Fintan O’Toole’s NYRB review (October 11, 2018) of Pretty Gentlemen: Macaroni Men and the Eighteenth-Century Fashion World by Peter McNeil starts out like this:

When Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni, he was not thinking of pasta. And the author of the ditty, probably a British professional soldier mocking the New England militiamen with whom he fought during the French and Indian War in the late 1750s or early 1760s, was not indulging in mere amiable ribbing of the colonials. Macaroni was an extravagant and self-conscious fashion in male display and an arena in which anxieties about British masculinity were being played out. Over the next decade, back home in England, the image of the macaroni militia officer would become a staple of the booming market in satiric prints.

Later, O’Toole writes:

The use of the term “macaroni,” the subject of Peter McNeil’s fascinating, deeply erudite, and superbly illustrated Pretty Gentlemen, reached its height between 1760 and 1780, though the word remained in everyday use for the rest of the eighteenth century. It did indeed originate with the habit of eating pasta, an outlandish affectation picked up by privileged young men on their Grand Tours to Italy and one that deliberately affronted the cherished self-image of the English as a nation of roast beef eaters. It came, however, to refer to an outré imported style of male dress and comportment.

Of course I wanted to know what the OED had to say, and it turns out the entry was updated in March 2000, so it’s reasonably current; after “A variety of pasta formed in short, narrow tubes, usually boiled and served with a sauce, esp. in Italian cookery” we get:

2. A dandy or fop; spec. (in the second half of the 18th cent.) a member of a set of young men who had travelled in Europe and extravagantly imitated Continental tastes and fashions. Also in extended use. Now historical.
[This use seems to be from the name of the Macaroni Club, a designation probably adopted to indicate the preference of the members for foreign cookery, macaroni being at that time little eaten in England. There appears to be no connection with the extended use of Italian maccherone in the senses ‘blockhead, fool, mountebank’ (compare macaroon n. 3), referred to in 1711 by Addison Spectator 24 Apr. 178/2: Those circumforaneous Wits whom every Nation calls by the name of that Dish of Meat which it loves Italy, Maccaronies.]
[See Update below for 1757 citation — LH.]
[1764 H. Walpole Let. to Earl of Hertford 6 Feb. (1857) IV. 178 The Maccaroni Club (which is composed of all the travelled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses).]
1764 H. Walpole Let. Earl Hertford 27 May (1857) IV. 238 Lady Falkener’s daughter is to be married to a young rich Mr. Crewe, a Macarone, and of our Loo.
1823 C. Lamb South-sea House in Elia 6 He wore his the fashion which I remember to have seen in caricatures of what were termed, in my young days, Maccaronies.

But then I scrolled down and discovered a couple of surprising senses:

4. In the Caribbean: a coin of the value of a quarter of a dollar in local currency, principally either a cut eight-real piece or a two-real piece from a Spanish Central or South American country. Now historical.
[F. G. Cassidy & R. B. Le Page Dict. Jamaican Eng. (1980), explains this use as alluding to ‘the frequent use of the coin as a tip given by a gentleman or macaroni’. It has also been explained as an alteration of American Spanish macuquino, a clipped gold or silver coin current from the late 18th cent. until the mid 19th cent.]
5. In full macaroni penguin. The penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus, of subantarctic regions, which has a golden crest.
[Apparently so called because its crest was thought to resemble the coiffure of the ‘macaronis’ (sense 2). The Pall Mall Gaz. Extra of 24 July 1884, p. 29/2, gives from a print of 1777 two figures of headdresses then in use, one of which is called ‘the macaroni’. Compare also quot. 1823 at sense 2.]

And of course you’ll want the origin story:

Etymology: < Italian maccaroni, macaroni, obsolete or regional variants of maccheroni (15th cent.), plural of maccherone (14th cent.; 13th cent. in post-classical Latin (ablative plural) macaronis; 11th cent. in Italian as Mackarone in isolated early use as a name for a foolish person); of uncertain origin. Compare French macaroni (1650; 1820 in sense 6), and the earlier macaroon n. With sense 2 compare monkeyrony n.
Italian maccherone is perhaps < Byzantine Greek μακαρία barley-broth (only attested in Hesychius, and therefore possibly from a lost ancient Greek or Hellenistic Greek text) < ancient Greek μακάριος blessed (because originally a funeral or charitable meal); another suggested Greek etymology is < medieval Greek μακαρώνεια funeral chant (13th cent.) < ancient Greek μακάριος + αἰώνιος eternal (see aeonian adj.). maccherone is attested early in southern Italian use, and may have entered Italian or post-classical Latin from the Greek settlements in southern Italy (compare Italian macco, originally of similar meaning and perhaps of the same origin).

The word appears earliest to have denoted a dumpling or gnocco, and only later pasta in tubular form: compare Folengo’s gloss given s.v. macaronic adj., and the following gloss (compare also macaroon n. 1, 2):
1611 J. Florio Queen Anna’s New World of Words Maccaróni, a kind of meat made of round peeces of paste, boyled in water and put into a dish with butter, spice and grated-cheese vpon them.

The etymology < Italian maccare to bruise favoured by many earlier scholars is now usually rejected on morphological grounds.

The word is scarcely evidenced in English until the mid 18th cent.: compare note to sense 2.

I find it odd that they say “denoted a dumpling or gnocco”; why not “denoted a dumpling or gnocchi,” using the perfectly good English word for which they have an entry (Etymology: Italian, plural of gnocco, < nocchio a knot in wood)? I suppose that wording grated on them, with its mix of singular and etymological plural, but that’s English for you. Don’t try to make it logical and consistent!

Update. Having read further in the review, I see O’Toole provides an antedate: the term was “first used” in 1757 in David Garrick’s play The Male-Coquette. (Obviously he should say “first attested” rather than “first used,” but it seems to be impossible to stop people from conflating the two.)


  1. SFReader says

    I wonder what is the connection between Yankee Doodle and “Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside down.”

  2. Knowledge of what properly constituted a “macaroni” actually seems to have been somewhat limited in the late eighteenth century. The macaronis were known for excessively ornate and layered clothing, with numerous accessories, including high heels for men. In contrast, the “dandies” of the time prided themselves on a much more restrained style, with fewer elements but extreme care in how every article was positioned. However, to the consternation of some of the dandies, most people not in one the two groups (which meant everyone except affluent young men around London) tended to conflate then. That conflation is preset right there in “Yankee Doodle,” with the line, “Yankee Doodle dandy.”

  3. Ouch. That’s like how punk and New Wave were conflated by ignorant outsiders in the eighties.

  4. Lars Mathiesen says

    The leap from barley-broth to dumplings is — long. But there are a few thousand years in there where funerary rites in southern Italy can have changed and the name remained the same.

  5. Still think Yankee Doodle is the more interesting element etymologically. It’s always sounded like a way to call someone a wanker to me.

  6. AJP Crown says

    punk and New Wave were conflated by ignorant outsiders
    Outsiders have a right, if not a duty to be ignorant; it’s “conflated by the press.”

  7. Stu Clayton says

    Fake Macaroni !

  8. punk and New Wave were conflated by ignorant outsiders

    Or, earlier, people would growl “Hippie!” at a political activist. Come to think of it, a lot of those people kept doing it for forty years or so.

  9. J.W. Brewer says

    Arguing for a bright line (based on objective and/or accepted-by-universal-consensus criteria) between “punk” and “new wave” was an oft-bootless endeavor when we did it as teenagers 40 years ago. By 1982, there was a character on a US tv sitcom (the late lamented “Square Pegs”) who frequently insisted on such linedrawing in a way that was supposed to make him seem comical. Back then I was not yet aware (not least because he had not yet published the book in which it appears) of W.V. Quine’s useful observation (which lends itself to much generalization) “Encyclopedias are inconclusive and a bit frantic in their effort to state ways in which ale, properly so called, may generally or frequently be said to differ from beer, properly so called.” (W.V. Quine was of course some degree of cousin to the fine guitarist Robert Quine, who first came to prominence playing with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, although I can’t say that W.V. ever tried to mine his cousin’s line of work for useful illustrations of points he wanted to make in his own scholarship.)

  10. And of course musical qualities were often irrelevant; any band that got too popular (to the point that even squares had heard of them) was deemed to have sold out and to be no longer punk.

  11. Neil Weinreb says

    Richard Hell and the Voidoids

    I had the thought that perhaps the Voidoids were derivative of the band name Romeo Void. But no, Romeo formed later.

  12. Or, earlier, people would growl “Hippie!” at a political activist.

    Or call a hippie a beatnik.

  13. AJP Crown says

    Another allusion to food in decorative outfitting is ‘scrambled-egg’ on the cap peaks of the upper ranks of the military.

  14. The round oak leaf of officer insignia in the Israeli Defense Forces is popularly known as a falafel. Especially when you have two or three of them in a row, they resemble the row of falafel balls nesting at the open top of a pita.

  15. Here’s an apparent use of macaroni from 1754, The Monthly Review [London], vol. X, p. 501:
    “…drive to the Star and Garter to regale on macaroni, or piddle with an ortolan….”

  16. Roberto Batisti says

    I think Quine the Philosopher was an uncle of Quine the Guitarist. The latter, by the way, was known for hating his family with a passion.

  17. Here’s an apparent use of macaroni from 1754

    But that’s the foodstuff, not the fop; it’s attested in that sense from 1673:

    J. Ray Observ. Journey Low-countries 405 Paste made into strings like pack-thread or thongs of whit-leather (which if greater they call Macaroni, if lesser Vermicelli) they cut in pieces and put in their pots as we do oat-meal to make their menestra or broth of.

  18. Another allusion to food in decorative outfitting is ‘scrambled-egg’ on the cap peaks of the upper ranks of the military.

    Or indeed the “butter-bars” or “pips”, depending on nation, on the epaulettes of the lower ranks.

  19. Casting militia officers in the mould of macaronis serves to insinuate that the institution had fallen from its original “patriot” design, as well as suggesting that its officers were sartorially, corporeally, and morally unsuited to the business of war. The “military macaroni” struck home because army officers were vulnerable to accusations of foppery, in an age when they were associated with ornate uniforms, polite sociability, and mannered formality.

    See, this is completely the opposite of the way I interpreted it. O’Toole thinks that this is a regular officer making fun of the Yankees for being so concerned with their appearance. I thought it was the regular officer mocking the Yankees for being ignorant rustics, who thought that all you had to do to be a gentleman of exquisite taste in dress was stick a feather in your cap.

    The idea that regular army officers would have been men of plain tastes, suspicious of ornament and fashion, seems to be a modern one pushed forcibly back to the 18th century. A regular army officer back then was a man of wealth and position – he more or less had to be, given the requirements of purchase. And taking opinions on the militia in Britain, which, remember, almost never served in battle, and transferring them to the militia in the colonies which actually had to fight fairly often seems another misstep.

  20. AJP Crown says

    I’d forgotten pips. Fruit salad is apparently a nickname for rows of medals. Now I’m wondering if an air force flies on its stomach.

  21. I think Quine the Philosopher was an uncle of Quine the Guitarist.

    Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The”.

  22. O’Toole had just finished reading a scholarly book on the subject and is not a fool, so I’m going to take his judgment pretty seriously.

  23. From wiki, it seems that scholarly opinion varies:

    “In British conversation, the term “Yankee doodle dandy” implied unsophisticated misappropriation of high-class fashion, as though simply sticking a feather in one’s cap would make one noble.[11] Peter McNeil, professor of fashion studies, claims that the British were insinuating that the colonists were low-class men lacking masculinity, emphasizing that the American men were womanly.[12]”

    But if O’Toole has just finished reading a book, well, then.

  24. If Wikipedia says something different, well, then.

  25. AJP Crown says

    Re: Peter McNeil, professor of fashion studies,

    I really doubt that McNeil himself would have said without careful additional qualification, “the British were insinuating that the colonists were low-class men lacking masculinity”. But here’s his 1999 essay The Doubtful Gender that he says he based on his PhD thesis Fashion Victims: Class, Gender, Sexuality and the Macaroni circa 1765 – 1780 if you want to check (there’s nothing that I could find in it on ‘Yankee doodle’).

    As for Fintan O’Toole, he’s both as smart and as commonsensical as they come.

  26. AJP Crown says

    … and well-read. Should have added. Ok, it’s pretty vague, I admit it. But he is worth reading, every time.

  27. I agree.

  28. I think Quine the Philosopher was an uncle of Quine the Guitarist. The latter, by the way, was known for hating his family with a passion.

    It would be hard to be a convincing punk guitarist, I would think, if you loved your Mummy and Daddy.

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    Quine (Rob’t) had a rather prickly personality in general, but deviated from various other punk conventions of the time (e.g. he looked like a balding tax lawyer, which he was, and did not try to do anything to cover that up). The way to spin loving-your-parents as a punk gesture would have been the Jonathan Richman route, i.e. all this “Generation Gap” stuff about teen girls running away Wed morning at 5 am is for hippies, and we’re against the hippies.

  30. If Wikipedia says something different, well, then.

    That’s a very clever riposte!

  31. Owlmirror says

    In The Meaning of Song, Helen Kendrick Johnson writes, in 1884,

    Yankee Doodle” has been a true melody of the people in many lands. From the vineyards of France, from different provinces of the free Pyrenees, from the dykes of Holland, and from the Puritan struggles of England, the air comes down to us. In Holland the laborers received as their wages “a tenth of the harvest and as much buttermilk as they could drink.” As they reaped they sang:

    Yankee dudel, doodle down,
    Diddle, dudel, lanther,
    Yankee viver, vover vown,
    Buttermilk and tanther.

    In England, in the reign of Charles I., the air was sung to a rhyme which is still heard in our nurseries :

    ” Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
    Kitty Fisher found it ;
    Nothing in it, nothing on it,
    But the binding round it.”

    When Cromwell rode into Oxford upon a small horse, with his single plume fastened into a kind of knot, the whole outfit intended to suggest Puritan horror of high-stepping steeds and waving plumage, some waggish cavalier invented the following rhyme, and set it afloat to the homely melody of labor :

    Yankee Doodle came to town,
    Upon a Kentish pony;
    He stuck a feather in his cap,
    Upon a macaroni.”

    A “macaroni” was a small rosette, in shape and size like an Italian macaroon, called so from a blunder of the English in confusing the names of two Italian dishes so similar in pronunciation and spelling. The tune first came to this country in 1755.

    Alas, Ms. Johnson offers no citations for any of her claims.

  32. Owlmirror says

    A somewhat better attempt to investigate the song, and again mentioning a Cromwellian connection: Report on the Star-spangled banner, Hail Columbia, America, Yankee Doodle, by Sonneck, Oscar George Theodore, 1873-1928

    Judge Martin, in his History of North Carolina, has lately given another reason for the origin of ”Yankee Doodle” saying, it was first formed at Albany, in 1755, by a British officer, then there, indulging his pleasantry on the homely array of the motley Americans, assembling to join the expedition of General Johnson and Governor Shirley. To ascertain the truth in the premises, both his and my accounts were published in the gazettes, to elicit, if possible, further information, and the additional facts ascertained, seem to corroborate the foregoing idea. The tune and quaint words, says a writer in the Columbian Grazette, at Washington, were known as early as the time of Cromwell, and were applied to him then, in a song called “Nankee Doodle”, as ascertained from the collection he had seen of a gentleman at Cheltenham in England, called “Musical Antiquities of England “, to wit:

    Nankee Doodle came to town
    Upon a little pony.
    With a feather in his hat.
    Upon a macaroni, &c.

    The term feather, &c, alluded to Cromwell’s going into Oxford on a small horse, with his single plume fastened in a sort of knot called a “macaroni” . The idea that such an early origin may have existed seems strengthened by the fact communicated by an aged gentleman of Massachusetts, who well remembered that, about the time the strife was engendering at Boston, they sometimes conveyed muskets to the country concealed in their loads of manure, &c.

  33. Owlmirror says

    In trying to dig into this a bit more (the Cromwell angle may well be fakelore rather than fact), I found that the author that the reviewer is commenting on in the OP has an open-access paper available on the topic:

    Macaroni Men and Eighteenth-Century Fashion Culture – ‘The Vulgar Tongue’, by McNeil, PK

    You can also click on his name and see more papers that he has produced, although not all are open access.

  34. Owlmirror says

    Bah. I have been trolled (by archival fakelore).

    According to Watson, the allusion is to Cromwell going into Oxford (Sonneck 98), perhaps in June 1646 to accept the surrender of the Royalists, riding on a small Kentish horse “with his single plume fastened in a sort of knot called a ‘macaroni’.” Even if Nankee Doodle were a nickname the Cavaliers gave to Cromwell and the Roundheads (though no contemporary record supports this claim), it is hard to imagine Cromwell, the Puritan of Puritans, wearing feathers. None of the dozens of Google images of Cromwell shows him sporting a feather in his hat. Furthermore, macaroni is an 18th-century term for European affectations in dress, hairstyle, and manners, not a 17th-century knot.[6] Even early on, Edward F. Rimbault in his article “American National Songs” (1876) had doubts: “We must own to an entire want of faith in this story. The probability is that the tune is not much older than the time of its introduction into America” (Sonneck 103). Despite numerous undocumented web sites that identify Nankee Doodle as Cromwell, modern scholarship must conclude that they too are an internet “bouquet of historical gossip and blunder.” Is Cromwell Yankee Doodle? No. Cromwell has nothing to do with “Yankee Doodle.” As Sonneck said 101 years ago, “The ante-Cromwellian origin of ‘Yankee Doodle’ and its anti-Cromwellian use with all the embellishments that imaginative minds have added during the last seventy years may definitely be laid to rest” (114). Damon agrees, “The theory . . . has been discredited” (12).

    [ Edited to change link to an archived version — the version on the modern page is missing most of the endnotes ]

  35. Well, that was a wild ride!

  36. OED has a special entry for Yankee Doodle. Some choice quotes:

    c1775 T. L. Yankee Doodle (song) in Notes & Queries 1st Ser. V. 87 Yankee doodle, yankee doodle dandy, I vow, Yankee doodle, yankee doodle, bow wow wow.

    a1807 J. Skinner Amusem. Leisure Hours (1809) 78 Syne after him cam Yankie Doodle, Frae hyne ayont the muckle water.

    1861 Death of Lincoln Despotism And hold them Abe Lincoln, and all his Northern scum, Shall own our independence of Yankee Doodledom.

    1836 Fraser’s Mag. 13 468 The man’s whole life..was a long series of Frenchified Yankeedoodleisms.

  37. Wasn’t Nankee Poodle the dog in The Mikado?

  38. any band that got too popular (to the point that even squares had heard of them) was deemed to have sold out and to be no longer punk.

    Maybe we were provincial but that was not the case in New Hampshire when I was growing up. The Clash remained “punk” right to the end. Same with X, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. The line always seemed pretty obvious to us. Punk had to be political, raw and guitar based. New Wave had synths, emotion and well produced videos on MTV. Not instinctively knowing which bands were punk and which were New Wave marked you as an outsider. There were some bands, like the Talking Heads and Television, that never fit either category very well and so “college rock” eventually took over.

  39. Jen in Edinburgh says

    The idea that regular army officers would have been men of plain tastes, suspicious of ornament and fashion, seems to be a modern one pushed forcibly back to the 18th century.

    If you believe Georgette Heyer (who did do her research) it was an early 19th century idea, at least in the sense that army officers were reputed to tend to the Brummel ideal of fashion – plain and well cut and not cluttered up with decoration, rather than as ornate as possible. One tailor, Scott, catered particularly to army officers, and was known for a neat and unexaggerated cut.

    Some of the uniforms were fancy enough, of course!

  40. AJP Crown says

    Some of the uniforms were fancy enough

    Yes, like Goya’s Duke of Wellington, 1812. I’m suspicious of any practical reason for a fashion change; fashion MUST change, as night follows day, otherwise its creators go out of business.

  41. Wellington looking uncharacteristically well-decorated, there. Often he didn’t wear uniform at all; he commanded at Waterloo wearing a blue civilian coat and trousers. And Adrian Greenwood (“Victoria’s Scottish Lion”) notes that British soldiers in general, especially officers and especially in the Peninsula, were noted for being a bit haphazard in dress; it was only in the peace of the 1820s-40s that uniforms started to become, well, uniform, and also (thanks to idiots like Brudenell) much more gorgeous.

    To this day British soldiers on operations tend to dress as haphazardly as they can get away with. Normal dress in the Western Desert for 8th Army officers was “suede desert boots, also known as brothel-creepers, light corduroy trousers coloured green, pink, etc, a coloured silk neckerchief or scarf, fly whisks… and in cold weather Persian goatskin coats”. Quite a look.

  42. We can’t get by without Kozma Prutkov now, can we?

    Сумка, лядунка, манерка, лафет —
    Господин поручик, кеске-ву-фет?

    A bag and a cartridge box, a flask and a carriage[???]
    My good sir, lieutenant, qu’est ce que vous faites?

  43. Yes, a лафет is a gun carriage. (Except when it means something between square and round timber, as discussed here.)

  44. Odd etymology: via German Lafette from French affût (fût < Latin fustis).

  45. Lars Mathiesen says

    And interpreting German /f/ as underlying /v/, Scandinavian lavet(t).

  46. AJP Crown says

    The most interesting thing to me now about the Goya Wellington is how young he looked in 1812 when he was about 43.

    Nearly all the duke’s quotations on the internet (e.g. “Mr Jones, I believe?” “If you believe that Sir, you’ll believe anything”) appear to be unverified, but there are so many that some must be true. Of the duke being Irish, because born in Ireland, some now say it was Parnell who said Jesus was born in a stable but that didn’t make him a horse, but it’s nevertheless more characteristic of the D. of W. Anyway, on the dashing, devil-may-care image of British soldiers during the Peninsular War, he is said to have written the following (well-known) letter to London, but I still can’t find the attribution (and there must be one):

    Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests, which have been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and then by despatch rider to our headquarters.

    We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have despatched reports on the character, wit and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions of which I beg your indulgence. Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalions petty cash, and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain.

    This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are at war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

    This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below.

    I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:
    to train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountant and copy boys in London or, perchance, to see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

    I have the honour,

    I’m almost surprised he didn’t use the expression “bean counters”.

  47. J.W. Brewer says

    @Vanya, the Clash probably ought to have been reclassified if one were being empiricist about it but were somehow grandfathered as a gesture of historical respect, plus there’s the complicating factor that they still not-infrequently sounded like a punk-rock band live even quite late in the game after their studio recordings had pretty definitively gone off in another direction.

    For a more subtle taxonomy, see this LL thread from a few years ago in which I tried to instigate a discussion of the fine line between “punks” and “punk rockers.”

  48. John Cowan says

    In my opinion, “Yankee Doodle” began as simply the rhythm of marching feet. Over this was improvised a rather catchy whistler’s tune. Later on, the feet were replaced by drums, the whistle by a fife, and we have a piece for a fife-and-drum corps. People can march to that, and a good fife-and-drum piece doesn’t really need words except for a title. (If it becomes especially popular, then much later words get attached to it, generally nonsense words, as in the case of “The Irish Washerwoman”: “Para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde, para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde, …”)

    Why this title? Well, a tootle is an improvisation on a wind or brass instrument, and perhaps this particular tootle was sometimes called the “Yankee [i.e. New England] tootle”. Of course this is entirely speculative.

  49. John Cowan says

    When dealing with the Iron Duke, or the Iron Chancellor, or anyone else more famous for his bons mots than his writings, all quotations are going to be unverifiable before the invention of the phonograph. All we can ever get is what someone else said that they said, when the someone wrote it down. We know that Johnson defined oats as :a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people” because we have his Dictionary. But we have no better authority for “Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield [skeptics] no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull” than what Boswell “most imperfectly remembered” and wrote in his journal, perhaps not even on the day in which it was said, and later transcribed from shorthand to longhand before being, perhaps, further distorted by the publisher.

  50. AJP Crown says

    Ok, but you’d expect an attribution for a long letter written in Spain in 1812 to the government in Whitehall. It’s not really bons mots that someone may have overheard.

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