To 'droll on (and on)'

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jan 29 16:19:05 UTC 2008

Was the speaker thinking of "troll", with the
image of moving to and fro, strolling, with one's
tongue?  Unlikely, I suppose, but there are these
intriguing -- and even more unlikely? -- OED senses for "troll v.":

II. 4.  a. intr. To move nimbly, as the tongue in
speaking; to wag. Also said of a person. Obs. or arch.
          b. trans. To move (the tongue) volubly.
?Obs.  [This is the right sense, but the most recent citation is 1747.]
†5. fig. trans. To turn over in one's mind; to
revolve, ponder, contemplate. Obs. rare—1.


At 1/28/2008 05:36 PM, Rebekah wrote:
>I just noticed an unfamiliar use of the word "droll" as a verb on
> I expose a truly embarrassing online habit in the
>interest of
>linguistic research).
>"Saw Bill Clinton at 2:30 this afternoon leaving Nobu 57. He shook hands,
>posed for pictures and kissed babies. He was in good spirits and even
>listened to this woman *droll on and on* about being from Arkansas."
>This seems like a straightforward mistake, confusing 'droll on' with 'drone
>on', but led me to investigate other instances of 'droll' as a verb.
>The OED provides 'droll on' but with a different meaning, closer to the
>sense of 'droll' as an adjective:
>droll, v.
>     *1.* *intr.* To make sport or fun; to jest, joke; to play the buffoon.
>Const. *with*, *at*, *on*, *upon*.
>*1654* WHITELOCKE<>
>*Jrnl. Swed. Emb.* (1772) I. 130 Whitelocke drolled with them. *1665* EARL
>OF MARLBOROUGH *Fair Warnings* 19 There was no greater argument of a foolish
>and inconsiderate person, than profanely to droll at Religion. *a1678* M
>ARVELL <> *Wks.* III.
>333 (R.) As Killegrew buffons his master, they droll on their God, but a
>much duller way. *1680* *Vind. Conforming Clergy* (ed. 2) 32 An Author..that
>drolls with every thing. *1739* W.
>*Fitzosb. Lett.* (1763) 227 To drole upon the established religion of a
>country. *1784* COWPER<>
>*Task* II. 369 He doubtless is in sport, and does but droll. *1894* R. B
>RIDGES <> *Feast of
>Bacchus* v. 1428 To droll on a private person.
>The OED examples were unfamiliar and struck me as archaic.   But a google
>search of 'drolled on' (un-tensed 'droll on' didn't return many results)
>provided some contemporary examples of what (I think) are a number of
>distinct uses.
>1)   "Wright's autobiography, *Spilling the Beans*, just hit the
>it's not going to be quite as jolly a tale as the Britishisms she
>drolled on *Fat Ladies*."
>I'm not sure whether 'on' is part of the verb phrase in the above sentence,
>or part of a prepositional phrase with 'Fat Ladies'. The sense seems close
>to the OED usage and definitely isn't confused with 'drone on'.
>2) "In both math and language, two negatives, when combined,
>make a positive. However," he drolled on, "in math or
>language two positives never make a negative."
>'Droned on' doesn't seem to be the sense here;  could 'drolled on' be
>intended to mean the continuation of a droll or witty statement?
>3)  Supposedly from Webster's, via Everything2:
>*Droll*, v. t.
>*1.*  To lead or influence by jest or trick; to banter or jest; to
>cajole.    "Men that will not be reasoned into their senses, may yet be
>laughed or *drolled* into them."  *L'Estrange.*
>4) 'Drone' mix-ups:  "the evening drolled on"; "the day drolled on"; "the
>debate drolled on".  Google provided at least several hundred instances of
>'drolled on' mistaken for 'droned on' (google: "drolled on about", "droll on
>and on", "the x drolled on").
>Is anyone on the list familiar with verbal 'droll', especially the
>construction 'droll on'?   Is this more common among British English
>Rebekah B.
>Bryn Mawr College '07
>rebekah.brita at
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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