A growing assortment of words and definitions used in the Early Modern era. See the Guide for more information.
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This word, used for a tumultuous crowd, is short for Latin mobile, easily moved, fickle. This was used in the phrase mobile vulgus, the fickle crowd, the excitable common people. In this mobile (three syllables) has also become an English word; Lord Chief Justice Jeffries, in his Charge given at the City of Bristol, 21 September, 1685, exclaimed: Up starts a poppet prince, who seduces the mobile into rebellion! (Cp. Poppet) Daniel Defoe in THE TRUE-BORN ENGLISHMAN (1701) He grants a Jubilee, And hires huzzas from his own Mobilee. From the 17th century there have been a verb and a noun mob (also mab). The verb meant to muffle up the head; hence, to go in disguise, hence to frequent low company; also, to dress untidily. Gay, in an ECLOGUE of 1720 speaks of a woman at the theatre: in the gallery mob'd, she sits secure; Defoe in 1727 speaks of those that go amobbing. As a noun, mob meant (1) a strumpet R. Head has, in THE ENGLISH ROGUE (1665): We kist and parted; I sighed, she did sob; she for her lusty lad, I for my mob. (2) négligé attire, a mob-dress; Jonathan Swift in the JOURNAL TO STELLA (1710) speaks of ladies all in mobs undrest. (3) a mob-cap, a cap worn indoors by women in the 18th and 19th centuries; Charles Dickens in DAVID COPPERFIELD describes one "with side-pieces fastening under the chin." Moore in his MEMOIRS (1828) says of a woman, after the fashion for mob-caps had faded: Her beauty was gone; her dress was even prematurely old and mobcappish. In the 18th century, a mobbed-head was a harlot; also, by way of a play upon the idea of a night-cap, a mob was fashionable slang (as in the plays) for a drink. Note, however, that mobbie, mobee is from the Carib mabi, meaning a West Indian fermented drink made of sweet potatoes, with ginger and snakeroot; also applied to peach and apple brandy.


A bunch of flower. Also, a representation of this. By extension, anything pleasant, especially to sight, taste, or smell. T. Hawkins (1626) spoke of the nosegay of the elect; Jonathan Swift (1738), of a choice flower in the nosegay of wit. Oliver Goldsmith in THE GOOD-NATURED MAN (1768) : I have a drop in the house of as pretty raspberry as ever was tipt over tongue . . . the lost couples we had here, they said it was & perfect nosegay.


From its use as the garment next a woman's skin, smock came to be used, especially among 16th and 17th century playwrights and often with double meaning, to refer to a woman herself. Shadwell in THE VOLUNTEERS (1692) said: Thou wert a pretty fellow, to rebel all thy lifetime against princes, and trail a pike under a smock-rampant at last! Shakespeare in ROMEO AND JULIET (1595) has the jesting Benvolio cry, when Peter and the Nurse come in: Two, two -- a shirt and a smock. Hence, to smock, to dress in a smock; to make effeminate -- Sylvester in BETHULIA'S RESCUE (1614): no pomp . . . had ever power his manly mind to smock; to make free with women D'Urfey in PILLS TO PURGE MELANCHOLY (1719): Then we all agree To ... smock and knock it, Under the greenwood tree, Jonathan Swift in POLITE CONVERSATIONS (1738): You don't smoke, I warrant you, but you smock. Cp, smoke. In the 16th and 17th centuries, too, many compounds continued this double play: a smock-agent, smock-officer, a pander. smock-fair, happy hunting grounds for whores, smock-employment. The smocktoy Paris. Fletcher, in THE ELDER BROTHER (1625): These smock-vermin, how eagerly they leap at old mens kisses. Hickeringill, in PRIESTCRAFT (1705): Great kindred, smock-simony, and whores, have advanced many a sot to the Holy Chair, Smock-secrets are such as women discuss among themselves, smockage, intercourse. A smocker, a woman's man; a lecher; THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE in 1756 said of a man whose nature fit its pages, that he had formerly been a cocker, smocker, and foxhunter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a smock-race was a contest for females for which the prize was a smock; the Thomas Hughes that wrote TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS in his book THE SCOURING OF THE WHITE HORSE (1859) said: I see, Sir, that 'smocks to be run for by ladies' is left out. Smock-face; pale and smooth or effeminate face; a male having such a face. Hence, smock-faced, effeminate. John Vanbrugh in the Prologue to THE RELAPSE (1696) says: Perhaps there's not a smock-face here today But's bold as Caesar to attack -- a play. A smockster was a go-between; Thomas Middleton in YOUR FIVE GALLANTS (1608) says: You're a hired smockster; here's her letter, in which we are certified that you're a bawd.


A variant of stroll. It occurs in a burlesque Prologue to Shakespeare's KING JOHN, supposedly to be spoken before Colley Cibber's "amended" version of the play, and published in the WHITEHALL EVENING POST of 10 February, 1737: And all our modern Muses,, alias Misses, Still strole about the Temple, fond of kisses. Cibber's version of Shakespeare's play was so savagely attacked -- before it was read or seen -- that Gibber went to a rehearsal, took his version from the prompter's desk, and walked out of the theatre. It was published in 1745 and deserved the attacks. Jonathan Swift in 1720 said So rotting [rutting?] Celia stroles the street, When sober folks are all abed.


Trite, commonplace.Hence also triticism, a trite utterance or writing. Jonathan Swift in 1709 wrote: A Tritical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind. Benjamin Disraeli in THE AMENITIES OF LITERATURE (1841) has: To sermonise with a tedious homily or a tritical declamation. Hence also triticalness, triticality.


A degraded or bestial person. From the name invented by Jonathan Swift in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (1726) , for a species of brute in the form of a man, slaves of the noble race of houyhnhnm, an intelligent tribe of the horse. Used frequently since; also as a verb; Yates in THE ROCK AHEAD (1868) spoke of a dam low-bred lot, yahooin' all over the place.
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