Random notes on "The Bizarre notes and queries" 1890 - Google Books

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 10 08:45:53 UTC 2010

Three random observations on a fairly non-distinguished publication...

1. Got the mitten; give hern

I discovered an odd (to me) expression (from 1890) on p. 4 at


The Bizarre Notes and Queries: A Monthly Magazine of History, Folk-lore,
Mathematics, Mysticism, Art, Science, Etc., Volume VII, Manchester, N.
H., 1890
> "Got the mitten" Where did this saying originate? (N. and Q., F. J. P.
> Vol. VI, p. 348)
> This is an American phrase used when a young man is discarded by a
> lady to whom he has been paying his addresses. Sam Slick, in "Human
> Nature," p. 90, says, "there is a young lady I have set my heart on ;
> though whether she is a-goin' to give hern, or /give the miten/, I
> ain't satisfied." This seems to be the only remaining use of the Old
> English werd [sic] /mittent/ (Latin, /mittins/, to send) which Johnson
> defines as "sending forth, emitting." /Mittent/ itself is obsolete,
> but it survives inthe word "intermittent".
>             Mrs. L. T. George

It is interesting that Mrs. George failed to notice the connection with
the very word Johnson uses for definition here--emitting. MW-OL has it
going back to 1598, others (online) to 1623 (all without citations), and
all have its origins in /mittere/. The given etymology may also be
slightly off--WRD1913 gives /mittens/ as p.pr. of /mittere/.

But what got my attention was the two phrases--the head phrase and the
cited one for "give hern", where I take "hern" to mean "hers" (most
modern dictionaries only have "dialectal variation on heron"). There is
only one other legitimate citation from GB (but in multiple
iterations--from 1886 to 2009) from a story by James Whitcomb Riley.


The remaining hits are all due either to bad OCR or bad scanning (e.g.,
a Shakespeare citation is generated because the edge of a page is cut off).

2. Mexican Jumping Beans and its ancestry

The second entry of interest in the volume mentioned initially
(http://bit.ly/dBWXGa) relates to "sensitive bean".

p. 8
> 11. A friend of mine has a bean called a "sensitive bean," its
> characteristics being a power to move about on the palm of the hand,
> or when placed on a table. Its movements are not regular but
> intermittent.

I've never heard this particular expression, but, given the time period
and the description, it seems to have been a reference to the "Mexican
jumping beans". The latter are antedated in most dictionaries (don't
know what the OED has) to 1885, with some to 1889. There had been some
question as to the identity of the species of moth involved as late as
1891. But it's a trivial matter to find 1885 sources for MJB on GB.

The more interesting part is that they were originally identified as
"jumping seeds" at least as early as 1856. A rather extensive German
bibliography on the matter appears to make 1857 the initial publication
year on the discovery of the moth, which is confirmed by a number of
other sources (crediting O. Westwood). (Note that GB tags this volume as
1868, when the actual publication date is 1893, pp. 277-290--
http://bit.ly/bJH2bo )

Proceedings of the Linnean Society [of London], Zoology, Vol. I, 1857,
> May 6th, 1856.
> ...
> John Samuel Gaskoin, Esq., F.L.S., exhibited some of the so-called
> "Jumping-seeds" described by Sir W.J. Hooker and J.O. Westwood, Esq.,
> in the "Kew Journal of Botany;" the motion of which is due to the
> larva of a small insect enclosed in the seed.

This, however, can be improved slightly to 1854.

The Athenæum, No. 1413, Nov. 25, 1854, p. 1434/2
> The subject of the jumping seeds received from Sir William Hooker,
> adverted to at the meeting, was revived, and an interesting discussion
> thereon took place, in the course of which Mr. Westwood said he had
> satisfied himself that the inclosed [sic] larvæ were lepidopterous,
> and some of them infested with ichneumons. As Réaumur's jumping
> cocoons produced ichneumons, he had thought it probable that the
> motion of the seeds in question occurred only with those in which
> there was a larva of an ichneumon; but he had ascertained that such is
> not the case, for in all theafflicted seeds the leaps were alike and
> similarly powerful.

Perhaps the following identifies the earliest mention, by reference (the
review was published in 1855, but the original text is from October, 1854).

> _Hooker's Journal of Botany and Kew Garden Miscellany_. No. 69,
> October; ..., 1854. 8vo. London: Lovell Reeve. ...
> No. 69, October:--... Jumping or moving seeds--three of these were
> forwarded to Sir W. Hooker, from Mexico, by the English Minister at
> that place, and appear to belong to the Colliguaya odorifera, /Hook/. ...

In fact, from other sources (that don't use the combination "jumping
beans") clearly identify that the first report of the find occurred at
the October 2, 1854 meeting.

The name gradually became "Mexican jumping seeds" and then "Mexican
jumping beans", although I have not compared British and American sources.

There are 1858 and 1861 entries that list 'Mexican "jumping seeds"'
 From 1868 to 1882 all references are to 'Mexican jumping seeds' (no
quotation marks)

Several citations in 1883 identify MJS 'or "Devil's Beans" as they are
popularly called'. All are identical entries by Charles V. Riley but
appear in different journals. (I counted at least seven different
publications with the same article.) GB finds no other references to
"Devil's Beans", but there are a few to "Devil's Bean" and a couple of
variants without the possessive.

1884 Dictionary of English Names of Plants only lists Devil's Bean and
neither MJS nor MJB. http://bit.ly/bXhST6
 From 1885 forward they become known as 'Mexican jumping beans",
although some references to 'Mexican jumping seeds' and 'Devil's Bean'
persist at least through 1897.

Best I can tell, below is a reprint of the first occurrence of the
combination "Mexican Jumping Bean" in a research publication, even
though, in the text, C. V. Riley still refers to it as Mexican Jumping

Entomological Society of Washington, 1885, p. 178
> [Reprinted from Proceedings of Entomological Society, Vol, II, No. 2.]
> Mexican Jumping Bean.
> Determination of the Plant.
> By C. V. Riley
> In the Transactions of the St. Louis Academy of Science for December,
> 1875, Vol. III, page, CXLI, I gave some account of /Carpocapsa
> saltitans/ Westwood, and the manner in which it produces the motions
> of the well-known Mexican Jumping Seed or "Devil's Bean," and I there
> called attantion to the fact that the particular Euphorbiaceous plant,
> upon which these seeds occur, was not known or determined. The
> poisonous nature of the plant, and the fact that it is used by the
> Indians to poison their arrow-points, have long been known, and, in
> fact, the plant is called Arrow Weed (/Yerba de flecha/) by the Mexicans.

Why sudden change in nomenclature? Consider these three entries, also
from 1885.

Western Druggist, Vol. VII
No. 3, March 16, 1885, p. 72/2
> The Jumping Bean of Madagascar
> R. C. (Cleveland, Ohio) desires information regarding the so-called
> jumping bean of Madagascar, or devil's bean. We have seen a specimen
> of the bean referred to, which was sent to President Arthur by the
> Queen of Madagascar as a token of esteem. ... These beans are held in
> high esteem by the natives of Madagascar, who, being very
> superstitious, imagine that it is endowed with supernatural power. ...

No. 4, April, 1885, p. 103/2
Jumping Beans of Madagascar
[To the Editor of The Western Druggist:]
In your March number I noticed an Inquiry about the "Jumping bean of
Madagascar." In Mexico they have a similar bean, in which the movement
referred to has been proven to be due to the presence of an insect
within the bean, which gradually works its way out.
     Yours truly,   H. Lassing, M. D.  Editor of the N. Y. Analyst.

No. 6, June 15, p. 156/1
> Jumping Bean of Mexico
> (Editor The Western Druggist)
> Referring to the article on the "Jumping Bean of Madagascar" in your
> March and April Numbers I inclose a specimen of the ""Mexican jumpong
> bean" which has been carried by a gentleman here for a year, and until
> recently was quite lively. It seems to have lost its restlessness,
> however, and if you kindly have it examined perhaps the cause of its
> sprightliness may be determined.
>    Very truly yours,   Leo Eliel.
>    South Bend, Ind., April 23, 1885.
> The bean sent does not the Madagascar bran at all in appearance, which
> is much heavier, larger, and furnished with a very thick shell,
> something like the Calabar bean. ...

Perhaps "Mexican Jumping Bean" already existed in the vernacular when
first used by Riley. But I found no further references to a "sensitive

3. Inclose

Taking note from some of the cited materials above, as well as from
those I posted earlier, it appears that the spelling "inclose" was quite
common. Doing a search for "inclose OR inclosed OR inclosure" from 1800
to 1899 produces nearly identical number of raw hits (about 16000) as
those with e replacing the i.


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