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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: "What's in a name?"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1624  Wednesday, 27 June 2001

[1]     From:   Rainbow Saari<
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jun 2001 00:19:19 +1200
        Subj:   RE. What's in a name

[2]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Jun 2001 09:37:19 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"

[3]     From:   Stuart Taylor <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Jun 2001 09:48:58 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"

[4]     From:   Stuart Taylor <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Jun 2001 01:55:09 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1613 Re: "What's in a name?"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari<
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jun 2001 00:19:19 +1200
Subject:        RE. What's in a name

Germane to this conversation are the following excerpts from editor, Ian
Lancashire's comments regarding the 'fixed' use of words in Early Modern
English Dictionaries Database. (Robin Hamilton provides the link in SHK
12.1591 posting)

"Most English Renaissance speakers and writers, however, seem not to
have recognized meaning as fixed senses, an aspect of language that we
have taken for granted since Samuel Johnson."

"Richard Bailey also sees lexical indeterminacy as a general linguistic
phenomenon, not limited to the early period: "Rigid sense divisions
typical of dictionaries fail to capture the synchronic fact of variation
that is present in every living language community" (1980: 212). Early
dictionaries display a sensitivity to the imprecision of words that many
of our lexicons today try to expunge from the language."

"This theory holds that Renaissance speakers assumed that words
themselves did not reflect the complexity of things but only, so to
speak, pointed to or betokened those things and "cast only the shadows"
of that complexity.  The theory predicts that Renaissance word usage has
many fewer constraints.  Lexical indeterminacy observed in the period
(the frequent inability of modern lexicographers to detect precise
senses, and their omission of citations of that kind in their examples)
is consistent with this theory. "

I would like to offer a couple of  possible explanations of how the word
'peter' came to be associated with 'penis'. I am guessing  that the name
Piers came to England with the Norman French  who accompanied William
the Conqueror.  There  may well be a link between the names Piers and
Pierre ( French for Peter ). Perhaps they mean the same? Langland in his
Piers Plowman I believe  talks of his protagonist as Peter. Piers was
pronounced 'purse' in Early Mod. Eng; Nashe parodies Langland's title in
his  Pierce Penniless and plays on this pronunciation to point out that
his 'purse is penniless' or empty. So Peter = Pierre or Piers in French,
and Piers and Pierce both are pronounced 'purse' .

The word Pierce is synonymous with ( to ? ) penetrate, or enter,

(Florio 1598 @ 18781086)   Penetrare, to penetrate, to pierce or enter
in, to go, to come, to pierce or bore through, to go beyond or passe
through, to sinke in deepely.

These terms  can be used to describe the insertion of the  penis into
the vagina. That 'enter in'  was commonly used for that purpose in Early
Mod.  Engl.  the Dictionary entries below show;

(Wm. Thomas 1550 @ 5253853)  Illuiare, to torne or enter into an other
than hym selfe.

Wm. Thomas (Wm. Thomas 1550 @ 5281141)   Inleiare, to become in her, or
to enter into her.

(Florio 1598 @ 2392947)  Illeiare, to enter into hir. So pierce which
sounds like Piers ( purse ) can mean penetrate or enter into. It can
also mean prick.

(Florio 1598 @ 20154953)  Sforare, to boare, prick, or pierce full of
holes

(Cotgrave 1611 @ 3850285)  Elancer. [To launce, cut, pricke, pierce with
a launcet;]

Do I need to provide proof that the word prick was used to mean penis?
This progression gives us Peter = Pierre/ Piers= Pierce/ pierce= prick=
penis, a man's instrument for penetrating, piercing or entering into
another.

I have stressed the pronunciation of Piers/ Pierce because it may also
have relevance to the peter/ penis equation. Martin Green points out in
his ' The Labyrinth of Shakespeare's Sonnets' ( Alas, out of print.)
pgs. 6/7, that 'pursed' was understood to mean 'wrinkled' or
'contracted' .  "[Thou] didst contract and purse thy brow together" (
Othello,3.3 ) and as such was a term suggestive of the female genitals.
In 'The Englishman's Treasure', London 1586, Thomas Vicary  describes "
her concavitie [that] hath many involutions and pleates, joyned together
in the manner of Rose leaves before they be fully spread or rype, and so
they bee shut together as a Purse mouth, so that nothing may passe forth
but urin, untill the tyme of chylding. "

A man, it could  be said, might 'purse' a woman's 'purse'. The scrotum
was also referred to as a purse. Green, pg. 73, quotes The Questyonary
of Cyrurgyens ( 1542), pointing out 'that the medical learning of
Shakespeare's time stressed the supposed fact, derived from Galen, that
the genitalia of the two sexes were identical,  those of the male
protruding outward, those of the female protruding inward.'  The shape
of the " necke of the  matryce [wombe] is lyke a manes yerde [penis] and
the matryce within is lyke coddes or purce of the genytalles of men. And
as men have two ballockes or stones that passe and appere outwarde so
have women inwarde except that they be bygger in the man than in the
woman."

Seems to me that between the 'purse' and the 'stones' of a man's 'yard'
the name Peter was firmly attached to a man's penis ( linguistically, at
any rate ) pretty early on in the piece.

Cheers,
Rainbow

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Jun 2001 09:37:19 -0400
Subject: 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"

>Perhaps I tend to take things too literally, but I try to imagine what
>sort of man would engage in this extended dirty joking about his
>daughter- with a man hoping to marry her. And I fail.

Lest we think the Elizabethans too different from ourselves, my
neighbors, attending their son's wedding in rural Pennsylvania two weeks
ago, were somewhat taken aback when the bride's father, obviously
concerned about his own posterity, publicly made extended queries as to
whether the groom had inherited "good swimmers."  I'm sure others on
this list could come up with similar and perhaps even more blatant
contemporary allusions.

Ed Pixley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Taylor <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Jun 2001 09:48:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1591 Re: "What's in a name?"

In response to:

> [1]-------------------------------------------------------------
> From:           Mike Jensen <
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> [the] burden of proof is on the person making a claim.  Please show a
> phallic reference...

Now, _there's_ a phallic reference:  "burden".  See Chaucer, CT A673,
A4165; Shakespeare, RJ I.iv, Sonnet 23; and Rabelais.

> to the name Peter in English

That's what we've been working on.

> [3]-------------------------------------------------------------
> From:           Robin Hamilton <
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 >

> The past has been abolished...

Right.  Shakespeare: 'what's past is prologue"
        Freud: 'Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences.'
        Santayana: 'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to
repeat it.'
        Faulkner: 'The past is never dead.  It is not even past.' etc.

>The onus to establish the plausibility of a connotative reading lies on
>the proposer. ...No one makes these rules up.  Who needs rules?  They
>are...simply 'common sense'...We're in the arena of Common
>Law here, not the Napoleonic Code...[but we must have] evidence...
>evidence...evidence...there is no evidence of this. And...there is no
>evidence of [that]...we're talking about Early Modern English -- totally
>different ball-game [ie different rules]...[and the evidence must be]
>properly presented...

Methinks he doth protest too much...

Obviously, we have different ideas about what counts as evidence.  It
seems we also have quite different ideas about the nature of
plausibility and the nature of common sense.  I think plausibility and
common sense do not necessarily require "evidence" of any sort.
Plausibility and common sense may include hope, anxiety, phantasy,
imagination, metaphor, inductive reason, etc, as modes of thought, not
just rigid evidentialism.  In my experience, people just don't think
like that all the time.

> Latin-trained grammar schoolboys (like Bill the Bard) might have got
> this [Peter/rock thing]

Indeed.

> but few else.

Well, this is really the question.  Let's not start begging it.

> [the petra/pierre stem aslo gives rise to "pier" and "Piers"]
> ... wrong. "pier" derives from the Anglo-Norman term
> 'pera', +not+ 'petra'.  (SOED, Onions, ODEE).

I think here the Oxford trilogy(?, is Onions the same as ODEE?) is
letting us down.  Both Partridge and Skeat note the Norman contribution
but also trace pier through OF piere to petra.  We aren't going to
resolve this on SHK.

> Also, to be pedantic,

No kidding.

> "pier" as 'A support of one of the spans of a bridge' dates from the
> 12C; ... 17C[:] 'pier' = (upward pointing) 'pillar'.

I fail to see a substantive difference here, especially with respect to
my point.

> "Piers" is merely one spelling of a whole set of related surnames --
> Pierce, Piers, Peirs, Perse, Peirse, Peers, Pairs.

And Pairs --> Paris.  Voila! But now we have another problem...

> one of the
> reasons biblical scholars put forward for +rejecting+ the words "You are
> Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" as having been spoken by
> the historical Jesus, is the very fact that it +doesn't+ exist as a pun
> in Aramaic, but only appears in the Greek rendition of the Gospels...

This is really off the point, since the pun still originated very long
ago.  I don't particularly care if Jesus spoke it in Aramaic or a Greek
scribe simply made up the joke.  Let's let the biblical scholars argue
with Shipley, and with Potter and Sargent, who claim the joke does occur
in Aramaic (Kephas).

This brings me to suggest again, that in general, books and printed
documentation actually solve very little.  Etymologists and scholars
disagree, sometimes for quite good reasons; each may have "proof" of
his/her claim.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Taylor <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 27 Jun 2001 01:55:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 12.1613 Re: "What's in a name?"
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1613 Re: "What's in a name?"

A few more associations, before returning to the play (RJ):

a) It was not necessary for Shakespeare or his audience to know Latin et
        al, to appreciate the Peter/rock association, since Tyndale put
it in
        English in 1534.
b) English had petroleum (1526), petrify (1594), petrol (1596) as
        derivatives of petra
c) "rock" also meant a distaff (14th C)
d) a "rocket" was a blunt lance (1525)
e) "stone" meant kidney or gall stone by 1000
f) by the 12th C testicles were referred to as "stones"
g) by 1584,  'to stone' meant to castrate
h) a petar (different root; phonetically similar to peter) was a type of
        grenade for penetrating fortifications, it was often held in
        place with a staff and misfired not infrequently (hence,  hoist
on
        one

 

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