Two Words.

1) I’m slowly making my way through Merezhkovsky’s «Воскресшие боги. Леонардо да Винчи» (The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci; see this LH post), and like most historical novelists he enjoys tossing in lots of archaic terms; one of them, адрагантовая камедь [adragantovaya kamedʹ], looked so bizarre I thought it might have a typo, but no, камедь ‘gum, resin’ is simply a word I wasn’t familiar with, and адрагантовый — not even in my largest dictionary — turned out to be equivalent to English adragant, equally obscure to me. I turned to the OED (entry updated December 2011) and discovered that “gum adragant” was actually a thing:

adragant, n.
Etymology: < French adragant (16th cent. in Middle French; also in gomme adragant), variant or alteration of dragant dragant n. [A gum; = tragacanth n. Also called gum dragon, and formerly adragant n.], probably by association with Middle French diadragum, diadragentum, etc., a medicinal preparation containing tragacanth (probably 13th cent. in Old French: see diatragacanth n. at dia- prefix2 ).

Now historical and rare.

In full gum adragant, adragant gum. A plant gum obtained from various shrubs of the genus Astralagus; = tragacanth n. 1.

1696 tr. S. Barbe French Perfumer 105 Mix Gum of Adragant, of the bigness of a Small-nut, dissolved with Orange-flower-water.
1697 C. K. Art’s Master-piece 126 Dissolve Gum Adragant in Rose-Water, and beat the whole long together.
1775 Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 65 416 It resembles gum adragant much in quality.
1800 T. H. Horne tr. L.-A. F. de Beaujour View Commerce Greece xi. 179 The Frank commerce exports annually five thousand okes of gum adragant.
1904 Board of Trade Jrnl. 21 Jan. 120 (table) Pastry (biscuits, cakes, comfits, buns and gingerbread patties, tarts, adragant gum-balls, &c., made with sugar).
1998 Jrnl. Amer. Inst. Conservation 37 15/2 Gum tragacanth, variously rendered in historic treatises as ‘gum adragant’, ‘gum dragon’, etc., is the exudate of various species of the genus Astralagus.

2) I came across a line from Joyce’s Ulysses, “He had received the rhino for the labour of his muse,” and discovered that there is a slang term rhino meaning ‘money’ of four centuries’ standing; the OED (entry updated June 2010) says it’s “Of uncertain origin. Perhaps formed within English, by clipping or shortening” and gives the following citations:

a1628 J. Carmichaell Coll. Prov. in Scots (1957) No. 1688 We are all bursin with your charge, a plak in the rino and tua pennies a frist.
1688 T. Shadwell Squire of Alsatia i. i. 3 The Ready, the Rhino; thou shalt be Rhinocerical, my Lad.
1701 T. Baker Humour of Age 4 Whilst Rino lasts, I’ll never limit my Inclinations.
1747 Gentleman’s Mag. Mar. 147/1 When they came to shew their hoard, And tell the Rino on the board.
1834 F. Marryat Peter Simple I. ii. 22 Now that I see you look so sharp after the rhino, it’s my idea that you’re some poor devil of a Scotchman.
1851 H. Mayhew London Labour I. 384/2 You shall have it cheap, for me and my mate are both short of rhino.
a1882 C. R. Thatcher in D. Stewart & N. Keesing Old Bush Songs (1957) 74 Arrived in London off he went To his native village down in Kent For in that pleasant spot he meant That lots of his rhino should be spent.
1903 N. L. Royle Millie’s Experiences ix. 82 You know what you promised. You must get the rhino somehow.
1922 J. Joyce Ulysses ii. 252 He had received the rhino for the labour of his muse.
1946 Musical Times 87 307 It involves, obviously, taking risks, for either righteousness or rhino.
1988 J. Brady Stone of Heart (1990) 75 A robust Yank with any amounts of rhino for holidays and grub.

You can see more cites at Green’s Dictionary of Slang (“ety. unknown; ? clipping of SE sovereign“). It’s a great term, and I may start using it myself; it’s not marked obsolete, so I suppose it’s still in use. Anybody familiar with it?


  1. I didn’t know adragant, but the obviously related tragacanth was vaguely familiar, both for the plant and the gummy sap used for various medical purposes. The OED has the former in frequency band* 2, the latter in frequency band 3.

    I don’t think I had ever looked up the descriptions of the word frequency bands the OED uses before, but they are rather interesting. For example:

    Band 3

    Band 3 contains words which occur between 0.01 and 0.1 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These words are not commonly found in general text types like novels and newspapers, but at the same time they are not overly opaque or obscure. Nouns include ebullition and merengue, and examples of adjectives are amortizable, prelapsarian, contumacious, agglutinative, quantized, argentiferous. In addition, adjectives include a marked number of very colloquial words, e.g. cutesy, dirt-cheap, teensy, badass, crackers. Verbs and adverbs diverge to opposite ends of the spectrum of use encompassed by this band. Verbs tend to be either colloquial or technical, e.g. emote, mosey, josh, recapitalize.

    About 20% of all non-obsolete OED entries are in Band 3.

    Band 2

    Band 2 contains words which occur fewer than 0.01 times per million words in typical modern English usage. These are almost exclusively terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people. Many are technical terms from specialized discourses. Examples taken from the most frequently attested part of the band include decanate, ennead, and scintillometer (nouns), geogenic, abactinal (adjectives), absterge and satinize (verbs). In the lower frequencies of the band, words are uniformly strange or exotic, e.g. smother-kiln, haver-cake, and sprunt (nouns), hidlings, unwhigged, supersubtilized, and gummose (adjectives), pantle, cloit, and stoothe (verbs), lawnly, acoast, and acicularly (adverbs), whethersoever (conjunction).

    About 45% of all non-obsolete OED entries are in Band 2.

    Amusingly, of the example words in the above quote, all the band 3 words are known to my spellchecker, but of the band 2 words, only ennead was.

    * The OED‘s choice of the phrase “frequency band” to describe these classes of words seems rather inopportune, since “frequency band” is itself a recorded compound (in the OED!) with an entirely different meaning.

  2. David Eddyshaw says

    I knew “rhino” in this sense; I think most Brits of my vintage would (and certainly all those that do crosswords, where it turns up all the time as an answer,)

    The only two of the Band 2 examples I actually knew myself were absterge and ennead; I’d have guessed the meanings of satinize and supersubtilized right, though.

  3. John Cowan says

    I remember reading in a Batman comic ca. 1965 that rhino ‘money’ was part of the local slang in Joliet Prison, Illinois; the villain uses it to lead Batman up the garden path about his underworld connections.

  4. Fascinating! I love the unpredictable extensions of the various tentacles of the English lexicon.

  5. January First-of-May says

    …Huh, so that‘s why the currency of the Agatean Empire is the rhinu.

    (A gold coin of considerable size, which is actually a relatively small monetary unit, on the account of there being a lot of gold on the Counterweight Continent.)

  6. Dan Milton says

    According to a song I’ve mostly forgotten: In the next cage we see the rhinoceros/rhinosaurus (hey, it’s sung not written). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, to purchase this rare beast requires piles of money! The name comes from the Greek: “rhino” money and “saurass” piles.

  7. Inexplicably, the dictionary consistently says “astralagus” for Astragalus (milkwetch, scientifically named after Astragaloi, the knucklebone game pieces we’ve discussed here: )

    Tragacanthus is also Greek, the billy goat’s thorns.

  8. There is one word in Band 2 which is painfully familiar to every Soviet student.

    The meaning is completely different in English though.

    I guess it would make for some hilarious translations, but the word is just too obscure to make it into anything Russians would want to translate.

  9. Dmitry Pruss says

    The meaning is completely different in English though.
    A classic and “perfectly seasonal” joke was about the students late from the winter break who send a telegram to their school:
    задержаны бараном сообщите где канат

    which should have meant
    задержаны бураном сообщите в деканат

  10. About that possible etymology from Green’s – do we have any idea how common it was (if at all) to pronounce “sovereign” as “sov-uh-RHINE”? A quick search through Shakespeare didn’t bring up any times he rhymed it with anything (but he did seem to pronounce it as two or three syllables depending on the needs of meter).

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    The “fiorino d’oro” of the Republic of Florence was the first European gold coin struck in sufficient quantities since the seventh century to play a significant commercial role. As many Florentine banks were international supercompanies with branches across Europe, the florin quickly became the dominant trade coin of Western Europe for large-scale transactions…

    Coin was minted until 1533 and would have circulated longer. Seems to me to be a more likely source for rhino.

  12. January First-of-May says

    The meaning is completely different in English though.

    Of course the office of a decanus would quite regularly be called a decanate; it’s just that the English cognate of decanus lost the C ages ago.

    (For what it’s worth, I didn’t expect the actual meaning either – I thought it would refer to some kind of compound with 10 carbon atoms.)

  13. @AG: As “sovereign” was often spelled “sovran,” and the “-eign” is false etymology, I wouldn’t expect to see (or hear) that.

  14. Kate Bunting says

    Yes, ‘rhino’ was familiar to me (UK, 60+) from reading older fiction, collected letters etc. I’ve heard of gum tragacanth but not ‘adragant’.

  15. January First-of-May says

    JBR provides the Shakespearean pronunciation of (the word ancestral to) “sovereign” as “sawva-rayn”, which sounds about right from my non-expert view.

    “Fiorino” is an interesting option, though I’m sure that the English name would always have been “florin”.

  16. Quite right; the only forms the OED has are floren(e), florein, floreyne, floran, floryne, floring, and florin.

  17. John Cowan says

    Of course the office of a decanus would quite regularly be called a decanate

    The OED records decanate in the sense of the territory, rather than the office, of a dean, though deanery is the usual word for both meanings. The semantic migration of decanus ‘commander of ten soldiers’ > ‘head of a group of ten monks’ > ‘ecclesiastical official’ > ‘educational official’ and ‘most senior member of a group’ in multiple languages is fascinating, but this margin is too small to contain it.

    However, a geographical deanery is a group of parishes within a single diocese presided over by a rural dean (now a regional dean in urban areas), so called to distinguish him from the dean (most senior priest) of a cathedral chapter. A deanery normally and originally corresponded to a hundred, the smallest unit of civil administration, known also as a wapentake in the Danelaw and a cantref lit. ‘hundred villages’ in Wales, though the cantref was mostly superseded administratively by the cwmwd > Anglo-Norman commot > ME, ModE commote, of which there were typically three per cantref.

    It was the hundred/wapentake that was assessed a heavy fine (called murdrum in Anglo-Latin) in the case of dead strangers found within its boundaries, unless it could prove by the presentment of Englishry that the dead man was English and not French. This was presumably originally meant to specially protect the conquerors from the conquered, but became a pure revenue measure around 1150 when it was no longer possible to tell who was what. The fine and presentment was abolished in 1340.

    it’s just that the English cognate of decanus lost the C ages ago.

    The loss of /k/ between vowels is regular in French, and English now has the doublet dean < Normand deen and doyen(ne) < Central French.

  18. I haven’t screen-printed textiles since the mid 1970s so gum tragacanth, which is one of the ingredients of several dyestuffs* we mixed up, is a blast from the past.

    *I’ve forgotten which, but maybe acid dyes for printing wool & silk was one. Others used gum arabic, I think.

    Plastipad: Coin was minted until 1533 and would have circulated longer. Seems to me to be a more likely source for rhino.
    Florin was also the name of the two-shilling bit in the UK until decimalisation in 1970, when 2/- became 10p. Wasn’t it a name used in Ireland, or are you too young to remember?

  19. My completely fanciful take on rhino.
    Rhino is just “nose”. Most of the time AFAIK coins feature a profile of the monarch du jour of which the most prominent feature is the Augustan shnobel. Hence the name.

  20. Kamed’ isn’t archaic by itself. You can see it, for example, on yoghurt labels: guarovaya kamed’ for guar gum.

  21. So шнобель is Schnabel – bird’s bill? I didn’t realise it was Russian as well as German.

  22. It’s colloquial Russian from Yiddish.

  23. PlasticPaddy says

    @hat, ajp
    The word florin was written in Irish on the 10-p piece after decimalisation. I thought the word florin in English came later than rhino but you could check. If rhino was originally seaman, underworld or (dodgy) merchant slang, the Italian form fiorino might have been taken as the point of departure for rhino, even if florin was the common term.

  24. Kamed’ isn’t archaic by itself.

    Right, I just didn’t happen to know it. It was адрагантовый that was archaic.

  25. January First-of-May says

    Kamed’ isn’t archaic by itself. You can see it, for example, on yoghurt labels: guarovaya kamed’ for guar gum.

    The problem is that it’s not really used anywhere else – the ingredient lists do say гуаровая камедь, but until this post I had no idea what it meant (come to think of it, I’m still not especially sure).

  26. Guar gum is used in hydrofracking so it’s a pretty important substance in the Russian context. In food processing, xanthan gum (ksantanovaya kamed’) and carob gum (kamed’ rozhkovogo dereva) are common additives.

  27. John Cowan says

    Indeed, florins were deliberately introduced into the U.K. currency in 1849 as a trial run for decimalization, and you might well have ended up with florin as the usual name for 10p coins and shilling for 5p coins, analogous to the American dime and nickel (but when it was still silver, the tiny half dime).

  28. as a trial run for decimalization

    Planty Pal!

  29. Stu Clayton says

    Prime Minister and Duke of Omnium.

  30. And decimal obsessive.

  31. “The word florin was written in Irish on the 10-p piece after decimalisation”

    You mean before decimalisation. As in the UK, the pre-decimal scilling and flóirín continued to circulate for decades after the changeover as they were the same design as the new 5p and 10p.

    More linguistically interesting was the sixpence, in Irish reul from Spanish real. The 1950s spelling reform changed it to réal but the coins still had the old spelling till their last minting in 1969.

  32. You mention real>reul. What was the UK half-crown, the pre-decimal 2/6 coin, called in Ireland? Nothing to do with crowns presumably.

  33. January First-of-May says

    Nothing to do with crowns presumably.

    You’d be surprised: leath choróin, which appears to literally be “half crown”.

    (Or that’s what the inscription on the coin said, anyway.)

  34. David Marjanović says

    German has a nice doublet, too: the head of a major subdivision of a university is called Dekan, final stress; a rural dean is called Dechant, with initial stress, a shifted consonant and what might be an excrescent consonant as in Axt “ax”, Saft “juice, sap”, Mond (long vowel!) “moon”.

  35. Stu Clayton says

    [dɛˈçant], auch, österreichisch nur: [ˈdɛ…]

  36. I just came across a confusingly-stated version of D.O.’s “nose” theory, but not about “rhino” but rather “dosh”, here:

  37. Dan Milton (1/5, 11:01pm): “The name comes from the Greek: ‘rhino’ money and ‘saurass’ piles.”

    I suspect “saurass” should be spelled “soros”, i.e. σωρός (sōrós). That is the Ancient Greek word for ‘heap, pile’ (singular) , typically of grain or dust. I think the word is only known in English through its derivative, ‘sorites’ (σωρίτης), the fallacy or puzzle of the heap, invented by a certain Eubulides of Miletus. The question is just how many grains of sand (or whatever) it takes to make a heap – the kind of question that tends to inspire contempt for philosophy among non-philosophers. The form I read in some Greek author involved a horse’s tail: if you pluck out the hairs one by one, what is the precise number of remaining hairs that makes it still a tail, such that one fewer hair makes it not a tail. (Not only a deeply trivial question, but a terrible thing to do to a horse, and a good way to get kicked.)

  38. David Marjanović says

    [dɛˈçant], auch, österreichisch nur: [ˈdɛ…]

    …Ah. The first pronunciation is phonologically impossible in Austria twice over: ch between vowels implies a long consonant, which attracts stress to the preceding vowel (north of the White-Sausage Equator consonant length is long gone); syllables can’t begin with /x/ unless the preceding syllable ends in it (all ch-initial words that get /x/ farther north – Chemie, China… – have /k/ in Austria).

  39. Planty Pal, Plantagenet Palliser
    The French call a row of gardening stakes un palis and palisser is their term for what I would call espalier, training fruit tree branches against a wall. Palliser is apparently a name independent of Trollope in England though I’d never have known that without googling, I’ve not met a Palliser. I often (as often as it crops up) mistakenly call the Trollope characters the Pilasters and I wonder, in light of the other day’s brief discussion of names in novels and Trollope’s own excessive over-naming of his characters, whether that association – as well as one with palace – was intended. Pilaster is from Latin pila ‘pillar’, which is a weight-bearing member, but the stuccoed pilasters you find on Victorian and other neoclassical buildings usually turn out to be decorative and formal rather than structural. The duke of Omnium’s own support (by Liberals and Conservatives) is a theme in the books.

  40. palisser is their term for what I would call espalier, training fruit tree branches against a wall

    Well, palisser is the verb (“Fixer les branches et les rameaux d’un arbre fruitier, d’un arbrisseau, contre un mur, un treillage ou tout autre support, de manière à leur donner une direction parfaitement droite. Synon. palissader”); the noun is espalier, just like in English. (There are also nouns palis and palissade; if m-l were around, she could tell us what, if any, the difference between them is.)

  41. Oh.
    Calling m-l!
    Yes, I’m not sure if there’s a verb in English other than ‘to create an espalier’.

  42. There’s a rare verb of the same form: 1810 Bp. Copleston Repl. to Edinb. Rev. in Mem. (1851) 329 “We want not men who are clipped and espaliered into any form which the whim of the gardener may dictate.”

  43. There’s also a rare noun palis “A fence of pales; a wooden palisade or paling”; OED (updated March 2005):

    Etymology: < Anglo-Norman palis, paliz, paleiz, paleys, palice and Middle French, French palis (1155 in Old French in sense ‘fence of pales’, 1174 in sense ‘place enclosed by a fence or palisade’, late 12th cent. in sense ‘each of the stakes which form such a fence or palisade’; also in Anglo-Norman as paleiz, paleys, palice) < pel peel n.2 + –is ( < classical Latin –icius : see -itious suffix1). Compare post-classical Latin palicium, palitium palisade (frequently from 1091 in British and continental sources), palacium paling, palisade (from 1236 in British sources), enclosure surrounded by palisade (1269 in a British source). Perhaps compare also palace n.3

  44. And peel, n.2:

    Etymology: < Anglo-Norman pel, peel, pele, piel stake (late 12th cent. or earlier), palisade or fence (beginning of the 14th cent. or earlier), peel tower (late 14th cent. or earlier), and Middle French pel stake, fence (12th cent. in Old French; Middle French, French pieu) < classical Latin pālus pale n.1 Compare post-classical Latin pelum stake, paling (1211, 1272, 1302 in British sources), palisade (frequently from 1299 in British sources; 1337 as pela ), castle or peel tower (1310, 1336 in British sources; 1300, 1326, 1403 as pela ). Compare pale n.1
    With senses 3 and 4 compare the synonymous pile n.3 For a detailed historical examination of peel in these senses, see G. Neilson Peel: its Meaning and Derivation (1893).
    Earlier currency is apparently implied by surnames: Joh. del Pele (1301), Galfridus atte Pele (1327), Will. de la Pele (1332), Thom atte Pele (1332), Johe. atte Pelle (1332), although it is unclear whether these are to be interpreted as reflecting the Middle English or the Anglo-Norman word.

    Now historical.

    †1. A stake. Obsolete. rare.
    2. Chiefly Scottish. A palisade or fence formed of stakes; a stockade; a stockaded or palisaded (and often moated) enclosure, frequently as the outer court of a castle or fortified tower; (hence) a fort, tower, or other position defended in this manner.
    Used historically as the name of the enclosed park surrounding the royal palace of Linlithgow, in Scotland (see quot. 1893). Cf. pale n.1 3.
    †3. A castle; esp. a small castle or tower; = pile n.2 Obsolete.
    Used chiefly by English (not Scottish) writers. The term was applied to the ancient fortification on St Patrick’s Isle, just off the west coast of the Isle of Man, and subsequently transferred to the adjacent town (called Holmetown until the 17th cent., then Peeltown until the mid 19th cent.): see quot. 1765.
    4. A small fortified (or sometimes moated) tower or dwelling of a type built chiefly in the 16th cent. in the border counties of England and Scotland as a private defence against raiders, in which the ground floor is vaulted and used as a shelter for livestock, while the upper part forms the living quarters, access to which is by a door on the first floor reached by means of a ladder or a movable stair.
    In this sense probably originally short for peel house (see Compounds), i.e. a house built within a peel (sense 2), but later frequently applied to dwellings lacking such a defence.

    A ball of confusion!

  45. John Cowan says

    No doubt John Peel was associated with a fence somehow, whether he or his ancestors lived inside it or near it or were responsible for maintaining it or whatever.

  46. Finally I ken John Peel!

  47. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I have never connected the Peel at Linlithgow with the Dublin Pale. Or ‘pile’ for a stately home with either – I thought it was a kind of sarcastic understatement. Something new every day…

  48. Oh, how interesting. And palis-ade. I should have got that.

    Paley Park is a vest-pocket park on E.53St. named by William Paley of CBS and nothing to do with a fence of pales. Redesigning Paley Park was my first student project at Columbia. I thought I did a great job, it’s only now that I appreciate the subtlety of the built design. I like the steps up at the entry, I remember we were all very critical of that in 1977. If I were to do it now, I’d see if I could do something with fences of pales.

  49. Paley Park is wonderful, as is William H. Whyte’s movie about it, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.

  50. Stu Clayton says

    What are we to make now of “paleface” ? Was this a sneaky Indian putdown, meaning du hast ein Brett vorm Kopf ?

  51. J.W. Brewer says

    The relevant senses of “pale” and “peel” (both now somewhat obscure as compared to the primary senses) are apparently an etymological triplet with the primary sense of “pole.” Pick a vowel, any vowel …

    Also some connection not merely to the surnames Peel and Paley but to the Hudson-Valley-Dutch surname Palen (which is in my own family tree), glossed by some website (with all due caveats about the unreliability of surname etymologies one finds on the internet) thusly: “Variant of North German Pahlen, a topographic name from Middle Low German pal ‘post’, ‘stake’, ‘boundary marker’. French: variant of Palin. Americanized spelling of Belgian Peelen, a habitational name for someone from either of two places called Peel, in North Brabant and Limburg.” (The resemblance to the famously-Alaskan surname “Palin” may be chance — that one reportedly originated in Lancashire and came to Alaska via Manitoba.)

  52. Stu Clayton says

    German Pfahl = post, pale, stake. More or less synonymous with Pflock, though this is smaller and is traditionally used to kill vampires.

    mittelhochdeutsch pfloc, Herkunft ungeklärt

  53. PlasticPaddy says

    Pillar is unconnected apparently. So from pillar to post is not a tautology☺

  54. Stu Clayton says

    Of course they’re different. It’s a twotaulogy.

    # Whyche doon he hym sent to Contrycion, And fro thensforth to Satysfaccion; Thus fro poost to pylour he was made to daunce #

  55. We had a class with Holly Whyte in that revered space in front of the Seagram Building, a couple of years before the film, I guess. He was so nice and SO enthusiastic about his work (he’d sort of invented it himself). Afterwards, we helped him by listing the number of cars with diplomatic plates illegally parked in midtown (it was a lot).

  56. I envy you. What a class!

  57. John Cowan says

    Pilaster, though, is pillar + -aster, the same diminutive/derogatory suffix as in poetaster and many nonce words; in Latin it could mean ‘not quite’, as in patraster ‘father-in-law’. My understanding was that pilasters are square or nearly so in cross-section whereas columns are circular.

  58. Pilaster, though, is pillar + -aster, the same diminutive/derogatory suffix as in poetaster and many nonce words

    I’ll be damned. The things you learn around here!

  59. Jen in Edinburgh says

    And cotoneaster, which is apparently a not-quite-quince.

  60. A small fortified (or sometimes moated) tower or dwelling

    cf. Ingush towers (in Russian).

  61. Yes, more rectangular than square, usually and they can be semi-circular. I suppose the main thing is that pilasters engage an adjacent wall, while columns are freestanding.

  62. Jeremy Hawker says

    Columns can be square. The steel ones on the subway are H-columns, like l-beams only installed vertically and with wider flanges for stiffness. I see that, to make any sense at all, I-beams have to have a serif type face.

  63. John Cowan says

    But quite otherwise with T-squares, U-turns, A-frames, and so on, which are ruthlessly sans-serif.

    By the way, do you know that you have an antipodal counterpart in Christchurch, NZ? (Either that, or working remotely has taken on new and awesome proportions.)

  64. I keep forgetting to mention that while researching this post I ran across Paul Tacchella’s bizarre Французско-русскій этимологическій словарь [French-Russian etymological dictionary] (St.-Pétersbourg, 1907), which arranges its entries on some weird principle that makes it virtually impossible to use.

  65. Ingush towers

    My sister’s classmate had one.

    She was really impressed:

    “Ruslan says he has a family castle in the mountains!”

  66. It’s only since the internet that I’ve known there was more than one of me; before that I thought I had an unusual name, but there’s this gardener in Christchurch – I’m not even the only JH the gardener – and then there’s a JH who’s a physician in Birmingham UK specialising in STDs. Academia emails me all his papers to read.

  67. Trond Engen says

    There’s a Norwegian archaeologist with my name. If I’d known when I started discussing archaeology and adjacent subjects on the Internet, I might have done something to avoid any confusion, but it’s too late.

    I get messages from Academia about his papers, of course. At least I assume they are his when they’re about medieval or maritime archaeology. But it’s hard to tell among all the other papers in subjects close to my heart and with my name on them, the list of which is available for a fee.

  68. I suppose the main thing is that pilasters engage an adjacent wall, while columns are freestanding.

    That is a necessary condition, but (at least according to Wikipedia) there’s a further distinction between pilasters, which are purely decorative, and engaged columns, which play a structural role.

  69. Trond Engen says

    This Norwegian structural engineer uses pilaster in both senses. Well, mostly in the latter sense, since I don’t often get involved with purely decorative elements.

  70. Trond Engen says

    I-beams are slimmer sideways than H-beams (/columns), which are square (or nearly so, thanks to a weird decision by some standardizer).

    I tell people they use their H-beams the wrong way. Luckily nobody ever listens to me.

  71. Jen in Edinburgh says

    There’s at least a dozen of me in Edinburgh’s library system, never mind the world.

    I’m kind of confused now about who (apart from me) is the same person, or not.

  72. I know where I came from—but where did all you zombies come from?

  73. Jen in Edinburgh: There’s at least a dozen of me in Edinburgh’s library system
    Well, I’m not surprised, with a name like yours. Keep your name and move to Glasgow, if you want to be more conspicuous.

    I’m kind of confused now about who (apart from me) is the same person, or not.
    As far as I know, I’m the only one who’s used two names and this time it was an accident caused by my mobile phone. I’m usually AJP Something (mostly AJP Crown, so my comment will be accepted by the tiny employees in the back of Language’s computer, who are very busy). Stu used to be ‘Grumbly Stu’, but he must have cheered up.

    Tim May: …according to Wikipedia) there’s a further distinction between pilasters, which are purely decorative, and engaged columns, which play a structural role
    That would depend on who’s terminology is being used. Architectural historians for ex. would use ‘engaged column’ regardless of whether it’s load bearing or decorative. Shipbuilders & naval architects (ie structural shipbuilding engineers) use ‘pillar’ for column, and that’s a word that civil structural engineers & architects never use. …Now Trond’s going to tell me he uses pillar all the time. ‘Post’ is a nice, woody sort of word for a column, as in post-and-beam wood (US) / timber (UK) construction.

  74. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Glasgow is a genuine but unusual surname, on the principle that calling you John from [tiny village] may well identify you (and so you end up with plenty of them when the name sticks), but calling you John from [city] probably won’t, unless you’ve moved to a tiny village where being from the city really is an identifying feature. There are Londons, too, but I’ve never heard of an Edinburgh.

    AJP Crown: when I read back assuming that the two of you were the same person, you seemed to be disagreeing with yourself!

  75. There’s Duke, of Edinburgh. He must be one of your relatives.

    And I remember Alex Glasgow, although he’s from Gateshead, because he sang When the Boat Comes In. I think I linked to it recently, something about the Gateshead accent, probably.

    My uncle’s house was in Little Lunnon, nowadays merely a village street in Leicestershire but it’s supposed to date from the Great Plague when Londoners evacuated the city.

    you seemed to be disagreeing with yourself!
    I often disagree with myself, it wouldn’t be the first time. I’m easily swayed by my own arguments.

  76. John Cowan says

    I have many natures, but only one name.

    There is a surname Edinburgh variously spelled that appeared in the late 19C in the West Riding; I don’t know if it’s died out or not. The speculation in the last two sentences of the linked article should be ignored, however; it’s obvious that “de Edynburgh” in the 13-14C is not a surname but simply means “from Edinburgh”, meaning the men themselves, not their ancestors.

  77. “de Edynburgh” in the 13-14C is not a surname but simply means “from Edinburgh”

    So it’s a nisba, could be translated as “Al-Edinburghi”

  78. I have an antipodal counterpart in NZ who’s a Maori musician. I wonder if anyone ever wonders about his book in Appalachian studies. And if you study Latin American literature from a progressive viewpoint, you keep running into the two Raymond Williamses.

  79. And then there’s Wyndham Lewis, Wyndham Lewis, and Wyndham Lewis. (Never heard of the third one until just now, but I had the first two confused for quite a while.)

  80. J.W. Brewer says

    Ditto for confusing the first two WL’s. It strikes me that since “Lewis” is more common than “Wyndham” as a given name and “Wyndham” is (or at least so I suspect) more common as a surname than a given name there really ought to be one or more individuals named “Lewis Wyndham” out there. I’ve failed to google any up but that may in part be because I don’t know how to filter out references to “Lewis, Wyndham” from my search results. (I’ve found a “Louis Wyndham-Jones,” but he alas appears to be a fictional decedent in a murder mystery.)

  81. Trond Engen says

    I’ve found a “Louis Wyndham-Jones,” but he alas appears to be a fictional decedent in a murder mystery.

    Did the solution accidentally involve the name of his first-grade teacher, the street where he lived, and the nearby park?

  82. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The author of the Wikiparticle on No. 3 seems not to have made up his mind whether to write D’israeli, Disraeli or D’Israeli.

    Also, saying “Oh anything rather than that insufferable woman, but Allah is Great” today might attract the attention of the anti-terrorist police, especially if you said it loudly in Arabic, which Google Translate informs me would be يا أي شيء بدلاً من تلك المرأة التي لا تطاق ، لكن الله أكبر .

  83. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Would you accept this lady from South Carolina as a legitimate example:

    MOUNT PLEASANT– Lillian Isabell Lewis Wyndham, 62, a former employee with the Litttle Learners Day Care Center, died Tuesday in a Charleston hospital. The funeral will be at 3 p.m. Friday in Stuhr’s Mount Pleasant Chapel. Burial will be in Halfway Creek Cemetery.

    Mrs. Wyndham was born in Shulerville, a daughter of Lloyd Lewis and Pauline Ackerman Lewis. She was of the Pentecostal Holiness faith.

    I suspect that none of the Wyndham Lewises mentioned earlier were of the Pentecostal Holiness faith.

  84. The Pentecostal Holiness churches were one of the major topics in the one anthropology class I took, Magic, Witchcraft & the Spirit World. The Holiness churches are best known for their snake handling and “speaking in tongues,” but some of their congregations ingest other poisons and invoke the Holy Spirit in other ways. My sole original contribution to anthropology was pointing out that the toxins used in various Holiness ordeal services had in common that they were mostly dangerous to humans because of the shock reactions they tended to produce. This is true of both rattlesnake venom and strychnine (sometimes consumed in Holiness services), which is a convulsant. The religiously ecstatic, almost fugue-like, state engendered in Holiness services protects participants from the dangerous shock reaction that usually accompanies the pain of being hit with a dose of organic poison. In contrast, you would never see directly toxic nerve agents, for instance, being used in their services.

    A typical service was recorded in the classic documentary film Holy Ghost People. The “Holy Ghost” appellation refers to the fact that the Holiness churches attribute their resistance to poisons and states of religious ecstacy to the intervention of the Holy Spirit. However, they are also known as “Jesus only’s” for their tendency to explicitly name their deity as “Jesus,” including the Holy Ghost under that name. (That kind of heresy would have gotten them into serious trouble in the late Roman/early Byzantine Empire. Frankly, it amazes me the depth of sophistry of the Christian theologians of late antiquity, as they set dogmatic interpretations to be assigned to the fundamentally paradoxical idea if Jesus being both fully human and completely divine.)

  85. David Marjanović says

    I can offer three of my colleagues: Andrew R. Milner, his wife Angela C. Milner and the unrelated Andrew R. C. Milner.

    On Dechant, I forgot to mention that unreduced -ant attracts the stress (as in Elefant). This is evidently overriden by the two effects of ch, which don’t exist Down North.

  86. Lars Mathiesen says

    The father of the third Wyndham Lewis could be number four, but not notable enough for his own WP entry. I thought you all needed to know anyway.

    I haven’t been able to make triffids relevant to this, but Wyndham was a (second) christian name turned pen name for John Harris.

  87. ” Palliser is apparently a name independent of Trollope in England though I’d never have known that without googling, I’ve not met a Palliser.”

    John Buchan has a Palliser-Yeates (also a politician, I think) in “John Macnab”.

  88. Huh. He took it from Trollope not from life, I’m guessing. Buchan chose unlikely names in the Victorian style that look even stranger today. John Macnab is available at

    Leithen’s sympathy had become interest.

    “Have you seen a doctor?”

    The other hesitated. “Yes,” he said at length. “I saw old Acton Croke this afternoon. He was no earthly use. He advised me to go to Moscow and fix up a trade agreement. He thought that might make me content with my present lot.”

    “He told me to steal a horse.”

    Mr Palliser-Yeates stared in extreme surprise. “You! Do you feel the same way? Have you been to Croke?”

    “Three hours ago. I thought he talked good sense. He said I must get into a rougher life so as to appreciate the blessings of the life that I’m fed up with. Probably he is right, but you can’t take that sort of step in cold blood.”

    Mr. Palliser-Yeates assented. The fact of having found an associate in misfortune seemed to enliven slightly, very slightly, the spirits of both. From the adjoining table came, like an echo from a happier world, the ringing voice and hearty laughter of youth. Leithen jerked his head towards them.

    “I would give a good deal for Archie [Archie Roylance]’s gusto,” he said. “My sound right leg, for example. Or, if I couldn’t I’d like Charles Lamancha’s insatiable ambition. If you want as much as he wants, you don’t suffer from tedium.”

    Palliser-Yeates looked at the gentleman in question, the tall dark one of the two diners. “I’m not so sure. Perhaps he had got too much too easily. He has come on uncommon quick, you know, and, if you do that, there’s apt to arrive a moment when you flag.”

    Lord Lamancha–the title had no connection with Don Quixote and Spain, but was the name of a shieling in a Border glen which had been the home six centuries ago of the ancient house of Merkland–was an object of interest to many of his countrymen. The Marquis of Liddesdale, his father, was a hale old man who might reasonably be expected to live for another ten years and so prevent his son’s career being compromised by a premature removal to the House of Lords.

    That should be Marquess of Liddesdale. Buchan should know better.

  89. Jen in Edinburgh says

    There’s a real Lamancha in the Borders, although not – as far as I know – in Liddesdale. The rest of the names don’t look weirder to me than real Edwardian names tend to…

    Wikipedia on marquises/marquesses:
    In Great Britain and historically in Ireland, the correct spelling of the aristocratic title of this rank is marquess (although on the European mainland and in Canada, the French spelling of marquis is used in English). In Scotland the French spelling is also sometimes used.

    I’m pretty sure I would write Marquis of Bute/Queensberry/whoever, although I’m not sure I’ve ever had reason to!

  90. OED s.v. marquis (updated December 2000):

    Now usually (esp. in official use) marquess. A British or Irish hereditary nobleman of the second rank of the peerage, below a duke and above an earl; (also) the eldest son of a British or Irish duke who is also a marquess, who takes his father’s second title as a courtesy.
    The title of a marquess usually incorporates a place name, but it can (occasionally) be prefixed to the surname of the family.
    The title was introduced in England in 1385 but was little used until revived by Henry VI in 1442; when John de Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, was degraded from the marquisate of Dorset in 1399, he declined to seek restoration of the title because ‘le noun de Marquys feust estraunge noun en cest Roialme’ (Encycl. Brit. (1910) at Marquess).

    1901 Empire Rev. 1 466 First in rank come the dukes,..then follow in order of precedence, marquises, first created by Richard II.

    Clearly in Buchan’s day “usually (esp. in official use)” was not the case, and even if it had been, novelists are not obliged to follow official use.

  91. Also, “le noun de Marquys feust estraunge noun en cest Roialme” is lovely.

  92. Edwardian Irish politics had a Cork MP and a Dublin trade unionist both named William O’Brien. After the revolution, Cork wanted to honour its own, not the other; so Great Britain Street is now Great William O’Brien Street.

  93. Jen in Edinburgh says

    LH: That sentence made me very happy!

    I thought I’d come across a Palliser somewhere – presumably Hugh Palliser, Governor of Newfoundland and the first naval captain James Cook served under, among other things.

  94. J.W. Brewer says

    I assume the Mrs. Wyndham of South Carolina was born Miss Lewis, which is certainly another way to bring the two names in question into conjunction.

  95. It certainly makes sense that Buchan might have got ‘Palliser’ from the Gov. of Newfoundland, Jen.

    novelists are not obliged to follow official use
    That’s all the more reason for him to have written Marquess, I’d say. I feel sure a (non-Scottish) Tory MP in the 1920s would have found the noun Marquis ‘feust estraunge noun en cest Roialme’. Give in to these people, and pretty soon we’ll have the the late PM referred to as Marchese di Salisbury.

  96. Yes, also some of those Wyndham Lewises are double-barrelled and others just have Wyndham as a Christian name. I’ve always thought it was a very cool-sounding name until you find that he’s really called “Percy” (besides, I hate the Vorticists). Percy Wyndham Lewis’s photo was nearly always taken by someone Beresford – doubtless a younger son of a Marquess of Waterford – who took some pretty good pics.

  97. besides, I hate the Vorticists

    That’s OK, they hated you. They hated everybody.

  98. John Cowan says

    Of course duc/duke is also an “estraunge noun” in English, as are all the titles of nobility except earl. Baron, however, is a particularly estraunge case: it’s < Late Latin barō ‘man, freeman, servant, husband’, but that is itself probably of Frankish origin and cognate with OE beorn ‘warrior’, which furthermore may have influenced it when it arrived in England. The OED2 has this delightfully Murrayesque remark: “It has been conjecturally referred to a Celtic *bar ‘hero’ (which seems a figment).”

    It turns out that noun is an Old Normand variant of nom, and that the use of both to mean a part of speech is a semantic transfer from Greek. What is more, the link between nōmen and gnōscō, that accounts for compounds like agnomen cognōmen, ignōminia turns out to be folk etymology, according to Wikt.

  99. David Marjanović says

    Ah, that explains a few things. I had always wondered why a woman would have set the rules of boxing…

  100. As a child, I sometimes wondered why boxing was regulated at this particular suburban Underground station.

  101. John Cowan says

    Indeed, I have read (shuddering) a short work of fiction that betrays the author’s belief that Marquess is the feminine form of Marquis (in a British context).

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