"dropped on"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Fri Feb 26 19:43:46 UTC 2010

> Ah, trepann'd -- that verb (2) with unpleasant associations with verb
> (1).  When I first encountered it in the 18th century and not in a
> surgical context I had to check the OED.
> Is it possible that "trepann'd" got altered to "dropped on" from
> mishearing combined with verb (2) being not common and not recognized?
> Joel

"Trapan" seems to begin as strict cant and then later migrate into more
general colloquial use.  About the earliest example I've come across is in
the (variously titled) "The Thief-Ketchers Song" or "The Black Procession"
(seriatim 1669, 1672, and 1688):

        The tenth is a Shoplift that carries a Bob,
        When he ranges the City the Shops for to rob.
        The eleventh a Bubber , much used of late,
        He goes to the Alehouse, & steals there the Plate.
        The twelfth a Trapan, if a Cull he doth meet
        He nips all his Cole, and turns him i'th' street.
               Tour you well, &c.

Earliest use in cant is in the sense of deception generally (cf. earlier
cross-biting), but as time goes on, it seems to become more closely
associated with something like kidnapping, which is the sense drawn on in
the Van Deiman Land poaching ballad.

Like Joel, I wondered whether "dropped on" might be a normalisation of a
less-familiar "treppaned" but I'm not sure this is the case.  I've tracked
down the moment when "dropped on" is first used in a poaching ballad, and
there it seems to emerge independent of "treppaned".  But I'll (shortly)
post on this at greater length when I've organised the material coherently,
and you-all can judge for yourselves.


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

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