Early "mis[s]"(1652) as title?

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 28 16:58:26 UTC 2009

I think this has been discussed here before -- perhaps with respect
to the period used sometimes in "mis." -- but I'm having no luck
finding anything in the archives.

 From the "Province and Court Records of Maine", Vol. 1 (1928), page
176, dated 1652 [NS] March 8:

"We present Mis Batcheller for Adultery."

[No period in this.  It is of course a transcription, so would need
confirmation from the manuscript.]

For "miss, n2", the OED's draft revision June 2009 has
      1.a. "A kept woman, a mistress; a concubine."  The earliest
quotation, 1606, has "mis.", which I guess the OED classifies as
"miss" but which some I suppose would consider an abbreviation for
the "mistress" of this sense.  The next quotation, 1675, has "Town-Misse".
      1.b. "= MISTRESS n. 2b."  Earliest quotation also 1606, which
ends "Mis?' -- so perhaps this too is an abbreviation.

      2.  "In form Miss, as a title."  Earliest quotation "1667 S.
PEPYS Diary 7 Mar. (1974) VIII. 101 Little Mis Davis did dance a Jigg
after the end of the play."

So does the Maine 1652 quotation antedate sense 2?  It must be
admitted, of course, that since she is presented for adultery "Mis
Batcheller" was married at the time.  (The case of Mary Batchellor,
wife of perhaps superannuated but certainly octogenarian New
Hampshire and Maine minister Stephen Batcheller, is well-known and
much discussed in the historical literature.)

If not, then we have:
      2.b  "regional (chiefly U.S.). = MRS n. 1a. Obs."  Earliest citation 1770

Surely Mis Batcheller antedates this.


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