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CVII. Etymology of Pontifex.


Sept. 10. IT

seems to be far more easy to discover what was not, than to determine what was, the etymology of pontifex*. Against the opinion of its originating from the Pontifices of Rome having built the bridge Sulpitius, pursuant to the directions of an oracle, possibly it may be deemed an objection, not destitute of weight, that in the derivatives from this word there is not any allusion to the constructing of a bridge. I write this upon the credit of Ainsworth and Stephens; and if, in their Dictionaries, there are omissions of passages that ought to have been specified, I doubt not of their being supplied by some of your learned correspondents. The like observation will hold good, though not be of equal force, with respect to derivatives used by Latin authors of the middle ages. Pontifico, pontificatio, pontificium, pontificalia, and others, all denote the episcopal office, dignity, habit, &c. without the least reference to the building or repairing of bridges, or to taxes imposed for that work. By an unwarrantable Latinism, if in this instance the term may be allowed, Milton, in his description of the bridge raised over the chaotic expanse by Sin and Death (Paradise Lost, book X.), has applied two derivatives as pertinent to bridgemaking, viz. pontifical, v. 313, and pontifice, v. 348. Dr. Johnson, in his Dictionary, believes that this sense of the words was peculiar to Milton, and perhaps was intended as an equivocal satire on Popery. Di. Warburton (Newton's edit. not.) properly styles it a bad expression, adding, " yet to suppose a pun would be worse, as if the Roman priesthood were as ready to make the way easy to hell, as Sin and Death did.” After an attentive perusal of the whole paragraph, I

*" Latinis placuit et pontificem appellare eum qui rebus sacris præesset: et, cum plures essent apud veteres, unum qui omnibus præerat maximum pontificerin dixerunt. Unde vero deductum nomen pontificis, non satis constat. Q. Mutius Scævola a posse et facere appellatos existimat pontifices: at Mar. Varro a ponte et facio maluit, eo quod ab his primum ions sublitius factus, ac sæpe restitutus esse perhibeatur, ut refert Fenestella, lib. 1. de Romanorum Magistratibus.Hyperius in Epist. Pauli ad Heb. cap. ți. ver. 1. “ Nomen ambiguum est, et interdum stricte sumitur, interdum late : stricte designat summum sacerdotum qualis fuit Aaron, et qui ei successere in sacro hoc munere. Late, et sic illi vocantur Sexuegãos qui erant capita familiarum sacerdotalium.Spanhemius de dubiis Evangelicis. Vide Grotium in Niut, i. 5. “ Princeps sacerdotum, pontifex maximus; princeps etiam sive caput familiar uma sacerdotalium.Gerh. in liarm.

must own, I see no ground for concluding that any sarcastic stricture was levelled at the Roman pontiff

. There is, however, a manifest pnn, i. e. a distortion of the word from its prinary and universal acceptation; and, that Milton did not forbear complying with this taste of the age, there is a glaring prooi in the punning speech delivered by Satan upon the opening of his news-invented battery against the good angelic host. But Addison's remarks on the allegory of Sin and Death, as I ain inclined to believe, will lead to a plausibie surmise of what might occasion Milton's thus adapting the words pontifical and pontifice. “A reader (observes this ingenious critic) who knjws the strength of the English tongue, will be amazed to think how the poet could find such apt words and phrases to describe the actions of these two imaginary persons, and particularly in that part where Death is exhibited as forming a bridge over the chaos; a. work suitable to the genius of Milton.” Milton, however, from a want of apt words, in their ordinary signification, was, it appears, at length constrained to give a novel meaning to one word, and to coin another, before the ideal bridge could be completed with chimerical materiais by visionary architects. And it was in consequence of the same defect that, in a preceding verse (310), he slipt into a deviațion from a part of speech, by forming a participle out of a noun substantive in the simile of Xerxes:

Over Hellespont Bridging his way, Europe with Asia join'd. For, was not the verb to bridge till then unknown in the English language?

Yours, &c. 1793, Nov.

W. and D.

CVIII. A List of Local Expressions, with Illustrations.


Nov. 30. As a knowledge of local expressions may frequently be of service in critical inquiries, and is at least a matter of curiosity, the following list is at your service. You may depend on its authenticity; a circumstance which ought always to be examined in information of this kind; since, either for want of frequent inquiries about the same word, or through the

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dishonourable fiction of little wits, there is reason to suppose that many

errors have been admitted into vocabularies of this kind.

AUNT. It is common in Cornwall to call all elderly persons Aunt or Uncle, prefixed to their names. The same custom is said to prevail in the island of Nantucket, in North America. In some parts of England Gammer and Gaffer are said to be used in the same manner. ANUNT. Opposite to. Gloucestershire.-Gr. ivarti. A CUSTIS. A schoolmaster's ferula North of Cornwall.

CLOME. Earthen-ware; and a clome shop; and a clomen oven, and the like. General through Devonshire.

CAWCH. A nasty place. Nastiness. Devonshire. In other places called a mess.

A DONKY, or A Dicky. An ass. Essex and Suffolk. The colliers of Kingswood call the same animal a Neddy-ass, but more usually a Neddy.

CALLED HOME. Asked in church by banns; and this, either the first, second, or third time. King's Sedgemoor.

To Don, and To DoFF. To put on, and put off, the cloaths.

Dull. Hard of hearing. Somerset. An ERRISH. A stubble-field. Devon. A FEscue, pronounced also Vester. A pin, or point, with which to teach children to read. Cornwall. Probably a corruption of Verse-cue; Verse being vulgarly pronounced all through the West, Ves.

A Gout. An under ground drain of a house or street. Camden mentions this word as peculiar to Bristol in his (Queen Elizabeth's) time. Gowtes and gutters occur in two deeds (dated 1472 and 1478) in the collection of deeds belonging to the library of Bristol. It is still the only word used in that city.

To Gorgey. To shake. Lookee how our chimney do gorgey with the wind. King's Sedgemoor. The original is, probably, to gorge; it being common in Somerset to add a

ay to numberless words, such as to droppy, &c.

A GOOD-DAY. Aholiday. Staffordshire.
A Pair of JEMMIES. Hinges. Minehead.
LARY. Empty. Devon.

A LYNCHER. A border of grass, left to divide property in a ploughed common-field. Sedgemoor.

The LEACH-ROAD. The path by which a funeral is carried to church. Somerset and Devon. It often deviates from the high road, and even from any path now in use; in which


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case the country people will break down the hedges, rather than pass by an unhailowed way

To LUMPER. To stumble, as a horse. Sedgemoor.
To Mooch. To play truant, to stay from school. Bristol.

MAZED. Deranged in mind. Cornwall. Mazed Bet Parkir, a woman well known in Padstow some 30 years since. Perhaps some of your correspondents may have made the same observation as myself, that there were a surprizing number of persons of that description along the North coast. of Devon and Cornwall.

MOILED. Troubled, fatigued. Sedgemoor.

NAN? A vulgar expression in the West of England, particularly in Gloucestershire, which means what do you say? Ha, or Iai, is commonly used for the same. In the neighbourhood of Sedgemoor, say ma’ani-suy sir, is very

NESH. Soft, tender. It is applied to the health, and means delicate. Somerset.

A PEEL. A pillow. Somerset and Devon.
PILLUM. Dirt. Devon.

A PICKSEY. A fairy. Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall. Pickscy-led, bewildered, led astray, particularly in the night, by a Jack-a-lantern, which is believed to be the work of the Picksies.

A PLOUGH. A waggon, or cart, or plough, together with the team which draws it, is called by no other name in several parts of Somersetshire. .

TO DRIVE THE PRAY. To drive the cattle from the moor. Sedgemoor. French, près, a meadow.

RETCHUP, so pronounced, though the original is probably Rightship: Truth. Somersetshire. As, there is no retchup in that child.

A RAL. A revel, a country wake. Devon.
A SLICE. A fire-shovel. Bristol.

. Pembrokeshire. Dust is there only used to signify sau dust

.. To Sar. To earn. Sedgemoor. As, To sar seven shil, lings a week. "The same word is also used as a corruption of serve; as, To sar the pigs.

A SCUTE. A reward. North of Devon.
TO SLOTTER. To slop, to mess, to dirt. Devon..
STURE. Dust. Devon..

To SLOCK. To pilfer, or give privately; and a Slockster, # pilferer. Devon and Somerset.

To for AT. All over Devon.

A nosegay.

Th for S in the third person singular of verbs. Devon. As, It rainth-He livth to ParracombWhen he jumpth, all shakth.

Tidy. Neat, decent. West of England.

TO TINE. To light, &c. As, Tine the candle. Somerset. Pronounced, in Devon, Tin.

TO TINE is likewise used in the neighbourhood of Sedgemoor for to shut. As, Tine the door-He has not tined his eyes to sleep these three nights. A TUTTy. Pronounced also, in other places, a Titty.

Twily. Restless. Somerset. Perhaps a corruption of

TUTT-WORK. Jobb-work, as distinguished from work by the day. Somerset and Devon; and in the Cornish and Derbyshire mines. Probably derived from the French tout.

UNKID, or Uncut. Dull, melancholy. Somerset.

Vitty. Neat, decent, suitable. Cornwall. Perhaps a corruption of Fit, or Fetive.

TO VANG. To give, reach, hand. Devon. As, Vang me ; the bread.

VORTHY. Forward, assuming. Somerset and Dorset. The original is, perhaps, forthy, derived from the adverb forth. Wisht. Dull, gloomy. Cornwall

. Some of your correspondents will perhaps be able to inform you, that the use of most of these words is more exo tensive than is here set down. What is now sent is from the actual observation of one who is no great traveller,



Jan. 23. The following illustrations of some of the local expressions, may not, perhaps, be unacceptable; and the instances, which I have subjoined of their usage by our great poets of

elder days, may serve to evince the utility of such collec: tions in critical inquiries, if, indeed, the thing requires any

proof. To the authenticity of your correspondent's list, as far as it relates to Somerset, I can, and gladly do, bear testimony.

Don and Doff are well known to be contracted from do on, and do off. From don is also formed the substantive dona nings. Doff occurs frequently in Shakespeare and Spenser, and twice in Milton.

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