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Sherlock Holmes and English
Posted: 26 October 2012 12:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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From The Adventure of the Dying Detective

It is a coolie disease from Sumatra

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Posted: 26 October 2012 12:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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In The Adventure of the Red Circle, someone who is unfamiliar with English “prints” a message. In context, it meant that she was writing in a style imitative of printing, rather than using cursive script. Watson wonders why they did not “write” the message, ie use cursive script.

It’s been a while since I have heard the word “print” used this way. Etymonline dates it back to 1837.

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Posted: 26 October 2012 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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I’ve seen it recently on forms. In fact, as I type this,

“Please write or print legibly.”

appears on a form in my hand.

I think I’ve recently seen a discussion here at wordorigins about cursive (or penmanship) no longer being taught in public schools. I can’t recall the last time I heard it spoken.

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Posted: 26 October 2012 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Yes, it’s extremely common on forms.

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Posted: 26 October 2012 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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When instructed to “print” something, I’ve always written using capital letters. I can’t recall if that was because of what I was taught, or if it was simply an unfounded assumption I made on my own....

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Posted: 26 October 2012 07:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Now that it is mentioned, I do recall seeing it on official forms.

I’ve checked a couple of forms that I have handy and they give the instruction, “USE BLOCK LETTERS”. (Perhaps these days it is felt that the verb “print” would be misunderstood, given that every bozo has a printer at home.)

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Posted: 26 October 2012 07:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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In The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, an assailant uses a “life-preserver”. From the context it clearly means some kind of weapon: I doubt a man could be beaten to death with a life-belt.

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Posted: 27 October 2012 04:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Definition 3 in the OED:

3. A stick or truncheon weighted at one end with lead and intended for use in self-defence.

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Posted: 27 October 2012 12:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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The OED definition as it stands is inadequate.  A life preserver would be a flexible casing (something like a sausage-skin) partially filled with lead shot, not simply “with lead”. With such an instrument, it would be possible to deliver a stunning blow, but unlike with a rigid club, the impact would be distributed over a relatively large area of the skull—thus avoiding a possibly fatal fracture, and consequently, preserving life, while at the same time rendering the fortunate preservee conveniently hors de combat..  According to Wikipedia, blows to the head from rigid weighted clubs or truncheons are frequently fatal (see Wikipedia s.v.  “Cosh")

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Posted: 27 October 2012 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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The OED definition as it stands is inadequate.  A life preserver would be a flexible casing (something like a sausage-skin) partially filled with lead shot, not simply “with lead”.

Are you working on the basis of logic, or from familiarity with the actual implements known by that name?

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Posted: 27 October 2012 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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I must admit i didn’t acquire the information professionally ;-) - I’m only an armchair criminal, I blush to confess. It’s one of those things one’s known for a very long time, but can’t remember how one came about the knowledge. Obviously, it’s from some book or other source that I’ve read, but i can’t remember where. It could be from an Edgar Wallace potboiler (e.g. The Ringer), or from The Adventures of Jimmie Dale, or from Raffles, or from 1001 other crime stories…

there’s an interesting description of a rather different kind of “life preserver”, at: http://www.samuelsouth.btinternet.co.uk/cosh.htm . with this instrument, life was preserved simply by not aiming it at the head, but rather at an elbow, the ribs, etc..

(EDIT)Just came across an even more informative site, here: http://www.donrearic.com/sap.html

[ Edited: 27 October 2012 02:17 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 28 October 2012 03:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Well, certainly the fictional case of The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, the effects of the life-preserver were fatal.

Other news:
In His Last Bow, Holmes uses the term Premier in reference to the British Prime Minister. This usage is not completely unknown today, but is rare.
(Sidenote: although lists of Prime Ministers of the UK usually start with Robert Walpole from 1721, the emergence of that office is fuzzy. The term was used informally during Walpole’s time, and there is no formal documentary use of the term with respect to the United Kingdom until the late 19th century.

In the same story (SPOILER ALERT), Holmes has been posing as an American. Afterwards he says, “I shall no doubt reappear at Claridge’s to-morrow as I was before this American stunt - I beg your pardon, Watson, my well of English seems to be permanently defiled - before this American job came my way.” This strongly suggests that stunt was considered a conspicuous Americanism at the time this story was set, which was in 1914.

This is an unusual Sherlock Holmes story in that it was written in the third person. Doyle puts words in the mouths of German agents to the effect that they have been fomenting the suffragette movement. This is a grave suggestion for a story written in 1917. Perhaps Holmes’s poor opinion of women was partly Doyle’s.

EDIT: took out a superfluous “but”.

[ Edited: 28 October 2012 04:05 AM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 28 October 2012 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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This usage is not completely unknown today, but is rare.

But still common when used in reference to prime ministers of non-Commonwealth countries.

Regarding stunt, the OED, which has citations going back to 1878, says:

Originally belonging to the slang of American college athletics; not in the Cent. Dict. 1891 or in Webster 1897; our earliest quots. show that it seems to have been still current only among schoolchildren and college students. Its general colloquial currency, and its extension of application, seems to have begun early in the 20th cent. In British use it was at first regarded as mainly a soldiers’ word.

The 1878 cite is from Samuel Butler, so the earliest citation of an American word is by an English writer. Although the entry does need updating.

Conan Doyle and the women’s suffrage movement seems to be a complex case. Evidently he championed a lot of women’s rights, but opposed them getting the vote. Here’s what his daughter Jean, who rose to become Commandant of the Women’s Royal Air Force, had to say about it in 1990:

Well, this is rather a tricky one! He undoubtedly thought that women were the superior sex—I was certainly brought up to think that I was not inferior in any way to my brothers, that women are more refined than men. He would not have opposed the suffragette movement on the score of women being unsuitable to have the vote, but he was an idealist in many ways—very concerned with the Divorce Law reform, and he had heard of so many cases of brutality in the home, that he did feel that to have a political divergence of opinion between husband and wife would add to all this violence. He also felt, and this is where the idealistic side of my father came into it, that women would probably, in a happy marriage, influence the husband and that in a way his vote would be her vote. But his objection to the suffragettes was that he was so shocked by their violence. He felt that violence was a demeaning feature of human beings and that, while men were brutish in a way, women were above such things, and he was very very horrified that women should have stooped to violent action.

So, in short, he seems to have been as condescending toward women as one would expect any Edwardian gentlemen to be. Perhaps putting the Germans behind the movement is Doyle’s way to explain away how women in the movement could do some of the more extreme acts. (They were dupes of the Germans, of course. Otherwise, no woman would ever act that way.)

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Posted: 28 October 2012 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Very interesting re Doyle and the suffragettes. Thanks.

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Posted: 29 October 2012 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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"Pertinacity”

Doyle loves this word. A couple of times he using it quite near “impertinance”. This has quite a pleasing effect. The words of course both come from the same Latin root, though via different routes.

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