a different story and I don’t think ICANN rules figure in the court case).

  23. J.W. Brewer says

    I’m now wondering if “uppity” and “uppish” are actually not synonyms, with “uppity” meaning more “acting as if you occupy a higher rung in the social hierarchy than you in fact do” and “uppish” meaning more “acting consistently with the worst stereotypes about those who occupy the fairly high rung in that hierarchy you do indeed actually occupy.”

    The good old American “uppity” figures in a non-racialized family story I love about how my father in his teens was absolutely forbidden by my grandmother from doing something (lest the neighborhood think the Brewers were uppity) that I myself ended up doing in my own teens a generation later with my father’s blessing. It is certainly possible that our family’s rung on the ladder had shifted during the intervening generation, but it is also possible that my dad and his mother had just had divergent opinions on what was or was not unacceptably uppity for the denizens of such-and-such rung (and/or that the class-hierarchy symbolism of the act in question was different in the ’80’s than it had been in the ’50’s).

  24. I was suspended from school (a state grammar school in the south of England) for my attitude once. Admittedly it was a pretty bad attitude. The headmaster told me he was minded to beat me (i.e., cane me), but had decided not to. I suspect that he realised that an attempt at a caning would have ended badly for both of us: for him in being physically assaulted, and for me in expulsion, and he didn’t want either of those things.

  25. ICANN is not to blame: the policy for the .eu domain is set by the European Commission in its role as the executive branch of the EU, and delegated to the trustee (ICANN accredits a trustee for each ccTLD), which is a Belgian company named Eurid. To register in .eu, one must be:

    1) a citizen of the EU (which for the purpose of these rules is taken to include Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway);

    2) a non-citizen resident of the EU;

    3) an “undertaking” or “organization” established in an EU country (what this distinction is I don’t know), provided the relevant national law permits it.

  26. Lars Mathiesen says

    I suspect that an undertaking is some form of private business and the organizations are public such. The hedge about national law only applies to organizations — national law might conceivably restrict publicly funded institutions in what ccTLD they have to use.

  27. The word uppish appears once in The Lost World (1912), by Arthur Conan Doyle:

    “By the way,” he continued, coming back to his chair, “what do you know of this Professor Challenger?”

    “I never saw him till to-day.”

    “Well, neither did I. It’s funny we should both sail under sealed orders from a man we don’t know. He seemed an uppish old bird. His brothers of science don’t seem too fond of him, either. How came you to take an interest in the affair?”

    In this case, it seems like uppish means nothing more than “arrogant.” Challenger is assured of his own superiority, but he feels no obligation to express it according to conventional English norms.

    I sometimes find Doyle’s science fiction hard to read. His writing shows the author’s real knowledge of the biological sciences. (He was a trained physician.) However, this knowledge sits side by side with his remarkable credulity.

  28. my gut feeling for the distinction is that “uppity” is “acting above one’s station – which is insulting to those in the Natural Hierarchy”, but “uppish” is more or less a synonym for “showing attitude”, so “insufficiently respectful to the Natural Hierarchies and those higher in them”. a subtle distinction, but meaningful (unless you’re getting beaten for generality).

  29. David Marjanović says

    An “undertaking” must be a strange back-calque of enterprise (like… Unternehmen) and refer to for-profit corporations.

  30. @DM: it does look like a calque, and one of a respectable vintage. The OED, alas, hasn’t caught up.

  31. per incuriam says

    “Undertaking” is a term of art in EU law, in particular in the field of competition. There is case-law on its meaning and scope. An undertaking is not necessarily a corporation or for-profit.

  32. PlasticPaddy says

    From British Newspaper Archive,
    “In answer to inquiries. is announced that the Prospectus of this undertaking, with the List of Directors, and Form of Application for Shares, will issued in the course of few days.”
    Published: Wednesday 08 October 1845
    Newspaper: Globe
    County: London, England

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    Many persons might have subscribed to an undertaking, in the hope it would succeed, but it failed. Debts were incurred, the deposits were locked up; no funds were coming in, yet the provisional directors were obliged to go on.


    Mr. Croucher had called on several of the shareholders with a petition, which he requested them to sign, and represented himself as coming from the body of the shareholders, although neither he nor Mr. Pim held a share in the undertaking.

    From Hansard
    Railway Bills

    Volume 85: debated on Thursday 23 April 1846

  34. I hope the OED is paying attention.

  35. J.W. Brewer says

    I have no expertise in EU law, but my guess FWIW is that “undertaking” is to some extent deliberately broad/vague in order to encompass a wide range of different legal structures for business ventures that do not always have a one-to-one correspondence across language and national lines. Characterizing both a German AG and a German GmbH as just types of “corporation,” for example, would imply a definition of “corporation” that an Anglophone lawyer might think too vague and imprecise for use in a technical context. I don’t think that “enterprise” would be either more idiomatic or less vague than “undertaking” in this context.

  36. An “undertaking” must be a strange back-calque of enterprise (like… Unternehmen) and refer to for-profit corporations.

    Isn’t it formed from “undertake”?

    Russian “predpriyatie” (enterprise) is straightforwardly formed from verb predprinyat’ (undertake).

  37. Apples and oranges. You’re talking about morphology, but the point at issue is the word’s history; as Vasmer says, “Представляет собой книжную кальку нем. Unternehmung с помощью церковнославянизмов пред-, приять.”

  38. If the word undertaking is a calque, I’d put the emphasis on strange. Is it normal to borrow the prefix, naturalizing the sounds, but translate the root? Entreprise is a straightforward description of the work of a merchant – take-between. Undertaking sounds like the work of a smuggler.

    Or is there some age-old correspondence between entre and under that I’m not aware of?

    Etymonline adds to the mystery by noting that undertake long predates the meaning of entreprise as an economic entity, (also calling it a “similar formation to the French entreprendre”, which seems like a vague nod to the idea that it some people think it’s a calque, without accepting the notion.)

    I think undertaking is a straightforward semantic development in English that was later enlisted as the translation for the economic term entreprise because its meaning was similar.

  39. J.W. Brewer says

    One random mystery of English etymology is how “undertaker” shrank from its original transparent medieval sense of “one who undertakes an undertaking” to the much narrower “guy whose profession is handling funerals,” which one online source says occurred circa 1690, leaving “entrepreneur” unchallenged for “guy who undertakes a new business enterprise.”

  40. One can surmise, though. It’s easy to see why funerary workers might adopt the term as a euphemism, and plausible that once that happened, others didn’t like their new neighbors and moved out.

    It’s also interesting that undertaker crowded the other meanings out, but undertaking never moved into that semantic field at all.

  41. The OED hasn’t yet split out the business use of “undertaking” into a separate sense (nor has any other general dictionary), but it’s covered by the generic sense in the old entry, with at least one quotation specific to a business venture:

    1b. An action, work, etc., undertaken or attempted; an enterprise.

    1707 J. Mortimer Whole Art Husbandry 148 The Farmer is to consider..the Cost and Charges of such a Stock: that so he may suit his Undertaking to his Purse.

    There’s no indication that this is a calque; the verb undertake goes back a long way in English and was formed from English elements, although the meaning of “under” in it is obscure. The entry for under- prefix¹ sweeps undertake into the wastebasket of “4a. With verbs. (a) various secondary meanings” with several other very old verbs, of which only understand is still current as far as I can tell.

    Presumably the business use of undertaking will be promoted to a separate sense when it’s revised, just as was done with enterprise, which didn’t originally have a business-specific sense either.

  42. Maybe the under- made it easy for undertake to be associated with burial.

  43. It’s also interesting that undertaker crowded the other meanings out, but undertaking never moved into that semantic field at all.

    I’d say it’s because the verb is transitive and so implies a specific object and a specific action, whereas an undertaker takes care of unspecified matters of funerals.

    The OED adds a number of obscure meanings I hadn’t heard of (4a,b,c): ‘One who undertook to hold crown lands in Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries’ (roughly, contract colonizers); ‘One of those who in the reigns of James I, Charles I, and Charles II undertook to influence the action of Parliament, esp. with regard to the voting of supplies’ (roughly, lobbyists); ‘One of those Lowland Scots who attempted to colonize the Island of Lewis towards the end of the 16th century’.

  44. J.W. Brewer says

    I guess the standard approach to the emergence of “undertake” in Middle English is to note the striking similarity to entreprendre (the French verb from which “enterprise” derives) but not explicitly take the next step and attribute the similarity to conscious calquing (or I guess slant-calquing if the entre/under thing seems a bit off).

  45. J.W. Brewer says

    Note also the helpful reminder that even very transparent compounds that don’t seem opaquely idiomatic may be a little bit non-compositional, as illustrated by how “undertake” and “overtake” are not antonyms. I mean I guess you can say with the OED (if I’m not reading too much into the summary in ktschwartz’s comment) that “undertake” is perfectly compositional but just happens to use an obscure sense of “under” that isn’t productive in forming new compounds or even extant outside a handful of specific compounds, but that seems a little hand-wavy, doesn’t it?

  46. Stu Clayton says

    In the words “undertake” and Unternehmen, the “under” has a figurative sense for me. I imagine reaching under something large, in order to take it up for some purpose.

  47. John Cowan says
  48. Etymonline gives the original meaning of undertake as “to entrap c. 1200”. It would be interesting to know the sentence.

    A stack exchange post has this helpful thought:

    >One of my favorite resources for this kind of question is the University of Michigan’s Middle English Dictionary. There is an entry there for the prefix “under”, one of the definitions of which is:

    >(7) ‘into subjection or subordination, under control, jurisdiction, etc.’ (e.g., the verbs underdon (a), underibringen, underleien 2., underlien 2., underlouten v.(1) (a) & (b), undertheden, underthrouen, underyoken; the noun underthednesse; the participles underbroght (a), underfolde; the gerunds undercasting(e, underputtinge (b); and the adjective underlout(e);

    I had a vague sense that understanding is related to deeper knowledge, foundational elements of what you’re thinking of, where the prefix definitely means beneath.

    Admittedly, it’s hard to, um, understand how this meaning would have arisen with the verb stand, unless you take stand to be transitive – I understand X, meaning I stand (ie, put) X under the related concepts.

    But etymonline’s “to stand in the midst of” is even less satisfying, and seems dubious. Most of its citations for verbs where under had a supposed meaning of among or between are more plausibly explained by beneath in my opinion. I was thinking there would be some home run under their examples.

    I was going to continue, but here’s someone who shares my skepticism about “between, among” and carries it much further than I could:
    How to Understand Understand

    One point I’ll underline – he mentions that underniman in Old English meant steal, and associates it with connotations of surreptitiousness connected to under-, in verbs like undercreopan, underfon and undersmugan.

    He explains at length why my question about -stand in the compound shouldn’t stand in the way of an understanding.

  49. David Marjanović says

    Unter can still mean “among”, like its distant cognate entre. ( < *(H)n̩t-ró- I would guess.)

    “Undertaking” is a term of art in EU law, in particular in the field of competition. There is case-law on its meaning and scope. An undertaking is not necessarily a corporation or for-profit.



    Unterfangen overlaps with the non-business senses of u/Unternehmen, but is more literary.


    Even worse with verstehen: “misstand”? “Stand very thoroughly”?

    For that matter erstehen, “purchase”: “stand to successful completion”?

  50. Under isn’t related to nether? Did nether slowly take under under its wings? Entre is Latin intra, no? Which I wouldn’t have thought needed (H)nt-ro- since it’s got in- and tra by comparison to ex-tra-

    Or what am I misforstanding?

  51. J.W. Brewer says

    According to The Internet, Proto-Germanic somehow muddled together and merged the cognate with Latin “inter” with the cognate with Latin “inferus” (whence “infra” and “inferior” etc.), the latter of which had started with the more “under”-like semantics.

  52. Barbarians!

  53. PlasticPaddy says

    I believe under in certain compounds has a sense of “at base / at the foundation” in English that is only implicit or lacking in other Germanic languages. Compare underlie with German unterliegen. Also underpinning.

  54. Etymonline adds to the mystery by noting that undertake long predates the meaning of entreprise as an economic entity, (also calling it a “similar formation to the French entreprendre”, which seems like a vague nod to the idea that it some people think it’s a calque, without accepting the notion.)

    I think undertaking is a straightforward semantic development in English that was later enlisted as the translation for the economic term entreprise because its meaning was similar.


    Old French
    From entre +‎ prendre, by calque of Frankish *underneman (“to undertake”), from *under (“between, among”) + *neman (“to take”). Compare Old High German untarneman (“undertake”) (German Unternehmen), Old English underniman (“undertake”), Dutch ondernemen (“undertake”).

    Le Trésor de la Langue Française:

    2. 1176-81 « commencer (quelque chose), mettre en œuvre, se mettre à exécuter » (Chr. de Troyes, Chevalier charrette, éd. M. Roques, 2829). Composé de entre* et de prendre*. Le sens 2 est une altération par substitution de préf., de l’a. fr. emprendre « commencer, mettre en œuvre » (dep. ca 1100 ds T.-L.), d’un b. lat. *imprehendere (REW3, no4317; FEW t. 4, p. 602). Fréq. abs. littér. : 1 870. Fréq. rel. littér. : xixes. : a) 2 920, b) 2 071; xxes. : a) 1 929, b) 3 190.

  55. pre-d-pri-n-ya-t’ is weird.

    I think we need подпонять, надовзять/надвозъять and задзанять

  56. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish doesn’t have an heir to untarneman, or indeed *neman itself (as a verb, except for fornemme from vernehmen or MLG to that effect; we do have nem adj. = ‘easy’ and fornem ~ ‘high class’), but we did calque untersuchen and unterwerfen (the latter as underkaste). We use begynde or påtage sig instead. (Sw (på)börja or ta[ga] på sig).

    DWDS doesn’t admit of OHG untarneman in the modern sense of ‘undertake,’ though. Some wiktionary editor should have read beyond the first three words in the lemma.

    unternehmen Vb. ‘beginnen, betreiben, machen’ (16. Jh., geläufig seit 18. Jh.); vgl. ahd. untarneman ‘unterbrechen, dazwischentreten’ (10. Jh.), mhd. undernemen ‘abschneiden, unterbrechen, verhindern, wegnehmen’, reflexiv ‘sich gegenseitig fassen, sich jmds. annehmen, etw. übernehmen, antreten’

    It is silent on Frankish, though, so French might still have got it from there.

  57. Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen, s.v. nehmen.

  58. PlasticPaddy says

    Unternehmen n. ‘was unternommen wird, Vorhaben, Absicht’ (Anfang 17. Jh.), auch ‘wirtschaftliche Unternehmung, Betrieb’ (18. Jh.), dazu Unternehmer m. ‘wer einen Gewerbe- oder Industriebetrieb besitzt (und leitet)’ (18. Jh.), nach engl. undertaker, frz. entrepreneur; älter allgemein ‘wer etw. in die Wege leitet’ (Ende 17. Jh.).
    This seems to be saying that the action developed from “plan, intention/purpose” (17C) to “business undertaking / operation” (18C), but the actor was calqued in the 18C from French or English, replacing an older meaaning of “person who starts something off /sets something in motion”.

  59. David Marjanović says

    Proto-Germanic somehow muddled together and merged the cognate with Latin “inter” with the cognate with Latin “inferus”

    And so did I, independently.

    But it’s easy to see how: PIE *dʰ gives PGmc *ð; PIE *t also gives PGmc *ð under Verner conditions, as found preceding a stressed suffix like PIE *-ró-.

    fornem ~ ‘high class’

    G vornehm. Semantically unrelated to vornehmlich “mainly”.

    This seems to be saying


  60. Lars Mathiesen says

    And just to confuse you, Da nemlig is a reduction of navnlig = ‘namely’. It’s one of those little adverbs that are bleached almost to a focus marker.

    Har du et æble? Nej, jeg har nemlig to.

    And I just remembered Hvad man i ungdommen nemmer, man sent i alderdommen glemmer. Preserved by a proverbial rhyme, lærer would ruin it, but last seen in the wild before 1848 or so.

  61. And just to confuse you, Da nemlig is a reduction of navnlig = ‘namely’.
    Are you sure it isn’t just a loan from German (nämlich)?

  62. Lars Mathiesen says

    Navnlig still exists though with less bleached semantics, so if the ODS says that’s the source, I believe it. It may well be a calque from Low German, though.

  63. Stu Clayton says

    G vornehm. Semantically unrelated to vornehmlich “mainly”.

    I hope you haven’t bet your bottom dollar on that claim. See the DWDS etymology for vornehmlich. Similar in spirit to English “primary” and “primarily”.

    Of course, at this current instant in spacetime, vornehm and vornehmlich are not obviously kissing cousins. But they are semantically related. It’s an air kiss.

  64. Lars Mathiesen says

    OK, the Swedish etymological dictionary says it’s from LG nemlik and Danish navnlig is a “side form”. The whole thing is complicated by /mn/ going to /vn/ in Danish, so a form like *?namnlik could simplify the cluster and go to nemlig (with umlaut), or keep it and go to navnlig, either borrowing a doublet or simplifying later. I cannot tell if either view is supported by attested forms since they both give old stages in a regularized shape.

  65. I’m reminded of how Mad magazine, decades ago, would use “mainly” where the meaning was clearly “namely.” I suppose this is a New York-ism?

  66. Stu Clayton says
  67. If that’s an example of what Rodger C means, the idea is wrong to begin with — the meaning is quite different from “namely.” (“Namely” = equivalence, “mainly” = preponderance.)

  68. Stu Clayton says

    Since JFK is not mentioned once in the issue, “preponderance” falls by the wayside.

  69. Why? I’m sure there were any number of things in the issue that could have made him mad.

  70. Stu Clayton says

    Sure, and one thing in particular – namely not being mentioned.

  71. In other words, the thing that would have made him especially mad.

  72. John Cowan says

    I see that much learning has made us Mad.

    STAND    TAKE    TO            TAKING
    I               YOU     THROW   MY

  73. Every time I see this post title lately, I am reminded of the chapter* from Gormenghast that introduces the schoolmasters.** One of them has chalked, “CANE SLYPATE THURSDAY,” as a reminder on a wooden globe. I initially found the message confusing, since I was not in the general habit of thinking if cane as a verb, and, more importantly, it did not occur to me that “Slypate,” was a perfectly ordinary surname in the world of Gormenghast. Only toward the end of the chapter, when the teachers decide to brighten up the masters’ common room by tossing whatever spare wooden articles they can lay hands on (including the globe) into the fireplace, is it explained explicitly what the message meant and how, thanks to the globe’s incineration, the student Slypate had escaped a beating.

    * While Titus Groan had chapter titles, the chapters in the sequel Gormenghast were merely numbered. I was a bit disappointed by this when I picked up the second book, since many of the chapter titles in Titus Groan had been so weirdly evocative. However, in spite of the impression some of them made on me, I only remember two of them now: “The Roses Were Stones,” in which Keda throws herself to her death, observed only by Mr. Flea, who has been banished from the castle; and “The Reveries,” an atypical chapter that narrates the thoughts of each of the attendees at Sepulcrave’s celebratory breakfast for his son Titus.

    ** The sections of Gormenghast dealing with the boys’ school are, to me, the most incongruous part of the whole series. The setting of the first two books combines medieval elements with others from modern English culture.*** The school component is an important part of the story in Gormenghast, since that book covers Titus’s childhood, but it is also where the books are most explicitly parodying Merrie England.

    That chapter also provided my humorous reading competition piece for several speech and debate tournaments. It was not my first (or second) choice, but I found out, as we were preparing for an upcoming competition, that our coach would not allow two students to use selections from the same work (even if they were in different events) at the same tournament—which killed my plan to use the troll scene from The Hobbit, since a friend was already reading from “Riddles in the Dark.” (Happily, I did get to use The Hobbit the next year.) As the tournament entry form was being prepared, I had about an hour to name a source for my replacement reading. Under the circumstances, I had to pick something from the one of books I had immediately on hand, and the coach informed me that—based on its title alone—”101 Uses for a Dead Pope” was not an acceptable work. Gormenghast, which I had only started reading a day or so before, was what I left to do with.

    *** In the first two books, it seems like the anachronisms of the setting are supposed to be part of Peake’s portrait of Gormenghast as a place that has become trapped in a kind of unhealthy stasis, with its reverence for tradition having developed into unnatural and dangerous stultification. And that may indeed have been Peake’s original intention. However, in Titus Alone, the more modern setting (featuring a new layer of anachronisms, including twentieth-century technology like automobiles alongside science fictional flying machines) Titus explore is shown to be equally bad, if not worse.

  74. David Marjanović says

    so a form like *?namnlik could simplify the cluster and go to nemlig (with umlaut)

    Wouldn’t that be quite a bit too late for umlaut?

    (…Now that I think of it, nämlich is pronounced with /ɛ/ in my dialect, as if it really came from nehmen /nɛmɐ/; the umlaut product of *a(ː) is /e/ or /a/ depending on the environment. It must instead be an etymological nativization: most often, Standard /eː/ corresponds to dialectal /ɛ/, and Standard /ɛ/ to dialectal /e/. Anyway, wer nämlich mit h schreibt, ist dämlich.)

  75. Re namely/mainly, I was thinking of more obvious examples, but one doesn’t come to mind.

  76. Lars Mathiesen says

    Umlaut: Hellquist adduces OHG namilik and Modern nämlich, that does look like Umlaut happened though maybe before it came to Danish.

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