The other day my wife asked me about the history of brook in phrases like “brook no opposition.” What an excellent question, said I, and repaired to the OED, where I found the following story. The Old English strong verb brúcan (past tense bréac, brucon, past participle ȝebrocen) is historically the same as the German brauchen (which, however, has become a weak verb) and has the same meaning: ‘to make use of, have the enjoyment of, enjoy’ (as does their Latin cognate frui). How do we get from there to ‘put up with’? Easy as pie: a specialized usage was the OED’s sense 2, “To make use of (food); in later usage, to digest, retain, or bear on the stomach.” And from citations like 1540 Thomas Raynalde, Roesslin’s Byrth of mankynde II. ix. 142 “If she refuse or cannot brooke meat” and 1598 William Phillip, Iohn Huighen van Linschoten his discours of voyages into ye Easte and West Indies in Arber’s ‘Garner,’ III. 26 “So fat that men can hardly brook them,” we can clearly see the development to the modern sense (for which the first OED cite is 1530 Palsgrave, Lesclarcissement de la langue françoyse 471/2 “He can nat brooke me of all men”).

And for the musty word bartizan “A battlemented parapet at the top of a castle or church,” the OED offers this censorious etymology:

[In no dictionary before 1800; not in Todd 1818, nor Craig 1847. Apparently first used by Sir Walter Scott, and due to a misconception of a 17th c. illiterate Sc. spelling, bertisene, for bertising, i.e. bretising, BRATTICING, f. bretasce (BRATTICE), a. OF. bretesche, ‘battlemented parapet, originally of wood and temporary.’ Bartizan is thus merely a spurious ‘modern antique,’ which had no existence in the times to which it is attributed.]


  1. I’m trying to figure out a way to use “brook” in this sense and “suffer” in the sense of “allow” in the same sentence, in order to achieve maximum incomprehension and weirdness. Their meanings both mean something like “allow” or “tolerate”, though I don’t know that they’re ever quite interchangable. “Brook fools gladly”?

  2. Bathrobe says

    “Brook the little children to come unto me”.
    “Brook me no brooks”.

  3. marie-lucie says

    The things you find!
    OF. bretesche, ‘battlemented parapet, originally of wood and temporary.’
    Near Paris there is a town called Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, the end of a suburban train line. I had always wondered what bretèche meant. I should have looked in the Petit Robert, which gives the origin as brittisca, a latinized form meaning “British [fortification]” (British here meaning the Celtic ancestors in Roman times, before the Anglo-Sason-Jute invasions). The name of the town then must mean “fortified church of the Holy Name”.

  4. in the same sentence
    A good manager in modern times must be tolerant, yet remain firm. His motto is: “Suffer even fools to attend strategy meetings, but brook no foolishness.”
    A battlemented parapet
    “Battlemented” is terribly clanky, so I wondered whether one could use “embattled” with the same meaning. Yes ! (more or less) according to the OED:

    The embattled cliffs and the … sea fill the view.

    Too bad about the “a”. I have an uncontrollable longing for opportunities to write things like “th’embattled parapet”.

  5. Your wife does that just to cheer you up, doesn’t she?

  6. “fortified church of the Holy Name”
    I can’t help but imagine here a fortified rum called Holy Spirits. In 18th-19th century novels, both English and German, you occasionally encounter that venerable word-play on “spirit(s)” (Geist) meaning “ghost” or “alcohol”, “good spirits” (gute Geister) and so on. Part of Hoffmann’s Kater Murr, that I just finished, takes place in a monastery where wine (and also probably Schnaps) were manufactured. The humor is quite good-natured: the name of the monk who takes care of the wine-cellars, and tipples a bit too much, is Pater Hilarius. There’s no purchase there for Outraged-of-Kansas-City political correctness about Demon Drink.
    In retrospect one can judge these things differently, but even I, unbrooking as I am of alcohol consumption, am given pause by the civilized set-up that Hoffmann depicts. Much as I hate to admit it, I ever and again find myself thinking that excess is the real problem. One reason why this happens is that in my reading I suffer olden times to be what they are shown to be, and do not attempt to pickle them in the 200-proof Spirit of Progress.

  7. “The things you find!”
    Or, to put it another way, the things I find!
    I discovered this in a modern description of an elaborate Art Nouveau pub facade on Tottenham Court Road, London (picture); where the long vertical corner feature is labelled a “bartizan”, possibly inaccurately.

  8. Well shiver me timbers, there’s Bretesche in German as well: “projecting part of a fortification from which shots can be fired vertically towards the foot of the wall”. I can imagine the “corner feature” above your pub – perhaps in an earlier, less decorative incarnation – being used in that way. Such a corner would be perfect for shooting yourself in the foot.
    It is the simple word Erker that I have rendered as “projecting part of a fortification”, since Erker seems to mean different things (I only know “bay [window]”) and I know zilch about castle architecture and its terminology.

  9. A bartizan is a craftsman who hangs around on corners, especially in pubs. I’ve never heard it before.
    Brook must also be cognate with å bruke, “to use”, in Norwegian.
    “Battlemented” is terribly clanky,
    Architects say crenelated. But not very often, they’ve gone out of style.

  10. Correction: consulting both Duden and the OED, I got a bit mixed up. Erker means exactly what I knew it to mean, and nothing more. It was all the “oriels”, “jetties”, “ramparts”, “bastions” etc. etc. that defeated me.

  11. Architects have gone out of style ?? You must try to be brave, Crown.

  12. The Old English strong verb brúcan … is historically the same as the German brauchen (which, however, has become a weak verb) and has the same meaning: ‘to make use of, have the enjoyment of, enjoy’ (as does their Latin cognate frui).
    Brook must also be cognate with å bruke, “to use”, in Norwegian.
    In today’s German, brauchen usually means “need”, “require” in some sense or another. There are vernacular expressions with the “use” sense:

    kannst du die Sachen noch b.? (hast du noch Verwendung dafür?); seinen Verstand, seine Ellenbogen b.; er ist zu allem zu b. (ugs.; ist sehr anstellig); sie war heute zu nichts zu b.(ugs.; war zu keiner Arbeit imstande)

    But “to use” is primarily gebrauchen – at least you can’t go wrong if you always use it (or verwenden) for “to use”, rather than brauchen (Zumindest, wenn man es immer so gebraucht, vermeidet man Schnitzer).
    Verbrauchen is “consume” (use [up]).

  13. There’s a small entry on bartizans in Wikipedia.
    There’s an equivalent piece of joinery that’s used on table and chair corners (but upside down, extending to the ground). I don’t know if that has a name.
    Here’s another name for a bartizan, at Chilham Castle, in Kent (nearly half-way down the page):

    By extending the south wing Brandon blocked the ancient vista between the central courtyard and the Chestnut Avenue. (See “The Grounds”) As a substitute focal point, high on the corner, he set a whimsical bartizan which Christopher Hussey (writing as Architectural Editor of Country Life in 1924) called a “horrid little turret”.

    It has an interesting plan, that house. There’s a round oriel window in a picture above it, to the right, that’s much nicer. A bartizan is an oriel on a corner.

  14. (Sorry, I see you had already linked the Wikipedia page, Language).
    Norwegian has å trenge for “to need”.

  15. Or, to put it another way, the things I find!
    Yes, I had meant to mention that the admirable Conrad sent me the word. He, like my wife, knows how to cheer me up.

  16. Speaking of words that rhyme with “partisan”: there is this trend to call cheeses, beers, and I don’t know what else “artisanal” if they are supposed to be, I don’t know, handcrafted or something. It seems to me that the good old noun “artisan” has made a comeback in this age that has a real and exploitable yearning for the days when people knew how to make things right. The adjective appears to be a modern coinage: Wordnik has examples related to small-scale mining, and then there are the people describing their cheese and stuff.
    But how do you say “artisanal”? My impulse is to stress the third syllable, or maybe the first, or maybe both, but I don’t like it. I had a double-take or WTF reaction when I heard the word on some TV ad recently, pronounced ar-TIZ-an-al.

  17. Beavers when damming brook no interference. If you don’t like crossing them you may have to suffer pools.

  18. Perhaps one day someone in the SCA will get rich and hire AJP to bring back bartizans, crenellations, oriels, erkers, etc.

  19. I’d say ar-TEEZ-an-al, as the least bad solution. I have the same difficulty with doc-TRINE-al, which sounds wrong.

  20. After I got done with “brook” and “suffer”, “I went to “labor” = “suffer” and “passion” = “suffering”.
    There’s a monster confusing sentence in their, but my inventiveness seems impaired.

  21. “Brook” in this sense also seems to be a word like “condone”, a word only used in the negative.
    Decades ago some students in my alma mater used the word “condone” in a positive sense, and the school’s reputation still suffers the effects: “Drug use is condoned at Reed”.
    Which is true in a lot of places, but you don’t say such things.
    Maybe the should have said “Drug use is brooked at Reed”, or “Drug use is suffered at Reed”.

  22. In NY, drug use is encouraged at Duane Reade.
    I think docTRINE-al, kill-LOMM-eter etc. are fake, dressed-up pronunciations. I wouldn’t say “art is anal”, especially with reference to cheese. I’d probably say “made by poor people”.

  23. I have the same difficulty with doc-TRINE-al, which sounds wrong.
    It sounds wrong to me, too, but that’s because I’m a Yank. It should sound OK to you. Perhaps you’ve become polluted by your exposure to America and its people.

  24. kill-LOMM-eter etc. are fake, dressed-up pronunciations
    Excuse me? We Yanks may be fake, but nobody can call us dressed up.

  25. My father (b. Iowa, 1914) pronounced “centimeter” SONT-a-meter (French pronunciation I think) instead of SENT-a-meter. I thought that it was an artifact of his education (perhaps a European-born teacher) but Google tells me that that remains the medical pronunciation.

  26. “passion” = “suffering”
    As in passionfruit? And “fruit” is etymologically related to “brook” and “brauchen”.

  27. There’s nothing especially Yank about Kill-LOMM-meter or docTRINE-al, is there? I thought all English-speaking countries used those pronunciations. You’re saying Americans don’t say “KILO-metre”. I didn’t know that. Then I retract my insult.

  28. Bathrobe says

    I would say doc-TRINE-al without batting an eyelid. But my instincts seem to have gone off with living overseas. I was once pulled up by a stay-at-home friend for saying in-NOV-ative, which appears to be an innovation. But IN-nov-ATE-ive sounds so bald… 🙁

  29. When I was young people used to say you-RINE-al, but everyone switched to URIN-al. I don’t know why. Nowadays, that old pronunciation sounds really peculiar to me.

  30. (It’s the kind of word that comes up quite a lot if you design public conveniences).

  31. Folks on Radio 4 always say kih-LOM-me-tur, doc-TRIn-ul (the “I” as in “trIad”). I’m not sure about the Radio 4 vowel in artisanal (“I” or “IH”), but the stress in on the second syllable for sure. It’s a good thing “partisan” (par-tih-SAN on BBC, “A” as in “ran”) is already an adjectival form, so there’s no stress-fretting about any *partisanal. (It could only be PAR-tih-SAN-ul, because par-TIHZ-zun-ul sounds you’ve had one too many).
    I agree with empty and Crown that there’s something phoney about the pronunciation of “artisanal”. All I have to add is that it is precisely because of this that I would never use the word. It’s used by the wrong people for the wrong reasons, namely to smuggle more stilted pronunciation into the world.
    My phoneymes came from Texas, where one said KIH-lo-mee-tur, DOC-trih-nul. But I avoid the word “doctrinal” itself, because of that silly doc-TRIN-ul business. Of course “doctrinaire” is out of the question, so at a pinch I just say “dogmatic”. The cultivated man of the world knows that “dogmatic” need have no negative connotations.

  32. There’s nothing especially Yank about Kill-LOMM-meter or docTRINE-al, is there? I thought all English-speaking countries used those pronunciations.
    Few or no Yanks say docTRINE-al. Like Grumbly, I avoid “artisanal,” but I don’t understand avoiding “doctrinal”; what’s wrong with saying DOC-trinal, like George Washington and Noah Webster intended us to?

  33. And Sam Houston, if you’re going to go all Texan on me.

  34. Dogmatism is something vets are always on the lookout for in older pets. It reminds me of the Norwegian illness, eggedosis.

  35. marie-lucie says

    The words artisan and artisanal are lifted from French. I guess that artisan avoids the awkward choice between craftsman, craftswoman and craftsperson. In French artisanal would be used for instance in fabrication artisanale (small-scale, labour-intensive, in a hands-on workshop), as opposed to fabrication industrielle (large-scale, largely automated, in a factory). If I had to pronounce the word in English I would say ar-TIS-anal.
    I would also say DOC-trinal from DOC-trine – it is not a word I hear often but I am sure I have never heard doc-TRI-nal. I once heard a prof from Africa say vir-GI-nal and it sounded very odd to me.

  36. what’s wrong with saying DOC-trinal
    Absolutely nothing, Hat. Down home, I would say it every day. Trouble is, I’m Over There, while you are safe in your Mass. hidey-hole. Here, where English is massacred every day, pretending the word “doctrinal” doesn’t exist is my little ex-pat bit of black magic to protect the word. I like to think I’m contributing in some mysterious way to the decline of doc-TRIN-al and other abhorrences. Even though I wouldn’t try to stop anyone from speaking as they please, I feel deep down that it AIN’T RIGHT. I don’t often admit this, because I don’t want to associate with people who think like that.

  37. “Hidey-hole” is perhaps un mot injuste. I was imagining a nook with busts of George and Noah to ward off furriners, where you smoke the occasional Cuban cigar. Here, I jostle against them all the time on public transportation while trying to roll my own.

  38. Does Language smoke Cuban cigars?

  39. ignoramus says

    a diversion!
    passion = suffering;
    explains the following
    There are 3 rings involved in Marriage:
    The engagement ring, where one finds the worth of the future groom.
    Wedding ring where ones spends the wealth.
    then there is the suffering, of course meaning passion?

  40. And labor, which means anything painful, for example childbirth or work.

  41. travail

  42. marie-lucie says

    In French, le travail, besides meaning “work” is an old-fashioned word for what a woman undergoes during childbirth. Even though there is a more literary word le labeur, for “hard, sustained physical work”, this word is not used for childbirth.
    Travailler also refers to what pain (physical or emotional) and worries wreak on your body or soul.
    Etymologists derive travail from Latin tripalium meaning a type of tripod which was used for torture in Roman times. (I seem to recall a discussion of this on this blog a few years ago).

  43. m-l, you may be thinking of this post (which quotes both you & Steve).
    I think Tripalium is also an Astérix character.
    And I read that “travel” also comes from tripalium, though I don’t see how or why.

  44. Yes, travel comes from tripalium, not directly but through travail. Apparently traveling is hard work?
    An arduous journey. Arduous is not related to hard. Nor to ordeal. Ordeal is cognate with German Urteil.
    All this from a quick look at the other OED.

    In English, too, travail often refers specifically to childbirth.

  45. Often?

  46. I’d call “travail” an old-fashioned word that isn’t used often in any sense; but I thought that one of its senses was “the pain or labor of childbirth”, and dictionaries confirm this.

  47. marie-lucie says

    Travelling is hard work
    Not so much nowadays (in spite of hours spent waiting in airports, etc), but most travelling was no picnic in earlier centuries, when you might be set upon by bandits, or find yourself in the middle of a war, and even if such events did not happen, carriages (assuming you could afford the luxury of one) were usually very uncomfortable, especially since roads were unpaved.

  48. Have heard this term used for years and always knew what it meant but am surprised how difficult it is to track down an official statement. Found this that gives an acceptable use.

    Can also be found in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles giving several uses from a variety of sources including “use, want and need”, “make use of”, “enjoy the use of, profit by” etc, “To put up with”. Basically these days it is used as “to put up with”.


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