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

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Aug 29 16:23:06 UTC 2009

At 8/29/2009 10:51 AM, Amy West wrote:
>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 wondered whether my instance would be considered an abbreviation of
"mistress" when it does not have a period.  And the only OED
quotation for 1.b. ends with a quotation mark, so I wondered whether
an abbreviational period customary circa 1606 had been omitted by its
writer.  (The 1.a. quotation of the same year does have an
abbreviational period.)

If indeed the authorities decide my example is 1.b. rather than 2.a
or 2.b., it is at least the "second and only" quotation as of the
draft revision June 2009.


>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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