Obscure and preposterous words in TBTF
From time to time readers inquire about an unfamiliar word they find in TBTF.
Here are definitions from the prototype OED
Online for some of the more recently queried words. (These definitions
were captured before the OED went live, while I had a beta account. Alas, I
can no longer access this amazing resource.)
Haven't used this one yet; working on it.
champerty (tæmpt). Forms: 45 champartie, -tye,
5 chaumpartye, champertye, 57 champertie, 68 champarty, (7 petrie), 7 champerty. [Properly champarty: a deriv. of
CHAMPART, the ending perh. due to some of the Latin forms, or to
association with part, party.]
1. Division of lordship or power, partnership in
T. 1091 Thus may ye seen þat wysdom ne richesse, Beautee ne sleighte,
strengthe, hardynesse, Ne may with Venus holde champartie [1 later MS. maken champartie],
ffor as hir list the world than may she gye.
Lydgate appears to have known the word only from Chaucer's phrase above, which
he misunderstood, and took to mean `to hold rivalry or contest, to hold the field against, to maintain the struggle, resist'. Some of the 16th
c. archaists followed Lydgate in his error.
Poems (1840) 131 Folk whiche..Dare to theyr wyfes be nat contrarye..Nor withe hem
holde ne champartye. -- Chron. Troy
II. xvi, They stande full assured Agayne vs all to holde chaumpartye.
-- Bochas I.
iii, Against the heauen to holden champartie. Ibid. I. xviii. 1532 W.
& Sism. (1597) B ij, Yet mought my frailté gainst such occasions Make no
champarty, nor no great defence.
2. Law. The illegal
proceeding, whereby a party not naturally concerned in a suit engages to help the plaintiff or
defendant to prosecute it, on condition that, if it be brought to a successful issue, he is to
receive a share of the property in dispute.
a 1329 Sc. Act 1
Robert I, xxii. §2 Nec terram seu aliquam rem aliam capiat, ad
Champarte, ad defendendum, differendum, seu prolongandum jus alterius extra formam juris.
Worcester lix. in Eng. Guilds (1870) 400 The
attorners..to execute ther office..wtout mayntenaunce, or champertye.
1495 Act. 11 Hen.
VII, c. 25 Preamb., Unlaufull reteynders, mayntenaunce, embrasyng, champertie and
WEST Symbol. II. §216
Maintenance and champarty in sutes. 1602
FULBECKE 2nd Pt. Parall. 48 There is no diversitie where a man selleth land
depending a writ petitorie of the same land, or doe giue it depending the writ: for in both cases
there is Champertie. 1755
Eng. IV. 86 note, Sir E. Coke who being in danger
of a prosecution..for champarty and maintenance being a judge. 1881 Standard 1 Aug. 5/2
Champerty is a bargain either with the Plaintiff or Defendant to contribute towards the cost of
litigation, the price being a share in the spoil. 1882 Spect. 8 Apr. 459.
b. An act or case of
Lett. 107 I. 145 To enquere..all..mayntenaunces, champerties, embraceries..by
Eng. II. 452 [To] hear, and determine of all felonies, conspiracies, champerties,
breaches of peace.
c. fig. A combination for an evil
N.T. III. v, A combination and hellish champertie in these
powers of darknesse. 1645
Answ. Divorce Wks. (1847) 221 These made the cham-party, he contributed the law, and
both joined in the divinity. 1671 H.
STUBBE Reply 21 If that the Historian
had not been of the champerty, this Passage had been more
From TBTF Log for 1999-11-01
lipogram (lpræm).[Back-formation f. Gr. adj., wanting
a letter, f. -, weak stem of
to leave, be wanting + -, letter. Cf. F. lipogramme.]A composition from which the writer
rejects all words that contain a certain letter or letters.
ADDISON Spect. No. 62 3 Anagrams,
Chronograms, Lipograms and Acrosticks. 1880 W. T.
DOBSON Lit. Frivol. 58 Lipogram is the name
applied to a species of verse in which a certain letter, either vowel
or consonant, is altogether omitted.
From TBTF for 1999-01-13
Obs. rare -
1. [f. L. nudius tertius.] Of the day before yesterday.
WARD Simp. Cobler 26 When I heare
a..Gentledame inquire..what [is] the nudiustertian fashion of the
Court; I mean the very newest.
From TBTF for 1998-05-25
dial. [Origin obscure.
The suggestion that it is derived
from ON. mart, neut. of
margr great, as in
mart manna a great
number of people, is not supported by the form, chronology, or
locality of the Eng. word. It is possibly a dial. corruption of
mortal used as an
intensive (e.g. with such a sb. as deal). The existence of the
MURTH (ON. mergð) in the same sense
may have assisted its development.]A great quantity or number; a great
deal. Usually const. of; rarely absol. Also pl. (cf.
ECHARD Plautus 94 They had a mort o'
Prisoners. 1708 Brit.
Apollo No. 44. 3/2 You having zuch a Mort of Wit.
SHERIDAN Rivals I. i,
Here's a mort o' merry~making, hey? 1821
CLARE Vill. Minstr. I. 123 She talk'd of
morts of luck. 1850
DICKENS Dav. Copp. xxxii, `We have had a
mort of talk, sir', said Mr. Peggotty to me. 1868
HELPS Realmah ii, My Betsy..knew a mort
more than I do. 1887 H.
SMART Cleverly won i. 7 There's a mort
of money to be made off the farm in a good
b. a mort used
CAINE A Son of Hagar I.
Prol., I'll not say but other folks look a mort madder
nor ever I looked. 1904
WEYMAN Abb. Vlaye viii, You've fared
better with me, ay, a mort better, than you'd have fared if
the Captain had been here.
From TBTF for 1998-04-20
(kdstrl, æ), a.
[a. mod.F. cadastral relating to the
cadastre, as in les registres
cadastraux (Littré).]1. Of, pertaining to, or
according to a cadastre; having reference to the extent, value, and
ownership of landed property (strictly, as a basis of distributing
GLADSTONE Homer I. 567 [Darius] divided the
empire by a cadastral system under provincial governors.
-- Juv. Mundi xiii,
The catalogue of Homer is a great attempt to construct..a
cadastral account of Greece. 1886 Q.
Rev. Apr. 395 The following statement exhibits the
cadastral distribution of
survey: a. strictly, a survey of lands for the
purposes of a cadastre; b. loosely, a
survey on a scale sufficiently large to show accurately the extent
and measurement of every field and other plot of land. Applied to
the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain on the scale of
1/2500 or 25·344
inches to a mile. So cadastral map,
Comm. Ho. Commons 182 To inquire into the expediency
of extending the Cadastral Survey to those portions of the United
Kingdom which have been surveyed upon the scale of one inch to the
mile only. 1861 A.
AYRTON [in Parlt.]
Thought that the question was very much mystified by calling the
survey a cadastral survey, which meant all the details relating to
the tenure of land, the condition of each property, and all such
SMITH in Parly. Remembrancer Oct 182 The
newfangled phrase `cadastral survey' is as foolish as it is
unquestionably mischievous. 1863 Edin.
Rev. CXVIII. No. 242. 379 The French term
`cadastral'..is now used in England to denote a survey on a large
TCH Lect. Teaching iii. 72 A special
map of the province, and a cadastral plan (ordnance map) of the
SMITH in Law Times LXXIX. 400/2 The
necessity of a complete cadastral survey of property in England and
Blackw. Mag. Sept. 332 note, The Domesday Survey was in a
sense a cadastral one: and the Ordnance Survey in its larger scale,
as being the only comprehensive basis upon which a correct
computation of areas and valuation of landed property for assessment
of imposts is possible, may also be called
From TBTF for 1998-04-13
spoonerism. [f. the name of
the Rev. W. A. Spooner
(b. 1844).] An accidental
transposition of the initial sounds, or other parts, of two or more
Known in colloquial use in Oxford from about 1885.
1900 Globe 5 Feb., To one unacquainted
with technical terms it sounds as if the speaker were guilty of a
MARROWSKY b]. 1976 Oxford
Diocesan Mag. July 15/1, I am not going to put
on any weight until I'm fifty, when I shall allow myself to become
matronly, ready to be a follower of `soda and gobbly matrons', as
enjoined by the marriage service. (A good Spoonerism that, created
quite involuntarily by my mother some years
Hence Spoonerismus [nonce
mock-German], a spoonerism; spoonerize v.
trans., to alter (a word or
phrase) by a spoonerism; spoonerized ppl.
HUXLEY Antic Hay xx. 284 When pain and
anguish wring the brow, an interesting mangle thou, as we used to
say in the good old days when the pun and the Spoonerismus were in
Daily Express 22 July 7
Zoojolical Gardens... But why not let the misprint stick? The
Zoo gardens are `jolical' gardens, and probably the London
Zoological Society would have no objection to them being spoonerised
as such. 1972
BAHLMAN in E. W.
Hamilton Diary p. xxv, The
Herbert family, Hamilton, and other friends..called themselves the
Bilton Waggers, a Spoonerized version of Wilton Baggers.
NABOKOV Look at Harlequins (1975) II. v. 101 Only a lunatic would have chosen a
pair of third-rate publicists to write about - spoonerizing
their names in addition!
From TBTF for 1998-01-26
v. 2.] Something that is easy or requires little
effort; a `walk-over'; (see also quot. 1937).
1937 PARTRIDGE Dict.
Slang 229/2 Doddle, money very easily obtained.
1966 M. WOODHOUSETree
Frog xv. 122 If the climb had reached any level of
difficulty higher than Moderate, which is the Climbers' Club's polite way
of labelling a gumshoe doddle, we'd have died. 1970 A. DRAPERSwansong
for Rare Bird vi. 40 Probation was a doddle really, and it
didn't make much difference to me.
DODDLE v.] ? A doddling or infirm person.
Fort. I. i, Is your Piece of
Mortality such a doting Doddle? is he so very fond of
From TBTF for 1998-01-26
fructify (frktfa), v. Also 6 frutyfye. [a. F. fructifier, ad. L. fructificare, f. fructus fruit: see -FY.]1. intr. To bear fruit, become
a 1325 Prose Psalter li[i]. 8 Ich am in Godes
hous as oliue fructifiand. 1340 Ayenb. 234 Þet zed..fructefide of
one half to þe þrittate, of oþer half to zixtiate.
MAUNDEV. (1839) v. 50 Elles it [the
Bawm] would not fructify. c 1450 Mirour Saluacioun 1065 Aarons erde fructified without
Lawes 141 Hys wyfe shall encreace, hys land shall frutyfye.
1561 DAUS tr. Bullinger on Apoc. (1573) 304 The tree
of lyfe..doeth fructifie, or bring forth fruite twelue tymes in the yeare.
1665 BOYLE Occas.
Refl. IV. xv. (1845) 260 Those Soils
wherein they will afterwards Flourish and Fructifie.
1709 Brit. Apollo II. No. 7. 2/2
Saffron..needs no adventitious moisture to make it Fructify.
1794 G. ADAMS Nat.
& Exp. Philos. III. xxvi. 84 Causing it [the perfect
animal] to fructify and renew the species. 1874 COOKE Fungi 13 Species of lichens which in
many countries do not fructify.
1393 CHAUCER Scogan 48 Thenke on Tullius kindenesse,
Minne thy frend, ther it may fructifye! c 1422 HOCCLEVE Learn
to Die 17 Y shal teche thee Thyng þat shal to thy
soule fructifie. 1483 CAXTON Gold.
Leg. 422 b/1 So moche grewe and fructefyed the chylde in
resplendour or lyghte of alle good vertues. 1502 Ord. Crysten
Men (W. de W. 1506) I. iii. 24 And
desyreth not to fructefye neyther to encrease with the goodes of the
DAMPIER Voy. II. I. 96 It
seems very improbable that Christianity should fructify there.
1847 C. G. ADDISON Contracts II. iii.
§1 (1883) 591 This description of pledge..was
constantly fructifying and paying off the debt. 1875 HAMERTON Intell. Life XI. iv.
420 Each has caused to fructify the talent which the Master
2. trans. To make fruitful, cause to bear
fruit; to fecundate, impregnate.
Abus. II. (1882) 66 To fructifie and
increase the earth. 1611 BEAUM. & FL. King &
No K. II. i, Let a man..fructify
foreign countries with his blood. c 1630 RISDON Surv.
Devon (1810) 4 The red marle hath this property to fructify
the barrenest ground. a
1711 KEN Christophil Poet. Wks. 1721 I. 441 To
fructify the Seed he sow'd. 182234 Good's
Study Med. (ed. 4) I. 654 On the mucous surface of
which..it [exhalation of yellow fever]..fructifies a like harvest of
contagious matter. 1865 W. KAY Crisis
Hupfeldiana 6 Many a plant has been fructified by means of
pollen..brought to it unwittingly by an
fig. 176874 TUCKER Lt.
Nat. (1852) I. 204 It fructifies our knowledge by making it
BURKE Late St.
Nat. Wks. 1842 I. 85 Floods of treasure would..have
fructified an exhausted exchequer. 1860 SMILES Self-Help xi. 282 The facility with
which young people are made to acquire knowledge..fills, but does not
fructify the mind.
Hence fructified ppl. a.,
in senses of the vb.; also Her. = FRUCTED; fructifying vbl. sb., the action of the vb.; fructifying ppl. a. Also fructifier, one who or that which
c 1374 CHAUCER Boeth. I pr. i. 3
(Camb. MS.) Affeccyons whiche þat ne ben nothing fructefiynge
nor profytable. 1532
Fructyfyed [see FRUCTIVE].
1594 PLAT Jewell-ho. I. 3
The vegetatiue & fructifying Salt of Nature.
1638 WILKINS New
World I. (1684) 128 It is not
necessary there should be the same means of Growth and Fructifying in both
these Worlds. 1649
Chr. Oblig. Peace 10 The growths and fructifyings of his
T. JORDAN London's
Joy 5 An Almond-tree Leav'd, Blossom'd, and Fructified.
1708 MOTTEUX Rabelais v. Prol. (1737) p. lvii, These
merry and fructifying..Books. 1816 SCOTT Old
Mort. viii, An able and fructifying preacher.
1825 COLERIDGE Aids
Refl. (1848) I. 261 A fructifying of the corrupt seed, of
which death is the germination. 1835 Fraser's
Mag. XII. 39 Think you..that one of our great financiers I
mean the Thomsonian fructifier..would be scared from his presidency by
apprehension of a general bankruptcy? 1879 B. TAYLOR Stud.
Germ. Lit. 263 His ideas still retain their fructifying
From the TBTF masthead
57 -weather, 6
-weder, -wedder, -weadder, 68
5 bel-wether, 6
bellwether. [f. BELL sb.1
+ WETHER.] 1. The leading sheep of a flock, on whose neck a
bell is hung.
Promp. Parv. 30/1 Belwedyr,
shepe, titurus. 1549 Compl.
Scot. vi. 66 The bel veddir for blythtnes bleyttit
rycht fast. 1591 SPENSER M. Hubberd 296 To follow after
their Belwether. 1718 MOTTEUX Quix. (1733) I. 237 He that steals
a Bell-weather, shall be discover'd by the Bell.
1847 LEWES Hist. Philos. (1867) II. 254 Men
are for the most part like sheep, who always follow the
2. fig. A chief or leader. (Mostly contemptuous.)
c 1430 LYDG. Bochas (1554) 224 a, I was cleped
in my countrey The belweather. 1577 HOLINSHED Chron. II. 40/2 Thomas being the
ring-leader of the one sect, and Scotus the belweadder of the other.
1687 T. BROWN Saints in Upr. Wks. 1730 I. 73 The
principal bell-weathers of this mutiny. 1794 SOUTHEY Wat Tyler III.
i. Wks. II. 50 You bell-wether of the mob.
1848 LOWELL Biglow P. i, 'Taint afollerin'
your bell-wethers Will excuse ye in His
3. fig. a. A clamorous person, one ready to give mouth.
b. (Used opprobriously.)
c 1460 Towneley Myst. 86 Go now,
belleweder. 1598 SHAKS. Merry W. III.
v. 111 To be detected with a iealious rotten
Bell-weather. 1620 SHELTON Quix. IV. xiii. 109 She made me
weep, that am no Bell-weather. 1847 HALLIWELL,
Bell-wedder, a fretful child.
Hence bell-wethering, the fact of
leading and being led `like sheep.' bell-wetherishness, tendency to follow one who
takes the lead.
1882 Spectator 25 Mar. 388 But for the
bell-wethering, there could have been no crinoline at all.
The gregariousness, and bell-wetherishness of the English
people, who must all do the same thing at
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Most recently updated 2000-03-21