A "fifty-six"?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Apr 4 00:43:30 UTC 2008

Joel S. Berson wrote:
> In _The House of the Seven Gables_, I find:
> "Though looked upon as a weighty man among his contemporaries, in
> respect of animal substance; and as favored with a remarkable degree
> of fundamental development, well adapting him for the judicial bench,
> we conceive that the modern Judge Pyncheon, if weighed in the same
> balance with his ancestor, would have required at least an
> old-fashioned fifty-six, to keep the scale in equilibrio."
> [And they say Hawthorne was humorless.]
> What is a fifty-six?  Not in OED2.  A weight of 4 stone, I
> assume--but was this a common unit for weights used in a scale,
> perhaps for animals?
> Joel
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
"Fifty-six" = "56-pound weight", apparently ... used on a beam scale for
weighing some large passel of merchandise or whatever.

To minimize bogus hits, one can, e.g., search Google Books for
<<fifty-sixes>> between 1800 and 1900: several good examples, some from
famous authors.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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