[Ads-l] "old boy" = the devil + OED antedating of "Old Roger".
robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri Sep 16 11:56:15 EDT 2016
I've only just realised the exact mechanism whereby my various misunderstandings
Through the similarity of dates, I took, quite wrongly, Joel's reference to the
Salem date of 1692 to be a reference to what is actually the date of the third
(I got that wrong, too, since I said it was the second, earlier) OED citation of
"Old Nick" from 1694. My apologies to Joel, and everyone else caught up in this
tangle of confusions.
On to more substantive (and more interesting) issues.
<< [RH] I found it interesting that the term “old boy” emerges not simply at a
particular time (as you point out) but in a particular place, Salem, and that
it's not only a subset of a particular set of terms, but a geographically-tagged
member of that subset.
JB: I have no reason to infer that “old boy” emerged in Salem. In fact, the 1737
quotation hints that it emerged anciently in England:
[1737 T. Gray in H. Walpole Corr. 29 Dec. (1948) XIII. 146 The devil, whose
ancient title has been ‘Old Boy’.] >>
Good point, Joel. Over the "It's specifically American" issue, I was going
with the noise of the crowd, sourced from the OED. A proper account would
obviously have to look at all extant instances of the term to see where the
weight of the evidence lies.
Having said that, I'm inclined to think that Thomas Gray writing to Horace
Walpole in 1737 is simply making it up (independently at this point) out of
whole cloth, and asserting that it's [believe it if you like] an "ancient
title". Poets do this. It's been done before -- Thomas Dekker in the
seventeenth century was particularly drawn to making up stuff and pretending it
was ancient. The antiquity of original Five Orders of Beggars, and the currency
of the ("well known") proverb, "Westward for Smelts!" are still accepted in
certain quarters. One is the result of an exceptionally complicated joke on
Dekker's part, and the other is the result of his coining the term, "Westward
for smelts" in _Westward Ho_, deciding it was too good to lose, and afterwards
reusing it (in _The Great Year_, I think), where he described it as "a
All in all, I'm inclined to think that "old boy" has a predominantly
American currency, whether or not it was either first encountered or coined in
<< [RH] At least, I'm assuming the term didn't gain traction, indeed might
simply be a nonce-usage. Or am I wrong, and it is, or was, actually the
preferred term in America?
JB: I have no evidence which was the preferred term in America, although my
digested reading suggests that it was “old Nick”. Google NGrams might indicate
Concur (to put it briefly, for once).
<<JB: I have no clue to “cratten”, and simply hoped someone on the list might
have some idea.>>
The more I think about this, the more convinced I am that the term used was
actually "cratter", and the sense was "old creature".
You've looked at the original documents, or copies of them, Joel -- what
are the chances of a mistranscription of the manuscript, or a turned or
misplaced letter in the course of printing the material? Over to you, there.
Back to reports of the trial and execution of Edward Coleman and his fellow
Jesuits in late 1678. At least I'm not bouncing between centuries, for once.
> On 16 September 2016 at 15:33 Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
> Responses interspersed.
> From: Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Sent: Friday, September 16, 2016 9:22 AM
> Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "old boy" = the devil + OED antedating of "Old
> Ah, I must have misread you. I was simply slightly puzzled as to why you
> the second rather than the first date.
> JB: I didn't pick the second date for "old boy". I cited both the first
> and the second because the first is bracketed: "Antedates OED3 "old boy"
> sense 4. , 1782--." Although I'm unable to deduce a reason why it is
> I found it interesting that the term “old boy” emerges not simply at a
> particular time (as you point out) but in a particular place, Salem, and
> it's not only a subset of a particular set of terms, but a
> member of that subset.
> JB: I have no reason to infer that "old boy" emerged in Salem. In fact,
> the 1737 quotation hints that it emerged anciently in England:
> [1737 T. Gray in H. Walpole Corr. 29 Dec. (1948) XIII. 146 The devil,
> whose ancient title has been ‘Old Boy’.]
> There is some trace of contagious diffusion, however, somewhat like the
> throat distemper of the 1730s: The second quotation, 1782, is from New Jersey
> (look up Freneau), and the third, 1802, from Hudson, N.Y.
> At least, I'm assuming the term didn't gain traction, indeed might simply
> be a
> nonce-usage. Or am I wrong, and it is, or was, actually the preferred term
> JB: I have no evidence which was the preferred term in America, although
> my digested reading suggests that it was "old Nick". Google NGrams might
> indicate something.
> And yes, you're quite right to point to the significance of “old cratten”
> -- it
> adds another ingredient to pot of terms. But why “cratten”? I could
> “cratter” (later in America, “critter” from “creature”) as that would fit
> pattern of the other examples of Devil-naming. Is “cratten” perhaps a
> or a misreading or mishearing by someone at the time, of “creature” or
> dialectical variant thereof?
> JB: I have no clue to "cratten", and simply hoped someone on the list
> might have some idea.
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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