"hobby-horse" from "Much Ado" and the OED

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Jun 28 02:07:14 UTC 2013

Having just seen the new "Much Ado About Nothing" film, I question
the OED's placement of "hobby-horse" for the following line [Act III,
Scene ii, 64-67]:

Benedick:  Yet is this no charm for the toothache. Old signor, walk
aside with me; I have studied eight or nine wise words to speak to
you, which these hobby-horses must not hear.

Exeunt Benedick and Leonato [leaving the company of Claudio and Don Pedro].

Earlier in the scene, Claudio and Don Pedro have been teasing
Benedick.   He looks melancholy, and they question whether he (like
Claudio) may be in love.  (Benedick claims it's only a toothache.)

The problem is that the OED (admittedly OED2) has 3.a, "A person who
plays ridiculous antics; a frivolous or foolish fellow, jester,
buffoon" and 3.b. "A lustful person; a loose woman, prostitute." --
but puts all the quotations after 3.b.  These seem distinctly
different meanings.  All 5 quotations here, 2 more of which are also
from Shakespeare, do not show enough context to determine whether
they are 3.a or 3.b.  The 5 quotations should be apportioned.

(Surely the "hobby-horse" of "Much Ado" is ""buffoon, clown", 3.a.)


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