[Ads-l] mole = spy antedating (?)

Amy West medievalist at W-STS.COM
Tue Dec 8 12:58:08 UTC 2015

On 12/8/15 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> Date:    Mon, 7 Dec 2015 17:16:01 -0800
> From:    Peter Reitan<pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: mole = spy antedating (?)
> I do not have an additional antedating - but some additional background on how and why the word may have been taken into the language at that time.
> I looked at a French dictionary of idiomatic phrases published in 1903:
> French
> dictionary: Dictionnaire étymologique
> de mille et une expressions propres à l'idiome français, fondé sur des faits
> linguistiques et des documents exclusivement nationaux.
> The entry for 'Taupage' includes: Taupes de rempart, soldats du genie; sapeurs comme
> la taupe. [Rampart moles, military engineers; sappers as  moles.]
> The imagery relates to the job of military engineers, "miners and sappers" in English, who dig tunnels under the walls of a fortification and explode them from below.
Before gun/black powder, they would make the walls simply collapse by 
tunneling, putting in supports, and then destroying the supports (as by 

The metaphor just expands: pretty cool.

---Amy West

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

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