Thursday, 28 April 2016

Yiling and gyling

These words for the activity of making wort for beer present intriguing problems of form and history. 

The first thing to be said is that OED’s coverage of yiling and yil(e) is rather limited. It doesn’t mention the latter at all.

For yiling, n. it gives two fifteenth century examples (provenance unclear): 

c1440 yilyng fatte 
1448-9 yelyng tubbis 

three sixteenth century examples (all from wills or inventories  and all from Lancashire): 

1556 yilynge toobe 
1573 yailinge keare 
1588 yeleinge combe 

and one late seventeenth century example from a literary work: 

1688 yelling combe or tub

As definition and etymology combined, the OED simply says ‘variant of GYLING vbl. n.’ (of which more below).

The Middle English Dictionary extends our knowledge a little. 

It gives yel (noun (2)) which it says occurs only in combinations (i.e. compounds):

 yilfat and yiltonne, a container for fermenting wort 

yilhous, a room in which wort is fermented 

Its examples are mainly from London documents: 

1305 ȝilvates 
1335 yelfat 
1340 yilhuys 
1384 yeltunne 
1425 ȝelefate 
1425 ȝeeltonnys 
1455 yeletonnes 
1457 yeelefat 
?1474 ȝeel vatte

MED’s yeling (gerund) likewise occurs only in combinations: 

yeling fat  and yeling tonne, a tub or vat for fermenting wort 

There are only two examples: 

a1441 yilyngfatte (the same as OED’s first example) 
1471-2 yelyng tunne.

Sixteenth and seventeenth century wills and inventories from many parts of England show examples of these terms, and the Essex Wills in particular have many:

yellyng tub 1558 I. 279 (Matching) 
yelding vat 1561 VIII. 23 (Pebmarch), 1588 (XI. 140) 1 long great tub or yelding vat (Thaxted) 
yelding house 1567 (II. . 182 (Elmstead), 1597 XII. 167 (Little Waltham)
yealding tub 1570 IX. 111 (Thaxted), 1575 I. 292 (High Easter) 
yelding tub 1569 II. 243 (Harlow), 1572 III. 300 (Weeley), 1580 X. 225 (Great Dunmow), 1582 X.188 (Weeley), 1597 XII. 17 (Great Easton), no date (?1570) II. 97 (Stanford Rivers) 
yielding vat 1585 V. 197 (Great Sampford) 
yielding tub 1595 VI. 223 (High Roothing)
yeling tub 1603 X. 180 (Old [Great] Saling)

 yelde pot 1570 II. 209 (Colchester) 
 ‘a tub to yele in’ 1581 X. 46 (Stebbing). 

And from Gentry wills:
1582 in F. G. Emmison Elizabethan Life: Essex Gentry’s Wills (1978) 175 the yeald vat, the cowl vat, the mash vat and troughs. (Layer Marney.)

It is noticeable how many of these forms have a d, not recorded as a variant in the OED, but attested elsewhere, e.g. 

yeld fat 1589 Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire Record Office Wills 159/4/4 
yelding 1586 (in Weiner 2004, p. 171)

Let’s now turn to OED’s etymological explanation (which is shared by the MED). 

It simply states that yiling is a variant of gyling, (verbal) noun (this explanation is considered further below). 

The entry for this word gives: 

1411 gylnghous (Finchale, Durham)  

1420 gilyng tubbes (Lincoln) 

1583 guylinge fatte (unspecified northern)

 as well as the c1440 and 1573 examples also given at yiling

To these MED adds: 

1408 gylefattisgylyngmele (Jarrow) 

1409 gilingfath (Monkwearmouth) 

1444 Gilyngsat [read: -fat] (Norfolk)

In its turn, gyling is explained as a derivative of gyle (noun). 

MED gives (with the definition ‘wort in process of fermentation’):

1440 Gyylde [variant readings gilegyylgyle]

1341 gylefatts (York), a1382 gylfat (Hatfield)

1400 gylefattes; ?c1430 gylefattes (York)

1449 gyelfattes (York)

?c1475 Gylefatt

1423 gylhowse (York)

a1451 Gilehous (York). 

The OED brings the story of the word down to the nineteenth century, showing that gyle-fat is found in many parts of the north, predominantly in this or similar form, but also as gailfatgyle-ker, which seems to be predominantly from Lancashire, often has the form gail- or gal-. Gyle uncompounded seems to have become quite widespread, at least among brewers, as a standard term of art.

Note also:

1598 in F. G. Emmison Elizabethan Life: Essex Gentry’s Wills (1978) 255 my..brewhouse in Kings Street in Westminster..with the copper, brewing vessel, mill, washing tun, gyle tun, coolback and other utensils [a Walden will, but notice the location of brewery in Westminster].

The etymology of gyle is stated to be Dutch gijl, earlier ghijl, connected with gijlen to ferment. Now, if it really is a loanword from Dutch, then it is a very early one (fourteenth century). 

But more than this, if it is from Dutch, then yiling cannot be a variant of gyling. There is no known process whereby a Middle English word beginning with g- borrowed from Dutch could change that g- into y- (and there are difficulties with the vowel too, as we shall see). 

On the other hand, it is a well-established fact that several words which in Old English and southern Middle English had the initial sound of y- (written g in Old English but pronounced as y) developed an initial g- in northern Middle English and these forms spread south and became standard English. 

Examples of this process are OE giefanongeanforgietan, southern ME yevenayenforyeten, modern English giveagainforget. The usual explanation for this phenomenon is that the ‘hard’ g was substituted under the influence of the Scandinavian dialects spoken in the north-east, which contained cognate words with g-.

The initial consonant of gyle would fit this pattern very well. The gyle forms are all found down to early modern times in areas of former Scandinavian settlement (or close to them), such as Yorkshire, Durham, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk, while the y- forms are found in the south. But if this is the correct explanation, the Dutch etymology is impossible. 

Moreover, the words in which this y-/g- variation is regarded as an established fact are all words that existed in Old English, before 1150, and therefore we would have to assume that the yil-/gyl- word is the reflex of an Old English word, of which no record survives.

The vowel, however, poses further difficulties. It is clear that the majority form of gyle has had the same pronunciation as the French loanword guile from the time of the earliest records. In other words, the vowel is ‘long i’. But it is far from clear what the original vowel of yil and yiling was. 

Several of the earliest spellings have an i, but was this ‘long i’? It would be difficult to reconcile such a vowel with the later spellings, which suggest either a ‘short e’ as in yell, or a ‘long e’, sounding in Middle English and sixteenth century English like ea in yeah, later like yea or ye. These two sounds and the ‘short i’ (as in ill) could all have been regional dialect variants of a single base form (something similar occurs in the early history of the noun chill), but a ‘long i’ pronunciation could not have been. 

Also, in late Middle English initial y- disappeared before long and short i: hence we have icicle (originally ice + yickle) and itch for earlier yicchen. The fact that y- is always present seems to imply that i was not the original sound in this syllable. In some regional forms of Middle English a short e can become i after initial y- (there are forms like yis for yes and yit for yet).

There is also the problem of the –d- which we observe not only in the majority of Essex examples (yelding, etc.) but also in the Oxfordshire one (yelde). Did it arise because the word was influenced by the verb yield, or conversely, to differentiate it from the verb yell (we have spellings from Essex showing identification with each of them)? If the original stem vowel had been –e-, a development *yel- > yeld- is quite possible as an alternative to *yel- > yil-

A further problem with the OED etymology is that while gyling seems to be based on the noun gyle, the forms yiling and yil- seem to have no noun equivalent, but rather point to a verbal root. And we have evidence of just such a verb from the one Essex Will of 1581 (X. 46) which speaks of ‘a tub to yele in’. 

So, for this word we can reconstruct an Old English verbal root ġel- (with a palatal initial, phonetically /jel/; like the base of Modern English yell, but with a single -l-). For gyle, whatever its origin, we have to posit a base gīl- /gi:l/. The two have the same meaning, but connecting them etymologically is extremely difficult.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Yeting and yoting

Wills and inventories from many areas mention yeting vats and yoting vats, and the Essex Wills are no exception. There are at least five mentions of yoting vat

1560 (I. 280) from Harlow 
1569 (II. 238) from Great Dunmow 
1577 (IV. 10) (yauthing vat) from Great Waltham 
1581 (IV. 76) from High Laver 
1586 (XI. 244) from High Easter 


1563 (VIII. 123) yotting tub 

There are at least three mentions of yeting vat:

1559 (VIII. 15) (yetting vat) from Ugley, 1579 (IV. 204) from Toppesfield, also 1564 (I. 301), 1586 (X. 33) 

1587 (V. 259) (yeating vat) from Stebbing

The Editor of the Essex Wills has glossed several occurrences with an explanation that this was a vat for soaking barley, and there is no doubt that, despite the difference in the shape of yeting and yoting, they are the same word. 

The OED enters yoting, giving an example of the compound yowtyng faate from 1583, as a derivative under the verb yote, whose basic sense is ‘to pour’. Sense 2 is ‘to pour liquid upon; to soak’, clearly the sense of our compound: two of OED’s quotations mention ‘yoted wheat’ and brewer’s grains being ‘yoted’. The etymology states that it is a ‘local development’ (chiefly west and south-west) of Old English gēotan, explaining the latter by means of a cross-reference to the verb yet

Similarly OED has an entry for yeting which is referred back to the parent verb yet, also derived from Old English gēotan

Yote and yet are therefore dialectal doublets. The process which produced them must be the same that gave rise to such doublets as Chaucer’s forms to chese and to shete, beside modern English to choose and to shoot, and closely parallel to that which produced the doublets yelk and yolk. In more technical terms, the Old English diphthong ēo normally developed in Middle English into a long ē /e:/ which became modern English long e /i:/ or, if shortened, ĕ /ɛ/; but after a palatal consonant such as y /j/ or ch /tʃ/ the stress could shift to the second element and the first element then disappeared, giving Middle English long ō /o:/ and modern English oo /u:/ or Middle English long ǭ /ɔ:/, modern English /əʊ/, or if shortened ŏ /ɔ/.

OED, though it recognizes the ‘soak’ sense of yote and yoting and gives a single mention to yoting vat, makes no mention of the equivalent uses of yet and yeting at all; apart from the basic senses ‘pour, flow, gush’, etc., mostly with regard to water, the only extended senses have to do with molten metal. The Essex Wills together with several other collections of wills and inventories provide an important corrective to OED’s picture of the word. 

Moreover the Essex Wills show that yote was not chiefly a western and south-western variant. Both forms existed in 16th-century Essex within a few miles of each other. Our yet forms occur in a triangle to the north and north-east of the rough quadrilateral formed by our yote forms. This might be evidence of some kind of regional dialect boundary. 

There seems to be no evidence available from the chiefly literary texts on EEBO. Mainly south-western documentation is shown by the English Dialect Dictionary, which has yote v. from Glos. (also yeot), Wilts. (also yaught, yaut, yawt), Somerset (also yoat, yeot), and ‘West Country’; [jo:t, jɔ:t]. Sense 1 is ‘to pour; to water’; the example given is ‘the brewer’s grains must be well yoted for the pigs’ (Grose, 1790).

By contrast, non-literary documents, mainly wills and inventories, published in the last century or so, show multitudinous examples of yeting and (more commonly) yoting, from Berkshire, Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex, Somerset, and Wiltshire, as the following (which have not been directly consulted and therefore mostly lack exact documentary dates) demonstrate:

1587 in D. M. Herridge Surrey Probate Inventories, 1558–1603 (Surrey Record Society, Vo. 39) (2005) 237 The grynstone and all that bee long to it A yettynge trofe All the brasc. (also p. 438 yotinge fatte)
M. A. Havinden Household & Farm Inventories in Oxfordshire, 1550–1590 (1965) 50 A molding Bord and A poudering trowghe 1 0 0 A yotyng vate & three olde vates 4 0.
Sussex Notes & Queries (1944) Vol. 9 130 i ladefate, 2 stollages, i yotyng fate, i ost here, feble, for the ost there, i yelefate, i new ladder to the ost, i furneys. 
Surrey Record Society (2005) Vol. 39 298 one busshell, 8 tubbs, syxe kevers, one yotynge fate 13 4 
Berkshire probate accounts, 1583-1712 (1999) 33 one boltinge huche, three firkines, a yotinge fatte, one bushill. 
Devon & Cornwall Record Society (1997) Vol. 40 p. 40 Itm two yotinge vats & one olde hogshead. 
Hampshire Studies: Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society (1996) Vol. 51 128 The malt howse a hogeshed, ii barelles, iii virkyns & a tubbe & a ester heare, iii wayshe vates 3. 4 ii shep skynes 8 iiii grat yotinge vates & ii litle yotinge vates.
1602 in Collectanea Archæologica (1871) 2 111One yotinge vate and frame . . xxs 
Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries (1903) Vol. 2 135 A yotinge ffate. A chese wrynge.
Publications of the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society (1937) Vols. 19-20 71 In the mault house — two kyll haires, 12s; a yottinge fat, a boultinge hutche. 
L. Williams & S. Thomson Marlborough probate inventories, 1591-1775 (2007) 52
On yotting vate, on wishtub, on chespres, on renseve, on spad, on ruder 6s. 
Medieval Wills from Wells (Publications of the Somerset Record Society) (1925) 40 239 a great  ‘broche’, a ‘yowting’ tub, a kneeding ‘cowle’. 
F. G. Standfield Hist. East Meon (1984) 30 It. one yowtynge vate a keve a kever a cowle. 

Evidently yoting vats or tubs were everyday household items throughout southern England, and possibly further afield, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The fact that literary sources are silent about them just shows how much of the ordinary English language remained off the radar of ‘standard’ English.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Shakespeare and the Essex Wills

This post is part of a series on the vocabulary of the sixteenth-century Essex Wills. For an introductory overview, see The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man.

You are quite right. There is no special connection. Except as regards furnishing the OED with early examples of words and meanings. And the fact that this weekend marks the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death.

It’s pretty well known that the OED gives the mistaken impression that Shakespeare coined a great many more words and meanings than he did in reality, simply because his works were extremely well-known and had been concordanced—so you could look up any word for which you needed a sixteenth or early seventeenth century example, and, with luck, there’d be one in his works somewhere.

The Shakespeare scholar Jürgen Schäfer (Documentation in the O.E.D, 1980) showed that you only had to mine other leading writers of the period, such as Thomas Nashe (1567–c1601), in the same way and you could come up with earlier examples that removed Shakespeare’s spurious primacy. This sounds rather brutal, but of course no one ever imagined that, for example, Shakespeare invented the name of a piece of furniture, the court cupboard, and then made Juliet’s father get his servants to move one. Every comfortably off household had a court cupboard in the sixteenth century as countless wills and inventories testify.

Schäfer’s work is all the more commendable because it came before the era of online databases. We now have Early English Books Online and can replicate—and vastly extend—his searches with relative ease. We can find plentiful examples from the printed literature of the early modern period of words and senses hitherto not even known to have existed then, as well as examples earlier than Shakespeare first uses.

In the 1990s the OED made another step forward. We realized that non-literary documents, such as wills, inventories, and accounts, dating from this period, which have been and continue to be printed in large quantities, are full of yet more documentation, much of it earlier than the literary documentation that antedates Shakespeare.

Not the least among such sources are the Essex Wills, which you can read about in my introductory blog, The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man. So here are seven words for which there is an example in a will from Essex earlier than in Shakespeare. In all but one, there is also an example on EEBO, usually also from a literary text. In two cases the EEBO example is the earliest.

OED barred adj. 1: 1597 Shakespeare Richard II i. i. 180   A ten times bard vp chest.
Essex Wills: (II. 199) 1567 my barred chest in my study
EEBO : 1580 J. Lyly Euphues & his Eng. [STC 17070] The key of yonder great  barred chest.

OED beer barrel at beer n.1 Compounds 1d: 1603 Shakespeare Hamlet v. i. 207   Why might not time bring to passe, that he might stopp the bounghole of a beere barrell
Essex Wills:  (IV. 32) 1578beer barrel

EEBO (earlier than both): 1551 The second volume conteinyng those statutes vvhiche haue ben made in the tyme of the most victoriouse reigne of Kyng Henrie the Eight [STC 9303.7] Table sig. A.ii/2 Beere barrell and kilderkin.

OED fail v. 3d ‘To die’: 1623 Shakespeare & J. Fletcher Henry VIII i. ii. 185 Had the King in his last Sicknesse faild

Essex Wills: (II. 92) 1569 If all my children fail before 20 

EEBO: nothing earlier found. This is a use which you might expect to have been a literary creation; but no, OED also has an 1878 example from Cumberland.

OED fellow n. 4b: 1600 Shakespeare Henry V iv. viii. 41 Let me see thy gloue. Looke you, This is the fellow of it.

Essex Wills: (III. 388) 1571 a framed hutch (the fellow to Agnes’ hutch) 
EEBO: apparently nothing older than the Shakespeare example. 

OED gleaned adj.: a1616 Shakespeare Henry V (1623) i. ii. 151 The Scot..Came pouring like the Tyde..Galling the gleaned Land with hot Assayes.

Essex Wills: (VII. 28) 1599 gleaned [corn]

EEBO (earlier than both): 1581 J. Keltridge Two godlie and learned sermons [STC 14921] his gleaned and piked vp corne. 

OED half-kirtle at half- comb. form 2m (not defined): 1600 Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 2 v. iv. 21 If you be not swingde, Ile forsweare halfe kirtles.

Essex Wills: (VIII. 36) 1565 half-kirtle

EEBO: the Shakespeare example seems to be the only one. It is the only example in the OED, so you might have thought it was his invention.

OED sanded adj. 1 ‘of a sandy colour’: 1600 Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream iv. i. 119 My hounds are bred out of the Spartane kinde: So flew’d, so sanded.

Essex Wills: (I. 210) 1558 a red sanded barrow hog with black spots, a red sanded weaning pig; (I. 252) 1558 sanded barrow hog; (I. 71) 1559 sanded pig

EEBO: 1575 G. Gascoigne Noble Arte of Venerie [STC 24328] Whereas oures are whyte, sanded, and of all coloures. 

In two of the above cases the alternative literary example (from EEBO) is earlier than Shakespeare’s but later than the Essex Wills. In three, Essex Wills are again earlier but EEBO seems to have nothing earlier than Shakespeare. In two cases, EEBO’s examples are earlier than both. There is nothing very special about the Essex Wills here; many other sets of wills or inventories could offer similar material. But it reminds us just how much more extensive, and how hidden, the actual ordinary spoken language is, in contrast to the highly visibility but minority status of the literary language.

Finally, how about 
dobbin n.? OED (sense 1) defines this as ‘an ordinary draught or farm horse; sometimes contemptuously, an old horse, a jade’; the earliest example is from Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (dated by OED3 1600

‘thou hast got more haire on thy chin, then Dobbin my philhorse has on his taile’.  

There is evidence for Dobyn as a personal name from Middle English literature. But did people call their horses Dobbin before Shakespeare? The Essex Wills tell us that they did (and EEBO has nothing earlier):

Essex Wills (1560, I. 76) have ‘a horse called Dobyne’ (as well as ‘a gelding called Dobb’ (1588, V. 103)).

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Four Wants

This post is part of a series on the vocabulary of the sixteenth-century Essex Wills. For an introductory overview, see The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man.

At one time, the word went was used in literature to mean ‘a course, path, way, or passage’ (Oxford English Dictionary). Chaucer, for instance wrote of

a floury grene went Ful thikke of gras.

Spenser used it too. But sometime around the sixteenth or seventeenth century the word became restricted to local or ‘dialect’ use. Since the OED entry hasn’t yet been revised, I don’t know how much currency it had in the twentieth century, and I’d be very surprised if it is still used.

Where does it come from? We don’t know anything about its history before its use in place names mentioned in a thirteenth-century record:

1241 in The Place-Names of Essex, ed. P. H. Reaney, EPN Soc. 12 (1935)  593:  Pondwente; Vernevente. 
Notice that these are Essex place names.

The dictionaries simply speculate that it has some relationship to the verb WEND, which seems likely enough. The fact that the past tense of this verb is now the identical form went is a red herring: forms with the past tense in t arose only around 1200, and if the two words are related, the link has to go back much further than that—back into continental Germanic, in fact. So the thing to notice is that that the oldest recorded form of this verb, in the Gothic language, was wandjan. Notice the root a and the suffixial -j-.

The OED notes that our word often occurs in the compound expressions three-went-way and four-went-way. OED has an entry FOUR-WENT adj., which only occurs in  four-went-way, ‘a point where four roads meet’. There are examples from 1777, referring to Kent, and 1865, where it is written four-want-way). Notice the spelling want, and Kent.

With the benefit of experience, OED placed three-went-way under THREE. It has one 1787 example from a different edition of the same book that gives the 1777 example mentioned above. It is of course ‘a point where three roads meet without intersecting’. 

Now although the word used to be widespread in England—OED has examples that localize it within the boundaries of the historic county of Lancashire—uses since the seventeenth century in the form went seem to cluster in Kent (if the rhyme may be excused):

1659 J. Philipot Villare Cantianum There being divers wents and wandrings at this place. [Wing P1989] [eebo]
1776 T. Fisher Kentish Traveller’s Compan. ii. 37 This lane will bring the traveller to a four-went way, on which is fixed a direction-post. [OED]
1883 Western Antiquary 24 A common country designation of cross-roads is a four went-way.
1917 F. Watt Canterbury Pilgrims & their Ways 115 Here is the Four-Went-Way. The chief road from the Island of Sheppey crosses the Canterbury highway and goes on to Maidstone.
1976 J. Benson & R. H. Hiscock Hist. Gravesend 114 To this Pocock refers in his Chronology, where he records that a suicide named Knight was buried ‘in the four-went way near the Sun public-house, now a private house’ (1797).
It seems in fact, if we include the want form I’m about to discuss, to become largely a south-eastern word.

And it also looks as if four-went-way may have continued in use, fossilizing went after it had largely died out.

So now we come to the Essex Wills, where a testator in 1561 (I. 283) left a bequest

To the mending of the highway lying by the four wants in Great Parndon

Anyone reading this without knowing the background might imagine perhaps an inn whose sign carried an image of ‘the four wants’ (thirst, hunger, shelter, and sleep, perhaps?) This is not so fanciful in view of the Five Alls (sometimes Four Alls), for which OED has an entry, exemplified from 1718:

the five (or occasionally four) social groups or classes into which society can be notionally divided, from the monarchy to the poor countryman; an image or representation of these, esp. on an inn sign
But it’s nothing so colourful. This must be the crossroads. But where exactly? Well, sadly, the small village of Great Parndon has been absorbed by the mighty spread of the garden city of Harlow, so it’s difficult to tell where the crossroads was. There seem to be two possible locations on the nineteenth-century plan of the village in the Victoria County History (Essex). Perhaps people who know Harlow well could say.

So what about want, with an a not an e? First of all, the English Dialect Dictionary, at went sb.1, gives want and wont as Hertfordshire and Essex forms. The spelling with o implies that the word is pronounced like the familiar verb want, in which the preceding w has turned an original a sound into o. The assertion that the form is especially associated with these two counties and Middlesex as well is borne out by printed evidence:

1593 J. Norden Speculum Britanniae [STC 18535 ‘historicall and chorographicall description of Middlesex’] 15 Another auncient high waie which did leade to Edgworth, and so to Saint Albons, was ouer Hampsted heath, and thence to, and through an old lane, called Hendon wante, neere Hendon,  through which it passed to Edgwoorth, whence it passed ouer Brokeley hilles, through part of Hertfordshire, by Radnet, Colnestreete, Saint Stephens, and Saint Mychaels, leauing Saint Albons, halfe a mile in the east. This way of some is helde to be Watlingstreete, one of the fower high waies, which Bellinus caused to be made, & leadeth (as some affirme) through Watlingstreete in London.
1787 Jrnls. House of Lords XXXVII. 8 Mar. 614/1 And for repairing and widening the Road from Epping through the Parishes of Northweald, Bassett, Bobbingworth, High Ongar, Chipping Ongar, and Shelley, to the Four Want Way in the said Parish of Shelley.
1851 N. & Q. 21 June 508/1 Four Want Way (Vol. iii., pp. 168. 434.).—A cross road, or that point where four roads meet, is frequently called by the peasantry in Kent ‘the four vents’; in other counties, ‘the four wents’, ‘the four want way’, &c. 
1881 H. B. Yerborough Leaves from a Hunting Diary in Essex i. 20 The wake of hounds, which just short of the Four Wants swung to the right and crossed the road below the Dun Cow.
1923 E. Gepp Essex Dialect Dict. 121 Wants, a meeting of three or four roads. Sometimes in the form of ‘three-want way’, ‘four-want way’. Want is a dialect form of went, originally a way.
1966 Trans. Essex Archaeol. Soc. 185 four, fower want(e)s 1640–1 St.P. the four wants 1640 St.P. four want way 1646, 1675 St.P. fower want way—corner 1657 St.P. fower wants 1661 Ct.Bk. E.R.O D/DU. 158/1 Two Fields four wants 1782 Map.
Passim in Essex Rev. 1918–23.
So is this form with a a relatively recent development? Just some kind of aberrant mispronunciation by Essex Person? After all, as we saw above, the earliest examples, from two Essex place names, have ePondwente, Vernevente. But only a few years later in 1248 The Place-Names of Essex give us a decided a-form in the name of Walter de Wauntz, where the original a has undergone a change to au, suggesting that it was well established by then. And we have several other Middle English want examples, in one case showing how old the four-want compound is:

1332 in Reaney Dictionary of British Surnames   370:  James atte Wante. 
1447 in The Place-Names of Hertfordshire, eds. J. E. B. Gover, A. Mawer and F. M. Stenton, EPN Soc. 15 (1938) 260:  Fourewantcros.
1463 in The Place-Names of Essex, ed. P. H. Reaney, EPN Soc. 12 (1935) 593:  The Smyth Wante.
There is even a literary example, in the extended meaning ‘a way of accomplishing some end, plan of action, means; a device, contrivance, trick’:

c1400 (?a1300) King Alexander (MS Laud Misc 622)  1687:  Of Alisaunder he heldeþ prys, And [by] hire aldre radd and want A lettre hym is ysant.
This manuscript was written in Essex.

So it begins to look as if the form want is very old, and probably goes back to Old English. Remember that the ancient form of the verb wend was wandjan. It is an established fact that in most Old English dialects, a became before a nasal consonant with an i- or j-sound (the sound of y in yes) following: hence many modern English words like wend, bend, fen, hen, etc. But in Essex this ‘raising’ failed, so that in later English a appears instead of e. A very notable example of this is the universal older name of Fanchurch Street in London, normalized only in relatively recent times. (The city of London was originally in Essex.) 

These ‘four wants’ and ‘four-want-ways’, therefore, are likely to preserve a very ancient dialect form specific to the people of Essex, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Etymology of—and as—a tool

This post is part of a series on the vocabulary of the sixteenth-century Essex Wills. For an introductory overview, see The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man.

After three blogs about the Essex Wills that gently critique the Oxford English Dictionary’s treatment of three extremely obscure words, it is time to reaffirm the good philological thinking of its first editors.

Names of tools are particularly common in early wills and inventories. In some cases we can’t identify the tool denoted. Other occurrences cast welcome additional light on tools we know about. This is one of these happy instances.

In the OED froe, frow, n. 1 is defined as ‘a wedge-shaped tool used for cleaving and riving staves, shingles, etc.’ This is not an everyday term among DIY enthusiasts in Britain, but ask an American with rural connections and they will recognize it.

I couldn’t find an uncopyrighted image of a froe, so here’s a link to the Wikipedia article ‘Froe’.

In the OED’s earliest example (1573 Tusser) the word is spelt frower, with an extra syllable. OED’s etymological explanation runs as follows:
the synonymous FROMWARD n. suggests that the earliest form frower represents a substantival use of  FROWARD a. in the literal sense “turned away”, the reference being to the position of the handle’. 
To explain: the synonymous noun fromward is presumed to be derived in its turn from the adjective and adverb fromward, which means ‘turned from or away’. fromward could also be used as a preposition; Thomas Hobbes, in the Leviathan, wrote ‘When the Endeavour is fromward something, it is generally called Aversion.’

So the OED guessed, without evidence, that frower is from  froward, the idea behind the name being that the handle is turned away.

The Essex Wills provide us with the missing link, just a few years older than OED’s first example:
 ‘a shovel, 2 “frawwardes”, a little wimble, a pickaxe’ (1567 VIII. 185)

This word frawwardes is in a very suitable context, together with other rather heavy tools: shovel, wimble, pickaxe. It could easily denote this tool, the froe. It has the right spelling to be a form of the word froward. And if it is, it confirms OED’s surmise that the name of the tool was originally a noun use of froward ‘turned away’.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Hebbing in Hessex or Ebbing in Essex?

This post is part of a series on the vocabulary of the sixteenth-century Essex Wills. For an introductory overview, see The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man.

I don’t want any readers of this blog to think that its entire purpose is to criticize the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is my livelihood and my aim is to make it even better than it already is. And the fact is that some lexical items from the past are so scantily recorded that scholarship has been hard put to it to get a grip on them. And this is where non-literary documents like the Essex Wills are so helpful. 

The OED has an entry for a word ebbing n., the main sense of which is defined as ‘the action of flowing back or retiring’; no problem with this: several quotations pair the word with ‘flowing’ and we are clearly dealing with the verbal noun from the verb to ebb, describing what the receding tide does.

But I want to focus on the two compounds listed at the bottom of the entry,  ebbing-lock and ebbing-weir, defined as ‘a lock for detaining fish at the ebb-tide’ and ‘a weir for detaining fish at the ebb-tide’. I want to argue that like Dansk in my earlier post, the entry is a fusion of two unconnected words.

Despite the apparently obvious connection with the word ebb, there are good reasons to think that these compounds are not related to it at all. I think that it is very significant that, unlike any examples of the uncompounded ebbing, all examples of these words begin with h-: 

1539   Will of Thomas Samson (P.R.O.: PROB. 11/27) f. 253,   My Tyde Hebbing cocke [prob. read locke].
1590   Cal. State Papers, Domest. Ser. 692   Regulations for hooks, lamperne rods, and hebbing nets.
1472   Act 12 Edw. IV vii,   Ascuns..tielx..milledammez estankez de molyns lokkez hebbyngwerez, etc.
1475   Rolls Parl. VI. 159/1   Fishgarthes..Lokkes, Hebbyng weeres..and dyvers other ympedyments dayly been made.
1531–2   Act 23 Hen. VIII v. §2   Myldammes lokkes hebbynge weres heckes and fludgates.
a1642   R. Callis Reading of Statute of Sewers (1647) iv. 211   Locks and Hebbing weres.
1715   J. Kersey Dict. Anglo-Britannicum (ed. 2)    Hebbing-wears, nets or devices laid for fish at ebbing water.
1721–90   in N. Bailey Universal Etymol. Eng. Dict.  [the text, not given in OED, is: Hebbing-Wears, Devices or Nets laid for Fish at ebbing Water.]

Now, it is true that OED gives the verb ebb a sense (3a) ‘to hem in (fish) with stakes so that they cannot go back to the sea with the ebb-tide’; but it provides no examples, simply referring the reader to the entry EBBING n. which we are considering. It looks very likely that the editors inferred this sense of the verb from the verbal noun. 

The Middle English Dictionary gives an entry for ebbinge (ger.); like OED, it places under it the compound ebbing wer, ‘a weir for trapping fish at ebb tide’, where the headword has no h but the two examples have it (one of which is almost identical with one of OED’s):

(1472) Statutes Realm   2.441:  Fishgarthez, molyns, milledammez..lokkez, hebbyngwerez.
(1472-5) RParl.  6.159a:  Dyvers and many Weeres, Fisshgarthes..Lokkes, Hebbyng weeres.  

The OED also has an entry for ebberman n. Again, the quotations all show h- in the headword:

1689   in J. Stow Survey of London (1720) II. v. xxviii. 383/2   No..Hebberman, for Smelts between Good Friday and, [etc.].
1715   J. Kersey Dict. Anglo-Britannicum (ed. 2)    Hebberman, one that fishes below Bridge, commonly at ebbing Water, etc.
1720   J. Strype Stow's Survey of London (rev. ed.) I. i. vii. 33/2   A Number of Fishermen belonging to the..Thames, some stiled..Hebbermen.
1721–90   in N. Bailey Universal Etymol. Eng. Dict. 
[the text, not given in OED, is:  Hebberman, a Fisherman below London-Bridge, who fishes at ebbing Water. L.T.]

The etymology is given as from the distinctly fishy h-less agent-noun ebber, for which no evidence is forthcoming: it is said to be a derivative of ebb v. sense 3, which, as we have already seen, is probably artificial.

The OED also gives an entry hebberman n. ‘Variant of EBBERMAN n.’ with four examples:

1630   Order in R. Griffiths Ess. Jurisdict. Thames (1746) 75   No Hebberman shall fish for Smelts before the twenty-fourth Day of August.
1630   Order in R. Griffiths Ess. Jurisdict. Thames (1746) 76   No Hebberman shall work any higher for Whitings than Dartford Creek.
1670   T. Blount Νομο-λεξικον: Law-dict.   Hebber-man, a Fisherman below London-bridge, who fishes for Whitings, Smelts, &c. commonly at Ebbing-water, and therefore so called.
1839–40   Thackeray Catherine xiv,   The ferries across the river, and..the pirates who infest the same—namely tinklermen, petermen, hebbermen, trawlermen.

From the dictionary evidence, the word seems to belong especially to the Thames estuary. In complete accord with this, all four examples in the Essex Wills are either from Barking or Leigh-on-Sea, which lie on that waterway. 

Also in conformity with the OED evidence, the Essex Wills examples all begin with h-. They too chiefly include compounds, some new: 

hebbing cock 1558, 1589 (which two uses make OED’s  emendation of its 1539 quotation from cocke to locke unnecessary) 
hebbing boat 1587 
hebbing net 1588. 

But what is especially striking is that one example also contains the verb: 

‘my part of the boat that is to heb in’ (1588, XI. 213)

Here ‘to heb’ must be an activity that a person does from within a boat. This seems conclusively to disconnect the activity of hebbing from the action of the tide in ebbing. 

The idea that the two words were connected probably starts in Blount’s Law Dictionary (the 1670 quotation at HEBBERMAN), from which all the other sources which talk about fishermen fishing at ebbing water may well derive their information.

Early English Books Online provides two examples of the compound hebber-boat:

1577 J. Dee General and rare memorials pertayning to the perfect arte of nauigation [STC 6459] Wherin, the  Hebber-Boats, only, might sufficiently…
 1698 Jovis duodecimo die Maii 1698, annoque regni Regis Willielmi ... this day an order and report made by the Committee for Letting the Cities Lands, touching several duties taken by several officers and others at Billingsgate  [Wing  L2865F] Every Hebber-Boat or Smack 00 00 01.
This is very likely a boat from which hebbing is done, which makes it less likely to be the hemming in of fish with stakes.

So what is heb-? What is its etymology? My suggestion is that it represents a regional preservation of the former alternative present stem of the verb ‘to heave’, Old English hebban. MED shows heb- forms from Layamon, the Nero MS of Ancrene Wisse in the thirteenth century, and the Pepys MS of the South English Legendary (Gloucestershire), Sir Firumbras (Devon), and William of Shoreham (Kent) in the fourteenth century: the form receded to small areas of the south in later Middle English. The verb has ME senses to do with lifting things up, though nothing as specific as fishing.

Some support for this suggestion may be found in OED’s entry for heaving n. Here there is an item heaving-net cited from a 1584 quotation relating to Thames fishery: 

‘No Fishermen, Garthmen, Petermen..shall avaunce or set up any Wears, Engines..Heaving Nets, except they be 2 Inches in the Meish’

In order to elucidate this, OED cross-refers to quot. 1805 at sense a, which explains that 

‘A..mode of fishing, called heaving or hauling, is standing in the stream..with a bag or net fixed to a kind of frame... Whenever a fish strikes against the net, they..instantly haul up the mouth of the net above water’ 

It’s true that this is taken from a source dealing with Scotland, and that it doesn’t envisage the use of a boat, but it explains how the operation combines static nets or weir-like apparatus with immediately ensuing action on the part of the fisherman.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Essex: end of the road for an Old English Suffix?

This post is part of a series on the vocabulary of the sixteenth-century Essex Wills. For an introductory overview, see The Words of Sixteenth Century Essex Woman and Man.

The Oxford English Dictionary contains a curious little entry for the word endware. Here it is:

ˈendware, n. ? perhaps some error; Old English *ęnde-waru (collect. singular) would mean ‘the inhabitants of an end’ (compare END n. and -WARE suffix). Halliwell gives ‘Endware, a hamlet, Linc.’; but it is not in the Linc. glossaries.
Obs. rare—1.

? = ENDSHIP n.

1577 W. HARRISON Descr. Eng. (1877) ii. xiii. i. 261 The moonkes were authors of manie goodlie borowes and endwares neere unto their dwellings..But alas..they wrought oft great wickedness and made those endwares little better than brodelhouses.

Here we have two question marks, but really three or four questions.

  1. Is it really an error by a couple of antiquarians?
  2. Does it mean ‘endship’ (which itself means ‘a small suburb, a township’, and is used by Bunyan and Defoe, and so was once perhaps well known)
  3. Why is it not in Lincolnshire glossaries if Halliwell is right about it being found there?
  4. Could it be a compound of end and the suffix -ware?

On the basis of the Essex Wills, I believe we can confidently answer ‘no’ to question 1. It’s a real word! And on the same basis, I think we can assume that Halliwell was right in his definition ‘a hamlet’ (question 2), right in entering it as a regional word (question 3), but somehow mixed up his counties, and should have put ‘Essex’.

The Essex Wills contain at least six examples of endware, dating from 1563 to 1599, the right period for Harrison’s mention. They are very clear in their meaning, for example:

 ‘the hamlet or endware called Duck Street in [Saffron] Walden’ (1563 I. 214) 

The actual townships referred to in this way are as follows: 

  1. Duck Street near Saffron Walden (1563) (now lined with desirable detached houses)
  2. Finchingfield (1571)
  3. an unnamed place near Little Walden (1575)
  4. Boyton End (probably the one near Thaxted; the one near Sturmer is in Suffolk) (1585) 
  5. Beazley End near Wethersfield (1591, 1599). 

Now what is especially interesting is that these places are all within a small area, roughly north-west of Braintree. My map (from a 1950s road atlas) is by no means perfect (the large towns near the bottom left and right are Bishops Stortford and Braintree), but it should be possible to make out the pencilled boxes marking No. 1 to the left of the old A1, on the left, No. 3 on the B1052 near the top left of the map, Nos. 4 (on the B1051) and 2 (on the B1053) roughly in the centre, and No. 5 towards the right, near Halstead.

It is also worth pointing out that this part of Essex bristles with place names which end in end. Two of our endwares do, for a start, but there are the famous Audley End, Howlett End, Cornish Hall End, Duck End, Bran End, Puttock End, numerous Church Ends, and so on.

The next really gratifying thing is that William Harrison, the author of OED’s example, was Rector of Radwinter, in exactly the same area; on the map it’s on the B1053, just north of No. 4, and somewhat to the south-east of No. 3. In other words, writing in 1577, he was employing the same term for a small settlement that people living in the villages around him used in their wills. 

Now for question 4. The terminal element –ware meaning ‘inhabitants of–’ was not uncommon in place names such as Old English Cantware Kent. However it seems to have ceased to form new words after the Old English period, and the compounds in which it occurred all became obsolete:

earthware (13th century)
heavenware (13th century)
hellware (14th century)
Romeware (13th century)   
If the suffix ceased to be productive well before these words died out, *endewaru must have been coined in Old English. The word endware may be an unattested Old English word that survived for 500 years in a small corner of Essex.