Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

These are some of the words and phrases I have encountered of late while reading. Some I knew the meaning and some I did not. Even when I knew the meaning, I was interested in the word’s origin or how it came into the language. 

From the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, we find the following for Trumpery Ring: 1. Deceit; fraud. [Obs.]; 2. Grenewey Something serving to deceive by false show or pretense; falsehood; deceit; worthless but showy matter; hence,things worn out and of no value; rubbish. Example: The trumpery in my house, go bring it hither, for state to catch these thieves. -Shakespeare (or) Example: Upon the coming of Christ, very much, though not all, of this idolatrous trumpery and superstition was driven out of the world.-from a Robert South sermon. 3. Worthless or deceptive in character. “A trumpery little ring.” -Thackeray.

Escaramuza is the Spanish word for skirmish. I was fascinated to how it has come to mean: Girl in escaramuza dress, the female counterpart to a charro. Wordnik gives us this example: As early enthusiasts became more proficient at riding, they began beefing up the speed and intricacy of their drill routines, giving rise to a new and more descriptive label for the art — escaramuza — the Spanish word for skirmish.

Abrigado also comes to us from Spanish. The Oxford Dictionary provides us with these meanings:  sheltered, as a bay sheltered or protected from the wind (un rincón abrigado del frío/de la lluvia); a sheltered spot out of the cold/the rain.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue tells us that Corkbrained means lightheaded or foolish, the Merriman Webster Dictionary says Saphead means a weak-minded or stupid person and Madcap mean marked by capriciousness, recklessness, or foolishness. 

I discovered lots of examples of the phrase Cross-and-Jostle Work, but no actual definition. Mayhap someone reading this post, might help. There is a very sexual reference on Urban Dictionary, but I refuse to believe those who wrote the following examples had vibrating buttocks in mind.

From Kasey Michaels and Alphabet Regency Romance Complete Box Set in The Somerville Farce, we find “Andy nodded vigorously. ‘Cross-and-jostle work, the fella we met called it, isn’t that right, Willie, my good friend? Yes, that was it, prime cross-and-jostle work.” 

From Exercises, Political and Others, Volume 6 by Thomas Perronet Thompson, we find a different example: “Two men will not starve when one will suffice, a highly laudable species of economy. The landlords limit the food that shall be there to eat; and because there would be no use in two thousand men agreeing to die upon half the food that can keep soul and body together, they either toss up for it or play a cross-and-jostle match and one thousand lives while the other dies.” 

Meanwhile, The English Spy: An Original Work, Characteristic, Satirical, and Humorous, Volume 2 by Charles Molloy Westmacott provides us with this example: “Optimus: What, cross-and-jostle work again? A second edition of Virginia Water? But I thought you felt assured that Cannon would not do wrong for the wealth of Windsor Castle.”

Merriman-Webster Dictionary provides these two meanings for Nabob:  a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India; 2:  a person of great wealth or prominence. Meanwhile, The Free Dictionary gives us these three meanings for Flummery1. Meaningless or deceptive language; humbug. 2. a. Any of several soft, sweet, bland foods, such as custard. b. A sweet gelatinous pudding made by straining boiled oatmeal or flour. c. A soft dessert of stewed, thickened fruit, often mixed with a grain such as rice. I recognized the first definition, but the second. Needless to say, Dandified means greatly concerned with smartness of dress.

neckclothitania-1818.gifDid you know that Trone d’ amour is a style of cravat. The Trone d’AmourThe The trone d’Amour is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch. It is formed by one single horizontal dent in the middle. Colour, Yeux de fille en extase.

There are rumors that A Whole Ball of Wax is derived from workers at Madame Tussauds, but this seems a bit contrived. I have also heard that it is derived from the term the whole bailiwick. 

World Wide Words tells us, “What we do know is that the whole ball of wax is everything and so essentially means the same as other American expressions such as the whole nine yards, the whole shooting match, the whole megillah, the whole shebang and the whole enchilada. Until recently, its first appearance was in the ninth edition of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary of 1953 and was assumed to be of that period. It turns out to be much older.

“We can dismiss the Madame Tussaud’s connection out of hand. It’s the product of an unoriginal mind which has linked wax with waxworks and done the equivalent of making two and two equal five.

“Another story appeared in William and Mary Morris’s book The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. They quote an English legal text from 1620 which describes the allocation of land among the heirs to an estate by a process very much like a lottery. Each parcel of land was listed on its own piece of paper, sealed inside a small ball of wax, and placed in a hat. Each heir then pulled out one of the balls to discover which part was his. The Morrises were strangely credulous about a link between this process and the expression in view of the nearly 400-year and more than 3,000-mile gap between that description and the then first known appearance of the phrase. Whatever the origin, this isn’t it.

“A graphic artist claims he heard the following during a seminar on typography: the phrase comes from typesetting. He was told that, in the days when type was made of metal, small pieces of gold would flake off the typesetting equipment. The typesetter would collect the gold flakes in a ball of wax to later melt down and reclaim the gold. Very often, someone would make off with the whole ball of wax. However, I can’t find a reference anywhere to that method having been used to gather up flakes of waste gold.

51XPGxNbneL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“I did find what seemed to be a clue to its origins, in a disintegrating paperback in my library — a science-fiction novel of 1954 by Shepherd Mead, who two years before had written How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Called The Big Ball of Wax, it’s a futuristic satire on business and advertising in America and contains this line from the narrator, a market research man, about the story to come: ‘Well, why don’t we go back to the beginning and roll it all up, as the fellows say, into one big ball of wax?’, that is, put everything together to make a coherent and complete whole. This sounds too much like a fuller and less elliptical early version of the saying to be a coincidence.

“However, many old newspapers have now been digitised, so that they can he readily searched electronically. This has thrown up a number of much older appearances of the phrase. The earliest found so far is from the Atlanta Constitution of 25 April 1882: ‘We notice that John Sherman & Co. have opened a real estate office in Washington. Believing in his heart of hearts that he owns this country, we will be greatly surprised if Mr. Sherman does not attempt to sell out the whole ball of wax under the hammer.’ Another a few months later was in the Indiana Democrat: ‘The Democrats can beat the ‘whole ball of wax’ this season.’ (Note the quotation marks enclosing the expression, a good sign that it was regarded as rather too recently coined or colloquial to be admitted to full membership of the language.)

“The origin has been taken back so far that it is beginning to look as though another often-told story might be the right one. It is said that whole ball of wax is a humorous modification of whole bailiwick, perhaps because of a mental association between bail and ball, and between wick and candle wax.”

Thrasonical (Pronounced /θrəˈsɒnɪkəl/) “should be put in the category of educated insults, since only those who have swallowed the dictionary or know Latin literature understand what it means. A thrasonical person is a braggart. The original was a former soldier named Thraso, a character in the play Eunuchus (The Eunuch), which was written in 161 B. C. and became the most popular of the six by the writer whom we know as Terence.

“Thrasonical started to appear in English in the sixteenth century, in time for Shakespeare to put it into the mouth of Rosalind in As you Like It. She describes Julius Caesar’s famous assertion veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) as a thrasonical brag.

“These days, its most frequent appearances are in a widely-reproduced bit of advice to aspiring authors or public speakers: ‘Let your conversation possess a clarified conciseness, compacted comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility, without rhodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabical profundity, pompous prolixity, and ventriloquial vapidity. Shun double-entendre and prurient jocosity, whether obscure or apparent. In other words, speak truthfully, naturally, clearly, purely, but do not use large words.’ – Notes and Queries, 11 Feb. 1893.

“In an idle moment, I set out to trace this to its origin. It turns out to be a hardy perennial, which became popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1880s on, appearing regularly in magazines and newspapers. The earliest unearthed so far is in the Pennsylvania School Journal of 1874. It is surely older still. You may feel that both thrasonical brag and thrasonical bombast are tautological. I couldn’t possibly disagree.” (World Wide Words)

The last one for today is Shemozzle (Pronounced /ʃɪˈmɒz(ə)l) “is a state of confusion and chaos. It might simply be a muddle, or it could be a ruckus, row, quarrel or loud commotion.” Agatha Christie used it in The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (1962): “No end of a shemozzle there’s been there lately,” he said. “Marina Gregg’s been having hysterics most days. Said some coffee she was given was poisoned.”

World Wide Words says the word appears to be of Yiddish origin, “fitting the pattern of a group of terms that that are best known in American English through the influence of Yiddish-speaking immigrants: schlock, schlemiel, schmaltz, schlepper, schmuck, schlimazel. (Much variation exists in the way they are spelled.) However, many of these are known earlier in the speech of German immigrants to Britain.

“Shemozzle grew up as part of the slang of London’s East End more than a century ago, a creation of bookmakers and racecourse touts. Jonathon Green has found early examples of shemozzle in articles by the racing journalist Arthur Binstead, who penned ‘gloriously non-PC’ columns in the Sporting Times at the end of the nineteenth century under the pseudonym “Morris the Mohel.” (A mohel is a person who is qualified to perform the Jewish rite of circumcision.)

Shemozzle has since spread around the world: “‘The money is starting to dry up. … I’m now fighting to get anything. They are not responding to my emails. It’s been a shemozzle, a complete and utter waste of time and money.’ – Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb. 2010.

“Leo Rosten denied in The Joys of Yiddish that it [shemozzle] had any connection with that language, and others argue similarly that it was invented in imitation of other Yiddish words, but isn’t one.

“Some references cautiously suggest that it was loosely based on the Yiddish slim mazel, which became schlimazel in the U. S. Yiddish was originally a German dialect whose vocabulary includes lots of Hebrew words. Slim mazel is a good example: slim is old German, meaning “crooked”, while mazel is from Hebrew mazzal, a star or planet, though its main meaning is “luck”. So slim mazel may be translated as “crooked luck”, roughly the opposite of the Yiddish mazel tov, good luck. But how that changed to mean a rumpus is far from obvious.

Picture-1-300x289“Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” What does this strange sentence mean? At the start of each episode, Laverne and Shirley are seen skipping down the street, arm in arm, reciting a Yiddish-American hopscotch chant: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This then leads into the series’ theme song which is entitled “Making Our Dreams Come True” and is performed by Cyndi Grecco.

schlemiel : an inept clumsy person; a bungler; a dolt (Yiddish shlemil)

schlimazel : a chronically unlucky person (שלימזל shlimazl, from Middle High German slim ‘crooked’ and Hebrew מזל mazzāl ‘luck’) (OED)

Hasenpfeffer (also spelled hasenfeffer) is a traditional German stew made from marinated rabbit or hare. Pfeffer is not only the name of a spice, but also of a dish where the animal’s blood is used as a gelling agent for the sauce.

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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1 Response to Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

  1. carolcork says:

    I love the word Shemozzle!

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