[Ads-l] "old boy" = the devil + OED antedating of "Old Roger".

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Thu Sep 15 21:47:15 EDT 2016

Are you discounting the first OED cite, Joel?

       a1643 in J. W. Ebsworth Merry Drollery (1875) App. 394 For Roundheads Old
Nick stand up now.

Anatoly Liberman in "Multifarious Devils, part 2. Old Nick and the Crocodile,"
accepts it:

See also:

The Virtual Linguist: Old Harry and other nicknames for the Devil


"Old boy" is actually a relatively late (and predominantly American) entry into
the "Old [Someone]" as a (nick)name for the Devil stakes.

See also, in less detail:

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange: "Why is the English devil “old”?"


... which has the following succinct summary:

"Old Harry is a nickname for the Devil. The Devil has many nicknames, many of
which include the adjective Old, a reference, as the OED says, to the Devil's
primeval character. Examples include: Old Ned, Old Nick, Old One, Old Roger, Old
Scratch, Old Horny (or more likely the Scottish spelling, Auld Hornie), old boy
(US term, according to the OED), old gentleman, old gentleman in black, old
serpent, old smoker, old dragon, old enemy, old adversary, Old Billy, Auld
Cloots (or Clootie) and old gooseberry."

The _New Canting Dictionary_ (1725) gives both "Old Nick" and "Old Roger", but
both (especially "Old Nick") are certainly earlier.

The _NCD_ provides the OED with its first citation of "Old Roger", but the
editor of the _NCD_ probably took it from _The Prison-breaker_, written (though
never performed *) shortly after Jack Sheppard was hanged in September 1724.
 The date on the frontispiece of this is 1725, but I'd guess at a late-1724 date
of composition and an early-1725 date of publication.

There we find, Enter Jack Sheppard, singing:

      But as I have liv'd to come out again,
          If the merry old Roger I meet,
      I'll tout his Muns, and I'll snabble his Poll,
          As he pikes along the Street.

Curiously enough, 1724 is also the date of the first citation in the OED for
"Jolly Roger"

In the lines above, Jack Sheppard is parodying an earlier song, called "On the
Budge", where "a Hick" rather than "old Roger" is met with.

Robin Hamilton

* Strictly, "Never performed as written."  It was performed, in a hacked-about
version, as _The Quaker's Opera_ in 1728, in the wake of the success of John
Gay's _Beggar's Opera_.

** Better known, for reasons I won't go into, as "The Budge and Snudg [sic]
Song".  However, somewhat anachronistically, the young Jack Sheppard in Harrison
Ainsworth's novel (1839), has the text from  the _New Canting Dictionary_ tacked
to his wall, where it's called "The Life and Death of the Darkmans Budge".  Just
how young Jack has access to a text with a title which didn't appear till the
year after he died ...


>     On 16 September 2016 at 01:08 Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
>     This -- which I have not seen -- does supply a date for Nichals's
> deposition.  I wonder on what additional evidence.  However, I do think I've
> read that Rosenthal et al.'s work is well-reputed.
>     Note that this places Lidia's deposition before Abigaille's June
> examination.  Which is not unreasonable, if Lidia was one of Abigaill's
> original accusers.
>     "Old nick" is slightly earlier than 1692 (OED). 

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

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