22 March 2020

Language in "Gulliver's Travels"

"These fields were intermingled with woods of half a stang..."  In land measure, a pole, rod, or perch (equal to 5.5 yards).

"My son Johnny... was at the Grammar School, and a towardly child."  Promising, propitious.  Seems to be a word whose negative (untoward) has survived better than the positive version.

"Our provisions held out well, our ship was stanch, and our crew all in good health."  "I tried my canoe in a large pond... stopping all the chinks with tallow, till I found it stanch..."  Strong and tight, from old French (equivalent to staunch).  A word that has survived better as a verb than as an adjective.

"[the farmer] called his hinds about him and asked them..."  A servant, especially an agricultural laborer (from Old English).

"... the Queen had ordered a little equipage of all things necessary for me while I was in her service..."  Equipment or supplies (or a carriage); in context a set of household articles like dinnerware.  From the French.

"The under surface [of the Flying Island]... is one even regular plate of adamant..."  A legendary rock or mineral of surpassing hardness (used to describe diamond, or sometimes magnetic lodestones).  Middle English, from Latin, from Greek "invincible."  Yet another word that has survived as an adjective but not as a noun.

"There were three nags, and two mares... These seemed but ordinary cattle..."  Typically domesticated bovines, but also used for other livestock such as pigs, sheep, and horses.  You learn something every day.  From Anglo-Norman "personal property" cf "chattel."
Interesting side note.   I've had the book shown in the photo ever since I was a child.  It was issued as part of the Grosset and Dunlap "Illustrated Junior Library" in 1947 -  high-quality printings with very readable fonts and generously illustrated.  When I completed this final read I though perhaps it might carry a premium for resale on eBay.  Not so.  Some are offered at high prices, but they sell cheaply, including one lot of 24 different books that sold for $31+ 19 ship.  It's amazing to me how little interest the public shows in quality hardback books.

1 comment:

  1. I was intrigued by "adamant." As you may be aware, Wolverine has had all of his bones covered with "Adamantium"--apparently a sci-fi metal that is pretty much indestructible.

    Another sci-fi metal (i.e., one that shows up in sci-fi movies at times) is "Unobtainium." Seriously.

    As far as the word "towardly," I learned the meaning of "froward" from reading "Le Morte de Arthur" (The Death of [King] Arthur). Froward is the opposite of TOward, and means FROMward. In the King James Version, we see that word a lot, and I finally was able to put it together with how it must have begun.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...