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

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Sat Aug 29 14:51:21 UTC 2009

I am all confuzzled . . .

Why can't it simply be 1b -- abbreviation for "Mistress", and isn't
"Mrs." ultimately just another abbreviation via "Missus"? There is
that lovely extra connotation of sense 1a because of the
circumstances .

I don't see it needing to be read, or being clearly read, as an
antedate of sense 2. But perhaps I'm missing something.

---Amy West

>Date:    Fri, 28 Aug 2009 12:58:26 -0400
>From:    "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>Subject: Early "mis[s]"(1652) as title?
>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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