-by, suffix
Posted: 01 June 2018 01:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3133
Joined  2007-01-30

I’m enjoying Twelfth Night again and in the fourth act Olivia sends Sir Toby packing with a curt, “Rudesby, be gone!” I recall loving that term the first time I encountered it. It means exactly what one would take it to mean, a rude, unmannerly person. But this time I started thinking about that suffix. OED tells us the suffix comes from by, n.1, A place of habitation; a village or town, from northern Old English bý , probably < Old Norse bœ-r , bý-r (Swedish and Danish by) habitation, village, town, < búa to dwell. Thus we get place names like Whitby, Grimsby, Rugby, etc and thence - but I’ll let OED speak for itself.

-by, suffix

Forming 1. names of places (in the north of England), from by n.1, as in Grimsby, Netherby, Kirkby, Ormesby, Rugby, Whitby.

2. descriptive personal appellations, playful or derisive, as idleby, idlesby (= idler, Mr. Idleness), lewdsby, litherby, rudesby, sneaksby, sureby, suresby, wigsby (wearer of a wig), etc., especially frequent in 17th c. Perhaps formed in imitation of the place-names, or rather of personal surnames derived from these, such as Crosby, Littleby, Slingsby, Spilsby, Thoresby, some of which readily lent themselves to paronomasia. Cf. also such appellations as Chatterbox, Butterfingers, Lazybones, Slyboots. Some have suggested identity with -boy.

I haven’t seen some of these before but it’s love at first sight for me, idlesby, lewdsby, suresby, wigsby, they’re delightful and cry out for appropriate use.

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