Sunday, 27 December 2020

Burned at the Stake

18th December 1557 and Joyce Lewis of Croxall, Staffordshire hits the headlines. She had been married to Sir George Appleby until he was killed at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh on 15th September 1547. Before the 1547 was out she had married again, this time to Thomas Lewis of Mancetter, it was then she started to question her faith and eventually divorced herself from the Catholic church, thereafter worshiping as a Protestant. Her change of ideas was noticed by none other than Ralph Baines, Bishop of Lichfield who referred to her ‘irreverent behaviour in church’. After spending a year of contemplation in a prison cell, on the bishop's orders she was taken to Lichfield and burned at the stake.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Trouble Brewing

Tuesday 9th January 1906 and brewer’s labourer James Cannon is at the Lichfield Brewery Co. Ltd. At 12:30 he is wearing heavy clogs as he slipped while adding hops to the contents of the copper boiler. Witness emptied the first can and was taking it away when he heard a splash. He turned to discover just Cannon's right hand hanging on to the side and immediately pulled him out. He walked to the office, badly scalded, where they stripped him and oiled the scalds. Dr Welchman arrived and ordered him to the Victoria Nursing Home, where James Cannon died three days later.

Sunday, 13 December 2020


Wednesday 6th June 1900 and railway guard Harry Cliff is in his van as the engine is detached for shunting. The train travelling to Walsall stopped at Hammerwich.
With no brake applied, the train began to roll down the incline. Telegraph message sent from Hammerwich to Lichfield City and points turned for the now hurtling wagons and vans sending them into a siding where they impacted with empty cattle trucks. Piled on top, littered all over, Harry Cliff's body was found in the very middle. He was just 40 years of age and lived at Stafford. The runaway train comprised 21 loaded wagons and 9 empties and was travelling at least 50mph. During the search they first spotted his feet and a part of his leg enabling rescuers to find the body fairly quickly.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

Lichfield's First Motorcycle Accident

Sunday 12th June 1904, the date of the first ever motorcycle accident in Lichfield. Between 3 and 4pm a Mr Savage, and electrical engineer from Burton-upon-Trent, was travelling along Pipe Hill when a dog ran out in front of him. He was thrown from his bike with what was described as ‘considerable force’. Injuries included an arm broken in two places, and fractures of the knee and skull. He was taken to the Victoria Nursing Home where he was treated by Dr Fraser and had been sent home on the Wednesday. The newspaper also reported the dog had died, its neck broken.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Herbert and Maud Freeman

4th September 1911 and at Hanch, north of Lichfield near the present golf club, Herbert Freeman, aged 46, attempted to kill his wife Maud aged 33. Had been living at Craddock’s Yard, Wilcox’s Entry, Tamworth Street, Lichfield. They only married on August 8th, 27 days earlier, and it had already proved to be a terrible marriage.

Their wedding reception was held at the Windsor Castle Inn, Lichfield. Here they fought and were asked to quit but refused and so found themselves in front of magistrates charged with disturbing the peace – at their own wedding reception! Over the next four weeks matters did not improve. On the 4th September they were out on Cannock Chase together and called at the Roe Buck Inn, Wolseley Bridge - now known as the Wolseley Arms. Here they found Alfred Black, a dreyman of the Lichfield Brewery. and obtained a lift back on his float.

All went well until they reached Handsacre, as they left she put her hand in her husband’s pocket. He accused her of trying to rob him, although later claimed it was a joke. Words ensued, then he pulled out a long-bladed knife and threatened to kill both his wife and the driver, Alfred Black. The driver was alarmed but offered to help when Maud said she was hurt, he offered to take her to the nursing home in Lichfield. On reaching Hanch Hall the passengers alighted, husband saying he would take care of her. It seems he took care of both of them – first cutting his wife’s neck before turning to his own and severed the windpipe. When police and doctors arrived at 9pm, two bodies were found lying in a pool of blood. He was dead, she found unconscious but when taken to Rugeley District Hospital she gave an incoherent account of events.

Maud Shipley, as she had been known, was previously married to a workman for the local council, until he met with an accident at Lichfield Isolation Hospital the previous year and had died at Birmingham Accident Hospital from his injuries. Herbert’s daughter Alice Freeman said her mother died in December 1903 and her father had had no regular employment for the last 12 months but was a good father and fed and clothed his children well. Since the fight on their wedding night there had been many quarrels. On the day in question both were taking the train from Lichfield Trent Valley to Hagley, he to seek employment in the railway track widening work, she to look for a home at Hagley as they had been given notice at Wilcox’s Entry. Inquest was adjourned until October 3rd to trace further witnesses.

When reconvening, Alfred Black said Herbert had knocked her to the floor and thrown her from the float, she appeared to be hurt. Another witness driving a car picked up the story. He saw two people near Hanch Hall apparently fighting. He raised the alarm when he discovered the woman on the ground and apparently dead, while the man was still alive. He went to Hanch Hall to summon assistance, it was they who discovered Maud had two deep cuts to her neck although Herbert had but one cut but was dead. Another witness, a labourer at the hall, described how Herbert had hit his wife twice across the face with his umbrella, words were exchanged and there was much pushing. Policeman described the spring knife as that which poachers knew as a rabbit-legger or a buck-sticker. By the time the doctor arrived the man had been dead for 1.1/2 hours. Wife had two deep wounds about 3 inches long, one from the middle of the neck to the left side of the jaw and 3/4 inch deep and opened up a similar gash in the gullet, the right side was but a scratch. She also had a blackened left eye, finger-shaped bruises on her arms and other bruises about the body and legs. The man had fingernail scratches on his arms and face. He had a 4 inch wound to the throat, deep enough to expose the back of the palate, jugular was severed and death would have come in a matter of seconds. The man was also missing a finger and thumb on the left hand but this was from an old injury. His body also showed signs of alcoholism.

Then the wife gave evidence, having recovered from her injuries. She said on the afternoon of their marriage he had tried to strangle her. Soon after had got her on the sofa and held a knife to her throat, but released her when someone tapped on the window. She maintained he was a good man with no drink in him. On August 27th he had forced her upstairs and threatened to kill her, even sleeping with the open knife in his hand should she attempt to move. When drunk he was a jealous monster, sober he complained of pains in his arms and head. The tussle was exactly as others had described, adding he grabbed her around the neck with his left arm, she could not get away, he was too strong. He pushed the knife into her throat. She collapsed and laid her down and he kissed her forehead. She awoke to see him lying three feet away to her right, the poachers knife on her left but she did not know this until later. He was clutching his throat, his face down. With some deliberation as to the location of the knife the jury delivered the verdict of suicide after attempting to murder his wife.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Jesse Joseph Quartermaine of Upper Gungate in Tamworth

It is 1901. To be precise, Saturday 26th October 1901, and for Jesse Joseph Quartermaine of Upper Gungate in Tamworth a fateful day.

A procession of wagons pulled by traction engines was passing through heading for the city of Lichfield. These owned by Danks and Co, they were transporting three large colliery wheels from Tamworth to Hanley. The convoy called at the Constitution Inn shortly after 10am, where food and three quarts of ale were consumed by the six men. Shortly after they stopped at the top of the hill to take on water from a pool. As they set off, Jesse walked up one side of the wagons and his brother Harry up the other side. After a few yards a shout was heard and the engines stopped.

It was then Jesse was found under the last wagon, both legs virtually severed. For some three or four yards a great deal of blood showed the extent of the incident, the progress marked by a trail of blood, bits of flesh, trouser and bone. It was generally thought, though none had observed such, he had fallen while riding the draw-bar. Perhaps he was attempting to climb into that third wagon. Police and doctors were called and he was taken to the Lichfield Victoria Nursing Home. In shock and bleeding greatly they attempted to save his life by amputating both legs at the thigh. To no avail. He died at 1:40pm that day and left a widow and three children.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

A Less Savoury Episode in Lichfield's History

1904 – January. John and Sarah Ann Langley of Tamworth Street, Lichfield are charged with neglect of a five-year-old of John Langley. The courtroom was surprisingly crowded, with large numbers outside. This lengthy court session lasted from 11am to 11:45pm. Albeit less 1.1/4 hours for lunch and tea (how very civilised). John had four children from a former marriage, the youngest Arthur Langley was just 6 years old. Sarah Ann had ‘several’ children by her former marriage and three of these were still living with her at the time. John had gone to Dr F M Rowland in July 1903 saying nothing could be done to stop Arthur’s old habits, including going into the streets picking up food from refuse and eating it.

He was admitted to the workhouse afterwards, seeming of good weight, although small and not as bright as others of his age, exhibited no odd behaviour, nor was he troublesome. He remained there until August 31st. Despite an unexplained weakness of one arm he seemed fine and was released. On December 22nd 1903 the doctor was called to the home again. He saw abrasions to the neck, the small of the back, his left knee, and a bruise on the right thigh. This child had lost weight since he had seen him in July. He was returned to the workhouse, examined but saw no evidence of over eating, marks seen could easily be everyday bumps, bangs and cuts, but the child seemed unwell, although with no true evidence of mistreatment. Father John Langley tried to make his son’s removal to the workhouse permanent, saying he could not be controlled, he wandered into the street where he could easily be run down. He was seen to eat the offal discarded in the streets, and known to eat horse dung.

At the end of December 1903 he weighed just 29 pounds and was very thin. By the time the magistrates received the case he had already gained some weight. An employee gave evidence to say he worked as a baker for Langley and had seen the boy tied, using a muffler, to the chain of a swing in the September, where he was observed from 9am until well after midday. He saw him there many times, always badly dressed for cold weather. One daughter appeared to be the one putting him there. Put in the yard as soon as he awoke, while the rest of the family ate he was looking in through the window. While occasionally passed a crust by that same daughter, he would also eat of the swill from the bucket, and pick crumbs from the floor of the yard. That same employee, baker John Millington, had put food in the lad’s pocket and sent him to the bottom of the yard to eat it unseen. Millington also saw the father strike the boy, knocking him across the yard, and for an hour or more tie his left arm to his left leg seemingly just to torment the child. He was certainly treated differently to their other children, with no cap, had buttons missing from his jacket, inappropriate open neck in winter, given no muffler or scarf. Millington told the father to take him to the doctor about his paralysed arm, also warned the wife to do so should her husband fail. The boy was often heard to cry or sing pitifully, the child could not enter the house or climb off the swing without help. Millington said he dare not interfere for fear of repercussions. Langley explained the paralysis was the result of illness at two months, and he tied the limb to encourage him to use the arm. Since then Millington had left the employ and reported the matter to the NSPCC.

Another employee, Frederick Statham, backed this evidence, adding he saw the father plunge the child into cold water for no apparent reason, leaving him outside in all weathers. Statham left their employ in October 1903. A neighbour added he had seen the lad outside in all weathers, coughing, apparently seemed pained when walking trying to keep warm, seen eating off the floor of the yard. The NSPCC corroborated his evidence. Defence claimed this was a bad child, born of a consumptive mother who died shortly afterwards. He was given plenty to eat but chose his awful diet, a sibling also died young showing clear signs of the mental problems of the mother.

Defence witness, a baker friend of Langley, said nothing was further from the truth. He was fed well. Allowed to warm himself in the brew house where there was always a fire. Fed well with his father’s dinner and also diet of eggs, port wine and boiled milk. He damned the witnesses for the prosecution for having an axe to grind as they left following insults to Mrs Langley. Mrs Langley, her daughter and other witnesses also said the child was treated no differently, even making allowances for his mental problems. Found guilty the parents were find £25 each, such leniency because imprisonment would also penalise the other children. They were given two weeks to pay. Crowds outside virtually rioted at this announcement, with boos and groans following the initial announcement of ‘guilty’. Both upstairs windows and frontage of their home was smashed as the crowd vented their anger.

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Train Accident near Tamworth

1907 – Monday 1st July and the communication cord is pulled on the LNW express from Liverpool at 2pm and stopped at Tamworth. Guard discovered it had been pulled by Mrs Higham, wife of the MP for Sowerby in Yorkshire said her 3.1/2 year-old child had fallen from the train. All trains alerted as far back as Stafford and all stations began a search.

At 4:30pm news came through that the child had been found at Hademore and, badly hurt but alive, was at the cottage of Mrs Smith near Whittington Bridge. Stationmaster Mr Mathews of Tamworth had a down train stopped and accompanied the mother back to Hademore and Whittington, first aid being administered by the district nurse and Dr Homan of Lichfield soon after arriving. A platelayer ganger had been working when he noticed something moving, it proved to be the child. He carried the child to the cottage after sending a lad to find the nurse whom he had noticed cycling by a few moments earlier. A policeman sent to summon a cab from Lichfield but met the ambulance on the way. How the door came open on a train travelling at 60mph was never discovered, he was a large boy for 3.1/2 years and it was suspected he had managed to open it himself.

His escape was deemed a miracle, his fall smashing several large stones. He bounced for some 40 yards, coming to rest on the outer edge of the opposite line. He was inches from the line when found and, although conscious, had not attempted to move which was fortunate as the down express had passed not two minutes after he fell here. The driver of the down train had seen the body of the child and felt certain he had hit the mother, as he assumed she would be carrying the infant. He reached Lichfield and alerted the stationmaster who had summoned the ambulance. Father arrived from London Euston later that evening, returning the next day where he made a statement thanking all for their assistance and stating his son was ‘progressing nicely’.

The Lichfield Mercury thought the headline “Excitement on the Train Line near Lichfield” appropriate.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Bloody History of Lichfield

In the 17th century corporation officials claimed the seal represented the corpses of three armies of Christian kings, defeated here by Diocletian, this was repeated in the 19th century. The three kings said to have been Bor, Ro, and Cop – this held to be the origin of Borrowcop Lane.

Back in the 7th century – for many years the ‘grey battle field’ explanation of the place name of Lichfield was given. This is said to come from a 7th century battle, Caer Lwydgoed stated the Welsh of Powys capturing 1,500 cattle, 80 horses, and five bondsmen. Later the place name was said to come from Middle English lic ‘corpse’ was the basis and thus ‘field of corpses’ and said to be the 7th century battle or, through pure conjecture by Matthew Paris of St Albans Abbey in 1259, that some 999 Christians were martyred here by the order of the Roman emperor Diocletian (284-305). The story was compounded in 1549, when the new city corporation decided to use the image on its seal and featured for over a century.

An interesting story but that's all it is, a story. It has absolutely no basis in fact.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

The Family Business

I'm often asked why I took to writing, to which I answer 'the words'. Not really as flippant as it sounds, for it was my interest in etymology which brought me to writing, as anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time will clearly see. Invariably the next question will be if any other member of the family were writers, was I inspired by a great-uncle or maiden aunt - no, as far as I'm aware I am the only member of my family to have had a book published.

But the question did get me thinking as to what could be thought of as the family business - or rather two families, maternal and paternal lines. A few years ago I did do extensive research on my family and collected quite a bit of information. Hence, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the jobs my ancestors performed.

I found: two accountants, four labourers, a bricklayer, a carpenter, four who worked at a colliery including an engine worker and a sinker, three coopers, three engineers, four farmers and an agricultural labourer, a gardener, a jeweller, a joiner, a metal worker, two railway workers of which one was a guard, a chauffeur, a lorry driver, a nailer, a tube maker and a mineral agent.

Of more interest were the soldier based in Hampshire with the 47th regiment. a sergeant, who managed to marry the daughter of a Sergeant Major. One day I'll find out a little more about their military career.

I also found a gun action filer, one of the many cottage industries contributing to the production of firearms in Birmingham's Gun Quarter. His job will have been one of many tasks which helped contribute to Birmingham's claim of 1,001 trades.

A pearl button maker, one of many who earned their living in the button trade of the Second City.

Of particular interest were five individuals who earned their living from the coaching routes. Three of my ancestors were coach builders and two others wheelwrights, my interest is because I recently published a book looking at coaching routes in Staffordshire and at least two of these five worked in the county atsome point.

But despite the link with the coaching routes I found my great-grandfather's job the most intriguing. Some will remember the annual furore as hunters took seal pups for their fur. Some 150 years ago my great-grandfather earned a living as a seal plush finisher, in its time a skill and a talent which apparently enabled him to earn a good living.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Etymologies of Homonyms and Homographs

Whilst I am always interested in learning new words, it is the never so much the meaning as the origins which intrigue me. A couple of years ago I looked at words with different usages, despite sounding the same or having identical spellings. Were there two completely different origins and the identical spelling is pure coincidence or has the word simply been used to mean two different things?

Here are another selection and, having done A to S before, now to finish the alphabetical list with a selection of others:

Tear comes as either to rend or to cry and, if I had had to choose, the ripping would have been my choice to come first. As you will already have guessed, the crying came first, that from Proto-Indo-European dakru with the same meaning. The ripping 'tear' does not appear in English util the 14th century, prior to that we used synonyms, while this second use is derived from Proto-Indo-European der meaning 'to split, flay, peel'.

Tender meaning soft, easily injured', can be traced back to Greek teren and Sanskrit tarunah, each with identical meaning and themselves from Proto-Indo-European ten 'to stretch, thin, weak, young'. Tender as in 'to offer' came to English from Middle French tendre and from Latin tendere, both from that same Proto-Indo-European root ten and hear used in the sense 'to stretch'.

Tie is either 'to knot' or 'to be equal'. The knot sense came to English from Old Norse tygill 'string', that from Proto-Indo-European deuk 'to lead'. In the competitive sense it is unknown before 1888, it comes from the other use and in the sense of 'connected'.

Tire is to 'make weary', it is derived from Proto-Germanic teuzon and Proto-Indo-European deu, both meaning 'to lack, be wanting'. I make no apologies for using the American spelling 'tire' instead of 'tyre', indeed until the late 19th century we Brits also used 'tire'. The wheel version came from 'tire' in the sense of 'equipent, dress' and is related to 'attire'. If this seems odd, you simply need to realise the old wooden wheels on the horse-drawn waggons, the metal hoop literally 'tied' the wheel together (as well as protecting it) and was therefore a tie-r.

Trip originally means 'to stumble', and was derived from the early English use meaning 'to tread, trample'. As a journey it is not recorded until 1959, but was certainly used prior to this and also certainly came from the other use. That 'trip' meaning 'journey' is a comparatively recent use is proof the claimed oldest pub name in England, Nottingham's the Trip to Jerusalem, has no basis in fact.

Trunk as in the chest or large box, comes from Old French tronc, the alms box in a church. The elephant's trunk takes its name from the trunk of a tree, itself originating ina word meaning 'to pass through'.

Wave, be it with the hand or a refence to the movement of water, come from Proto-Indo-European uebh 'to move to and fro'. Fascinatingly this has the same origin as 'weave'.

Watch - to keep an eye on - has its roots in religious devotion, when followers would have attempted to stay awake and alert for long periods. This then makes sense of the Proto-Indo-European root of weg 'to be strong'. It was this sense of 'a clock to wake up sleepers' which gave the name to the timepiece.

Well - a source of water and good health. The water source comes from Proto-Indo-European wel 'to turn, revolve' and thus refers to the bubbling of a spring, the source of well water. As in 'hale and hearty', the root is Latin velle 'to wish or will'.

Wind as in 'moving air' has not changed since Proto-Indo-European we 'to blow'. When it comes to the sense of 'to turn, twist', there is the synonym 'wend' and that is the root, wendh 'to twist, entwine'.

Wound is either the the past tense of 'wind' or used to mean 'harm, injure'. In the sense of injury the Old English wund comes from the Proto-Indo-European wen itself meaning 'to bear, wound', while the past tense of 'wind' we saw in the previous entry.

Yard as an imperial measurement comes from the Old English gerd, originally not a measurement of three feet but a straight wooden pole created by pollarding trees. Doing so made the poles grow straight at first, these could be used for building. These were approximately three feet or one yard in length, but it was the Old English word for 'pole' which gave it a name. Old English also gave us the term for that enclosed area at the back of the house, geard used to mean 'enclosure, garden, court, residence'. Although the two words are similar, the pronunciation is the same.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Etymologies of Yet More Homonyms and Homographs

Whilst I am always interested in learning new words, it is the never so much the meaning as the origins which intrigue me. A couple of years ago I looked at words with different usages, despite sounding the same or having identical spellings. Were there two completely different origins and the identical spelling is pure coincidence or has the word simply been used to mean two different things?

Here are another selection and, having done A to Q before, now continue with a selection of others:

Right meaning both 'correct' and the opposite of left. The former can be traced through a Germanic line meaning 'fair, proper' back to Proto-Indo-European reg 'to move in a straight line', to rule', to lead straight', to correct' - it is clear why the modern sense is 'correct', and that is also the reason the righthand is so named, for it is considered the correct hand. Compare 'left', in the Latin group of languages clearly show this as considered sinister, for lefthanded is exactly what 'sinister' means.

Rock can be stone or to move backward and forward. As a stone 'rock' has hardly changed since pre-Roman times, although as the trail ends here it was probably very different prior to this. The sense of 'oscillate' is derived from a Germanic root, where such as Swedish rycka and Middle Dutch rucken refer to the back and forth motion used when plucking (such as feathers from a bird to prepare it for the pot).

Rose is a flower which is named, not for its perfume or its bloom but, for its thorns. As the past tense of 'rise' it is a very modern creation, for most of the existence of English the word would have been risen.

Row as in rhyming with 'know', could mean to be arranged in straight lines or to propel a boat. As a line it can be traced to a Proto-Indo-European reiwhich meant 'to scratch, tear, cut' and shows the first lines described were designs or creations. To propel with oars is from the Proto-Indo-European root ere which may look very different but is not pronounced very differently and means exactly the same, showing the concept of rowing has hardly changed in millennia.

Saw is the past tense of 'see' and a cutting tool. The latter is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European sek 'to cut', while the visual reference is simply the Old Norse sja meaning 'see'.

Seal a method of closing a document, for example, shares an origin with 'sign' and 'insignia' in Proto-Indo-European sek, the same word which gave us the saw as a cutting tool. Of course a seal is also a mammal, a pinniped, with the word common to all Germanic tongues, but the trail ends there and the origins uncertain.

Set a complete complete collection or to solidify. The collection sense shares an origin with 'sect' in referring to a group. In meaning 'to solidify' or 'harden', its use is unknown before the 16th century although it we do know it comes from the sense 'to sit' which was also said as 'to set'. Hence the sense is really 'to put in place' and 'harden' began as 'to sit'.

Sink, as a verb, can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European language where sengw meant exactly the same thing. It is easy to see why the kitchen sink got its name from the verb, but as a noun it began referring to a 'cesspit or sewage system' - hence it wasn't where the waste water came from but where it went to. The kitchen sink, or what passed as a sink at the time, is first recorded in 1560.

Spring, either a season, a water source, or a coil of wire. Yet there is a fourth sense, and that is the source of the other three. To spring or pounce is to leap up, burst forth, or fly out. As a coil of wire the sense is clear, as is the water source where the water springs forth from the ground, for the season the sense is much the same but it is the plants which spring forth early in the year.

Stalk is either part of a plant or to pursue a quarry furtively. As part of the plant it shares an origin with 'stale', a straight part of a ladder, handle of a broom, etc.. The Proto-Indo-European root is stel 'to put straight, in order' and something we will encounter again in the next entry. In the sense of 'to pursue', the root is rather different in coming from Proto-Indo-European stel meaning 'to rob, steal' and very much still seen as such, even if stalking today may well be to take the quarry's life.

Stall, a small building for animals or for trade, or to delay. As a stable or market stall it comes, as mentioned above, from Proto-Indo-European stel 'to put in order'. The sense 'delay' is rather different and only used in English for two hundred years. Prior to that it was used to refer to a staller, a thief's assistant who distracted the quarry.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Etymology - More Homonyms and Homographs

Whilst I am always interested in learning new words, it is the never so much the meaning as the origins which intrigue me. A couple of years ago I looked at words with different usages, despite sounding the same or having identical spellings. Were there two completely different origins and the identical spelling is pure coincidence or has the word simply been used to mean two different things?

Here are another selection and, having done A to N before, now continue with a selection of others:

Object can be found as a noun and as a verb. The noun, describing a physical item, came to English from Old French object, from Latin obiectus meaning 'lying before, or opposite', and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ob ye or 'to throw against'. These earlier forms are also the origin of the verb, the root suggesting the idea or proposal is thrown back as it proves unacceptable.

Order can be a command or arranged by some pre-agreed pattern. The command is first recorded in the 13th century and comes from the other sense, from Old French ordre 'position', Latin ordinem '

Park is another word with two uses, as a verb and as a noun. The noun, first used in Britain to describe an area of land enclosed for hunting purposes, it came to Britian from Old French. Ultimately this comes from a Germanic root, parruck meaning 'enclosed tract of land', a word which has also given us 'paddock', and while the earlier roots are uncertain, there is enough evidence to show they all refer to enclosed land. The verb originally borrowed the noun to describe how military vehiles were arranged in an enclosed area, quite literally 'parked'.

Pile has two uses, both nouns. Most often we think of the heap, a rough accumulation of something. This came to English from Middle French pile and Latin pila a reference to a 'stone barrier'. The other sense, of a heavy pointed beam, comes from Old English pil and Latin pilum, where the former referred to 'a stake' and the latter a heavy javelin used by Roman soldiers.

Pitcher is either a large jug or one who pitches. The latter originated as 'to thrust in, fasten, settle', thus the original pitchers were those who drove in pegs. The jug came from Old French pichier, that from Latin bicarium, and ultimately from Greek bikos meaning 'earthen vessel' and which is also the origin of 'beaker'.

Pole, another stake, can be traced back through words of identical meaning in Old English, Old Frisian, Old Norse, Latin and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European pakslo, also the root of the word 'peg' meaning 'to fasten'. Poles, as in the people, and who gave their name to their country of Poland, take their name from the Old Church Slavonic polje and known as 'the field dwellers'.

Pound has four possible uses:currency, weight, an enclosure, and to hit repeatedly. Both measurments take their name from the Latin, and ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root pen usd to mean 'draw, stretch, spin'. The enclosure shares an origin with 'pond' in Old English pyndan 'to dam up, enclose'. To 'hit repeatedly' comes from Old English punian, used to mean 'crush, pulverise' as well as 'bruise'.

Punch is one of my favourite etymologies, and not because of the alcohol link and not for the physical sense either. It will come as a surprise to most to learn the drink gave a name to the fist form. Punch originated in India, brought to Britain during the days of the Empire, traditionally it includes five ingredients (no more or less). It is the five ingredients which gave the drink its name, it comes from the Hindi word for 'five'. The blow is taken from the drink, brought across with the expression a 'bunch of fives' and quickly adopting the word 'punch' for the action.

Pupil used in the sense of a child or scholar, originated in the 14th century from Old French pupille meaning 'orphan, child, ward, minor'. That part of the eyeshares the origin but from the earlier Latin pupilla 'little doll'. Looking into the eyes of another and you can see a small version of yourself, like a little doll, reflected back at you.

Quarry as in prey comes from Anglo-French quirreie, itself from Old French quirre which referred to the entrails of the animal caught and killed given over to the dogs who had taken part in the hunt. That where rocks or stone is excavated comes from the Latin quarreria 'place where stones are squared', it comes from quadrare 'to make square'.

Quarrel a row and the bolt used in a crossbow. The argument sense is not seen before the late 16th century, when it first came to England from Old French querele it was used in the sense of 'complaint, concern, business, dispute, controversy'. The crossbow bolt shares a similar origin, for the root is the Old French carre or 'square'.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Etymology: Homonyms and Homographs

Whilst I am always interested in learning new words, it is the never so much the meaning as the origins which intrigue me. A couple of years ago I looked at words with different usages, despite sounding the same or having identical spellings. Were there two completely different origins and the identical spelling is pure coincidence or has the word simply been used to mean two different things?

Here are another selection and, having done A to K before, now continue with a selection of others:

Lead has one spelling and two pronunciations: rhyming with 'head' and it is a heavy metal, a word of uncertain origin but one which in Germanic languages is related to words meaning 'weight, plummet'. The latter is clearly related to the Latin word for lead, plumbum, which has also given it the chempical symbol Pb. Used to rhyme with 'heed' it means 'to guide, in front of'. Here the word is derived from Germanic and Proto-Indo-European where the meaning wa s'to go forth'.

Left can be the opposite of right or the past participle of remain. The former is from related Germanic tongues such as Old English, Frisian, Old Dutch, etc., where the original sense was 'weak, foolish'

Light as in illumination or the opposite of heavy. The noun is derived from the verb, the earliest man-mad illumination being fire, hence this comes from Proto-Indo-European leuk and meaning 'brightness'. As an adjective the source is Proto-Indo-European legwh, with early derivatives used to mean 'agile, quick'. As Proto-Indo-European words the difference in pronunciation would have been evident, it is only that modern pronunciations are identical and not deliberately so, for the two words have nothing else in common.

Long can be used to mean 'not short' and 'to yearn'. The linear ,eaning comes from Proto-Indo-European dlonghos, used to mean 'distant, remote' as well as 'long, extended'. As a verb meaning 'to grieve, yearn' it likely comes from an early loan from the idea of remoteness, as in the sense of something not near.

Lie, be it an untruth or to be horizontal, have quite different origins. The recumbent position can be traced through the Germanic tongues, where the use is more in the sense of 'to remain', back to Proto-Indo-European legh when, conversely, it did originally mean 'to lie down'. The falsehood sense is also Germanic, giving words used in Old Norse, Dutch, Danish, Old Frisian, Old High German, Old Saxon and Old English - all the earliest uses meant 'deceive' or 'betray'.

Match has no less than three different meanings. Firstly as a verb, used in the sense of 'evenly matched' it came from one the noun meaning 'equal'. Prior to the Middle English macche meaning 'equal', the wod had very different meanings: Old English maecca 'companion, mate, wife, husband'; Old High German gimah 'comfort, ease'; German gemach 'easy, leisurely'; Proto-Germanic gamakon 'fitting well together'; and right back to Proto-Indo-European mag 'toknead, fashion, fit'. In the sense of the match as a method of producing fire we find: Old French meiche referred to 'the wick of a candle'; Greek myxa 'lamp wick' and originally 'mucus'; and thus Proto-Indo-European meug 'slimy, slippery'. To see why 'wick' and 'mucus' might have a common root we need to forget the candle wick and see the wick of an oil lamp, which dangles from the spout of the lamp.

May, a verb meaning 'having the power' or 'to be able', has hardly changed at all in pronunciation throughout the evolution of the Germanic languages and back as far as Proto-Indo-European magh, all having the same meaning. When it comes to the fifth month of the year, the origin is from that other major western European language family, the Latin group. Here the French Mai comes from Latin Maius, thought to be the Roman earth goddess Maja, Maia. This wife of Vulcan, her name may (pun intended) be derived from Proto-Indo-European meg or 'great'.

Mole can be a skin blemish, in which case the name is Germanic and from Proto-Germanic mailan 'spot, mark' and Proto-Indo-European mai 'stain, defile'; and also a small burrowing insectivorous mammal. The mammal is probably from a Germanic root of mold 'loose earth', itself leading to the now obsolete term moldwarp 'earth thrower'.

All these examples have one thing in common, they are all monosyllabic. And that is the reason for the different meanings and origins. With only five vowels (six if you count 'y') and twenty-one consonants there is a finite number of sounds which can be made when the words only have one syllable.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

New Words

I recently came across E. E. Cummings and a poem where he coined the word manunkind. Not normally overly delighted with modern created words, but this example, published in 1944, intrigued me. Used in the poem to describe a potential environmental problem, it started me looking at other recently created words. Note I've tried to avoid technological and scientific words.

Bling has been used since at least 1997, although initially often given as bling-blingm and started by American rappers. Despite the recent creation the origin is by no means certain but may well have been based on the German blinken 'to gleam, sparkle'.

Crunk is a style of music, the word becoming popular in the 1990s. It is thought to be a contraction of 'crazy drunk', the same word also used to mean 'good'.

Grrrl is a contraction of 'grrr' and 'girl', describing a young woman who sees herself as independent, strong, and possibly aggressive.

Jeggings are tight-fitting trousers, similar to leggings but made from denim - hence a combination of 'jeans' and 'leggings'.

Listicle is a piece of writing presented in list form, thus part 'list' and part 'article'.

Locavore is another portmanteau, is puts together two elements which describe someone who eats local produce. (I would have preferred to learn it was one who ate the locals.)

Noob is an abbreviation of 'newbie' but used in a derogatory sense by those playing computer games. Note 'newbie' has only been used since 1969, this first used by US military. In 1946 we find newie, in 1909 we first see newing or 'new thing' and referring to a naval cadet on their first training session, and in the 15th century newing which is a contraction of 'new thing'.

Po-Po, recently starting to be used in Britain and appearing in the OED since 2015, has been imported from the USA where it began in the 1980s as an abbreviation for Portland Police and what was shouted by lookouts used by gangs to warn of the imminent arrival of the constabulary.

Purple State is another US import, one which describes an electorate which is neither traditionally right (blue) or left (red) and thus a mix or purple. In the United Kingdom we would normally refer to such seats as marginals.

Screenager is a teenager who spends a lot of time in front of a screen, such as a computer or a phone.

Totes is an abbreviation for 'totally', where the word is used rather ungrammatically such as in the phrase 'it was like totally amazing'. For those of an earlier time, 'totes' would have been a method of gambling similar to a lottery where numbers are predicted or a form of horseracing betting.

Truthiness is a weird word for it doesn't quite mean what seems evident. Here the use is to describe something which appears or is felt as true, but isn't - rather like the word then.

Whovian is someone who is a fan of the television series Doctor Who. This is, of course, the modern era of the series. When it first aired on BBC in black and white and ran with actors William Hartnell to Sylvester McCoy, these would have been science-fiction enthusiasts.

Yarn-Bombing is that weird idea of decorating a tree, bench, metal pole or barrier with a knitted something. I'm told it's a fund-raiser, but then I'm told many things are fund-raisers and I don't see the point of those either.

Many new words are portmanteaus, itself a word coined by Lewis Carroll, describing words made by combining two or more other words. In Old English, Anglo-Saxon if you prefer, the same was true although those were referred to as kennings. Words such as ban-haus or 'bone house' which is a reasonable enough description of the body. Other portmanteau words created in the 21st century include badassy, droolworthy, buzzworthy, fatberg, frankenfood, guyliner, microaggression.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Etymologies of Homonyms and Homographs

Whilst I am always interested in learning new words, it is never so much the meaning as the origins which intrigue me. A couple of years ago I looked at words with different usages, despite sounding the same or having identical spellings. Were there two completely different origins and the identical spelling is pure coincidence or has the word simply been used to mean two different things?

Here are another selection and, having done A to H before, now continue with a selection of others:

Iron is a very old word with common roots for this noun in Celtic isarnon, Sanskrit isirah, and Proto-Indo-European isero. All this mean such as 'vigorous, strong, holy, powerful, etc., this showing iron was stronger than the earlier bronze metal. As a verb, meaning to remove the creases from clothes, it is unknown before 1670 and (rather predictably) because the heated implement was made from that metal. Science gives us the ion, a word from the Greek and originally meaning 'to go'.

Jam, when used as a verb, likely comes from the same root as Middle English cham meaning to 'bite or gnash' and seen in the modern word 'chomp'. Asa noun, used for the fruit preserve, not seen written until 1730 and comes from the verb for jam could be seen as crushed fruit. Jamb, the side of a door or window, comes from old French jambe meaning 'a leg shank', presumably likening the shape of the latter to the former.

Journey again is used as a verb and as a noun. The original fourteenth century use of the verb would have the modern synonym 'commute', for this came from Old French and simply meant 'a day's work or travel'. As a noun, which is how it is most commonly used today, refers to the act of travelling.

Key in the most common usage refers to that which opens a lock, comes from a Proto-Germanic meaning 'to cleave, split', which is exactly what unlocking could be said to represent. In a musical sense it came from the French and Latin, and shares a root with another musical term 'clef'. Quay comes from Old French where the landing place was simply a chai or 'sandbank'.

Kind as an adjective comes from a Germanic root which has also given us 'kin', thus the sense was originally suggesting kindness began with one's family. Using it to mean 'variety, type' has the same origin, for the sense 'nature, race' suggests cynn or 'family'.

Know, as in 'to perceive, be aware', comes from Proto-Indo-European and has hardly changed since gno. No, every child's favourite word, is predictably one of our oldest words. Less predictable is how the English root is in 'not', hence the opposite was once 'to be' rather than 'affirmative'.