"flounder", "red-herring", "magic glass", 1703 -- for the OED

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Oct 4 00:06:30 UTC 2014

If my interpretation of the 1703 quotation below is correct:

flounder, n.2, antedates OED2 1867--.  A stumbling about, in thought or word.
red herring, n., sense 2, antedates OED3 1807--.  A piece of 
information which is misleading or untrue.
magic glass, under "magic, adj.", sense 1.b.,  antedates OED3 1792--.

"Jerry Scandal, Whale and Ghost Printer in White Friars, had plagued 
the Town above Ten years with Apparitions, Murders, Catechisms, and 
the like Stuff; By showing him the Phyz of Terrible Robin in my Green 
Magic Glass, I so effectually frighted him, that he has since 
demolish'd all his Letters, dismiss'd his Hawkers, flung up his 
business, and instead of News, cries Flounders and Red herring about 
the Streets."

[Aside -- Who is "Terrible Robin"?]

I suggest for "Flounders and Red herring" the following 
interpretation as figurative:

1)  flounder, n., "a stumbling about, incoherently and 
aimlessly."  Antedates OED2 1867--.

My analysis -- Flounder, n.2, as "the action of flounder, verb", here 
as "floundering about" ("like a headless chicken", 1870; and see 1822 
quotation below).  For the verb, the OED has (under 1.b.) three 
apposite quotations (encompassing Brown's date):

1684   S. E. Answer Remarks upon Dr. H. More 299   The Remarker, in 
the very entrance, shuffles and flunders.
1728   Pope Dunciad i. 104   The Bard..writ, and flounder'd on, in 
mere despair.
1822   W. Hazlitt Table-talk II. viii. 197   They flounder about 
between fustian in expression, and bathos in sentiment.

Perhaps an evolution from "motion" in 1684 to "writing, thought" in 
1728?  (Unless the 1684 "entrance" of the "Remarker" refers to the 
beginning of his remarks rather than his coming in to someplace.)

2)   red herring, n., as "something misleading or untrue".  Antedates 
OED3 sense 2, 1807--.

My analysis -- Here, used in contrast to "News" (which is generally 
assumed to be truthful).

3)  "magic glass" under "magic, adj." 1.b., antedates OED3 1792--.

Bibliographic information:

"A True and Faithful Catalogue of some remarkable Cures perform'd in 
the other World by the famous Signior Guisippe Hanesio, High German 
Doctor and Astrologer."  Within "A Letter from Signior Guisippe 
Hanesio, High-German Doctor and Astrologer in Brandipolis, to his 
Friends at Will's Coffee-House in Covent Garden. By Mr. T. Brown." 
(This is also known as "Mr. Jo. Haine's 2nd Letter, to his Friends at 
Will's.")  In "A Continuation or Second Part of the Letters from the 
Dead to the Living, By Mr. Tho. Brown, Capt. Ayloff, Mr. Henry 
Barker, &c."  London, Printed in the Year, 1703.  Pages [21]--[22] 
(brackets on pages).   (Misnumbered; page [17] follows page 32.)  ECCO.


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