Some Words Which Don’t Necessarily Mean What You Think They Do

9781108075190fc3dDipping into Thomas Wright’s two-volume Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English, Containing Words from the English Writers Previous to the Nineteenth Century Which are No Longer in Use, or Are Not Used in the Same Sense; and Words Which Are Now Used Only in Provincial Dialects, designed to help readers of historical literature navigate unfamiliar vocabulary, I find that:

(1) A goldfinch is (a) any gold coin; (b) a purse; (c) a yellow-hammer. (What I think of as a goldfinch is in fact a goldspink.)

A goldfinch (Credit: RSPB)

A goldfinch (Credit: RSPB)

A goldspink (Credit: RSPB)

A goldspink (Credit: RSPB)

 

 

 

 

(2) An angler is not a fisherman, but ‘one who begs in the daytime, observing what he can steal at night’.

An angler, with his dog, portrayed by Rembrandt

An angler, with his dog, portrayed by Rembrandt

Fishing flies

Flies used by Sir Humphry Davy, keen fisherman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) A dog is not a quadruped, but (a) a small pitcher, or (b) a band of iron, employed to fasten walls outside houses.

A quadruped, portrayed by Thomas Bewick

A quadruped, portrayed by Thomas Bewick

A dog

A dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(4)  A tank is not a water container or a mobile piece or artillery, but (a) a wild parsnip, or (b) an idle amusement.

A container for water

A container for water

Will Somers, doing  a tank

Will Somers, doing a tank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could go on – and of course there are, in addition, hundreds of words I’d never heard of: lillilo, povey, barbalot…

Left to right: a lillilo, a povey and a barbalot (the latter two courtesy of Thomas Bewick's 'History of British Birds'

Left to right: a lillilo, a povey and a barbalot (the latter two courtesy of Thomas Bewick’s ‘History of British Birds‘)

Caroline

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