Watching a documentary on Shakespeare, I learned two new words. John Shakespeare, William’s father, was described as a brogger: in the OED’s definition, “An agent; a jobber, esp. a corrupt jobber of offices; a broker.” What he dealt in was wool, and wool, it turns out, was measured in tods, a tod being “a weight used in the wool trade, usually 28 pounds or 2 stone, but varying locally.” He got in trouble for (as I recall) evading duties on a large number of tods. I don’t know if this had any influence on the Bard’s development, but I like the words.


  1. Oh stop it. “Broggers” are going to change the way news is reported. Forward, chasps!

  2. But they won’t achieve it all on their Tod…

  3. I assume you’re speaking of the documentary on PBS last night? The one with the ever-breathless Michael Wood? (Am I right in thinking his narration style was parodied in a series of Volkswagon ads a few years back?)
    Any thoughts on the show itself? My own was that it was better than I expected; at least a little imagination went into it. I don’t know whether to look forward to its handling of The Authorship Question, though.

  4. That’s the one. My wife and I loved it and are looking forward to the remaining segments. You have to understand, though, that I take for granted that I’m not actually going to learn anything from a tv special; I’m hoping for some good visuals and perhaps a goof or two to get indignant about. I actually learned a fair amount from this (assuming all that stuff about his father was factual), including a couple of words, so I consider it a televisional triumph. (I trust they’re going to play the Authorship Question conservatively; if they start going all starry-eyed about the Earl of Whatsis, I may not be able to continue watching. Since all those theories are based on the assumption that an unlettered pig-ignorant grammar-school country boy couldn’t possibly have written great literature, however, and the focus of this is diametrically opposite, I don’t expect much credence given to that sort of elitist claptrap.)

  5. dungbeattle says

    ‘ere ‘ere “…that an unlettered pig-ignorant grammar-school country boy couldn’t possibly have …” along with all of the other discoveries by plow[gh]men [and fereners] etc.,

  6. The tod “whose weight varied locally” seems like the ideal unit of measure for an unscrupulous brogger. (Sort of like Calvinball). I remember that in Taiwan in 1983 I was told that there were three chin: country, city, and modern. The modern chin was based on the kilo, I think. They may have worked in the English pound somewhere too. One of my invidious generalizations about the Chinese is that they seem to prefer to do things the hard, messy way and continually make small adjustment.
    Among the Populists one of the big issues was the use of non-standard units of weight in grain elevators. In North Dakota a populist government passed a regulatory law and conbfiscated hundred of pounds of inaccurate weights. Oddly enough, all of the mistakes were in the buyer’s favor.

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