Bounder
Posted: 22 March 2014 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The phrase quoted by lh in another thread (…."and called his cannon a Bertie!") brought to mind a well-loved story (The Open Window, by “Saki"), and a word I’ve often wondered about: bounder. In the story, one of the characters sings a line ("Bertie, why do you bound?") from a popular song of that time (about 1910), “Bertie the Bounder”.
The dictionaries to which I have access define “a bounder” in fairly general terms, as “a dishonorable man”, “a cad”, etc.. Its use in that sense is clearly of relatively recent origin: Webster’s for 1828 and 1913 both define “bounder” literally, as a person who fixes boundaries, and nothing else. 
Has anyone any information about the origin of this word, and about differences in meaning (if any) from other words such as “cad”, or “rotter”?

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Posted: 22 March 2014 10:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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lionello - 22 March 2014 02:31 PM

The phrase quoted by lh in another thread (…."and called his cannon a Bertie!") brought to mind a well-loved story (The Open Window, by “Saki"), and a word I’ve often wondered about: bounder. In the story, one of the characters sings a line ("Bertie, why do you bound?") from a popular song of that time (about 1910), “Bertie the Bounder”.
The dictionaries to which I have access define “a bounder” in fairly general terms, as “a dishonorable man”, “a cad”, etc.. Its use in that sense is clearly of relatively recent origin: Webster’s for 1828 and 1913 both define “bounder” literally, as a person who fixes boundaries, and nothing else. 
Has anyone any information about the origin of this word, and about differences in meaning (if any) from other words such as “cad”, or “rotter”?

I’ve never encountered the word in recent works of fiction, nor have I ever heard it spoken. There is a different meaning listed below from the OED.

1. slang. A four-wheeled cab or trap, so called from the bounding motion of the vehicle in passing over rough roads. Obs.

1842 Hints to Freshmen (Hotten, 1865), The man who drives has a well-appointed ‘bounder’ of his own.
1859 J. C. Hotten Dict. Slang 11 Bounder, a four wheel cab.
1864 J. C. Hotten Slang Dict. (new ed.) 82 Bounder,..a University term for a trap.
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2. A person of objectionable manners or anti-social behaviour; a cad. Also in milder use as a term of playful abuse. (Occas. applied to a woman.) colloq.

a1889 in Barrère & Leland Dict. Slang (1889) (at cited word), If I ordered the particular hat I desired I should be taken for a bounder.
1889 in Barrère & Leland Dict. Slang (1889) (at cited word), Bounder (university), a student whose manners are despised by the soi-disant élite, or who is beyond the boundary of good fellowship…(society), a swell, a stylish fellow, but of a very vulgar type.
1890 Times 2 May 13/5 To speak of a man as a bounder is to allude to him as an outsider or cad.
1899 W. Archer Study & Stage 48 That is an anti-social proceeding, the conduct of a ‘bounder’.
1912 A. Brazil New Girl at St. Chad’s viii. 126 Flossie is a bounder!
1917 J. Adams Student’s Guide 27 A prig is one who has too much self-respect, a bounder one who has too little.
1919 P. G. Wodehouse Damsel in Distress vi. 70 He had been marched up the Haymarket in the full sight of all London by a bounder of a policeman.
1930 W. S. Maugham Cakes & Ale xvii. 195 Women..adore a bounder.
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Posted: 23 March 2014 03:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think the OED is wrong on this one and that the definition belongs in the other entry for bounder, referring to the marking of boundaries, rather than one who leaps about. (The entry has not been revised since the 1933 supplement.)

The key is in one of the early citations, from Barrere and Leland’s slang dictionary, one “who is beyond the boundary of good fellowship.” The slang word is relatively recent, from the late nineteenth century, but the metaphor is very, very old. In Beowulf, Grendel is referred to as a mearcstapa, literally march-stepper, one who walks about or haunts the border lands. Not the same word, but the same idea.

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Posted: 23 March 2014 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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What an interesting history—I’d always wondered about “bounder”!

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Posted: 23 March 2014 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dave Wilton - 23 March 2014 03:42 AM

I think the OED is wrong on this one and that the definition belongs in the other entry for bounder, referring to the marking of boundaries, rather than one who leaps about. (The entry has not been revised since the 1933 supplement.)

The key is in one of the early citations, from Barrere and Leland’s slang dictionary, one “who is beyond the boundary of good fellowship.” The slang word is relatively recent, from the late nineteenth century, but the metaphor is very, very old. In Beowulf, Grendel is referred to as a mearcstapa, literally march-stepper, one who walks about or haunts the border lands. Not the same word, but the same idea.

And the same idea holds in beyond the pale, which by the bye I had always assumed originated with the region of English settlement known as the Pale in Ireland but OED sternly naysays me:

The theory that the origin of the phrase relates to any of several specific regions, such as the area of Ireland formerly called the Pale (see sense 4b) or the Pale of Settlement in Russia (see sense 4c), is not supported by the early historical evidence and is likely to be a later rationalization.

That is an interesting history, I’d simply never connected bounder with boundary. Saki’s Open Window is an absolute gem of a story. I first came across it as a young boy; the library had a wonderful anthology edited by Dorothy Sayers, Tales of Mystery, Suspense and Horror and therein I found the story. It was my introduction to Saki and led to a lifelong love affair with the author.

To my absolute delight I find that the lyrics to Bertie, Why Do You Bound? are by George Grossmith, another of my favourite writers of the era. The Diary of a Nobody remains one of the funniest books ever written.

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Posted: 23 March 2014 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave Wilton - 23 March 2014 03:42 AM

I think the OED is wrong on this one and that the definition belongs in the other entry for bounder, referring to the marking of boundaries, rather than one who leaps about. (The entry has not been revised since the 1933 supplement.)

The key is in one of the early citations, from Barrere and Leland’s slang dictionary, one “who is beyond the boundary of good fellowship.” The slang word is relatively recent, from the late nineteenth century, but the metaphor is very, very old. In Beowulf, Grendel is referred to as a mearcstapa, literally march-stepper, one who walks about or haunts the border lands. Not the same word, but the same idea.

According to my Partridge: A dictionary of slang and unconventional English: ( which might be doubtfully au courant) A four-wheeler cab a ‘growler’ : ca. 1855-1900.--2. (University) a dog cart: ca. 1840-1900.--3. One whose manners or company are unacceptable: Cambridge university, from ca. 1883.  Lit. one who bounds ‘offensively’ about.--4. Hence, a vulgar or well dressed man, an unwelcome pretender to society, a vulgarly irrepressible person--gen. a man--within society: from ca. 1855.

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Posted: 23 March 2014 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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BTW the source for those early cites is available online:Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant (1889) by Barrere & Leland

Damn, the curse of wikilinks strikes again. I have no idea how to fix these links, did we ever find out? In the meantime if you type barrere leland into google it’s about the 3rd link down, on wikisource.

Edit: see Dr T’s post below for solution.

[ Edited: 23 March 2014 03:26 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 23 March 2014 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Try copying and pasting this into the URL bar of your browser:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Index:Dictionary_of_Slang,_Jargon_&_Cant_(1889)_by_Barrere_&_Leland.djvu

The entry for “bounder” begins on p. 170 and continues to 171.

Tolkien was probably having a little joke in using the term “Bounders” to designate the corps of hobbits who were employed to patrol the bounds of the Shire and keep out, or at least report, suspicious-looking wanderers.

[ Edited: 23 March 2014 02:39 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 23 March 2014 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thank you, Doc! That works perfectly.

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Posted: 23 March 2014 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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According to my Partridge: A dictionary of slang and unconventional English: ( which might be doubtfully au courant)

Take Partridge with a grain of salt. Not only is he woefully out of date, but also much of what he states as fact is guesswork on his part. His dates are especially inaccurate; he guesses as to when the term might have entered into oral use based on the citations he has available rather than giving the date the of citation. He can be useful, but never assume that he is correct unless independently verified.

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Posted: 24 March 2014 12:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Thanks, all, for a most illuminating discussion. Hwaet endlessly astonishing, the things participants in this forum come up with!  ;-)

When I raised this subject, I wondered if anyone would mention King Edward VII, who was called “Bertie” by his family. By all accounts, his personal life appears to have been of a sort that would qualify him for the title “Bounder”. Is it possible that the song might have been a veiled critical reference to the King’s disreputable “private” life? Royal private lives appear to be very much in the public domain in Britain nowadays: what was the position in 1910?

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