utter counterfeit
Posted: 10 February 2008 10:40 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Came across this oddity (to me, at least) in a “BookTV” program on our US C-Span network.  The program featured an author who wrote a book on the first US National Banks and the issue of “uttering counterfeit money” was a huge problem.  Had to look it up. Utter used as a verb meaning to “pass” usually counterfeit money.  Is this still current in legal circles?

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Posted: 10 February 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, still used in British law and US too apparently. See this page of Florida statutes on counterfeiting.

831.09 Uttering forged bills, checks, drafts, or notes.

This is the relevant OED entry.

utter, v,1

2. a. To give currency to (money, coin, notes, etc.); to put into circulation; esp. to pass or circulate (base coin, forged notes, etc.) as legal tender.

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Posted: 10 February 2008 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The definition is also in Black’s lLaw Dictionary—including the following: “ To utter and publish an instrument, as a counterfeit note, is to declare or assert, directly or indirectly, by words or actions, that it is good.  To utter, as used in a statute against forgery and counterfeiting, means to offer, whether accepted or not, a forged instrument, with the representation, by words or actions, that it is genuine.”

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Posted: 10 February 2008 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Exclusively used in legal contexts, I think, with a clear implication of criminal intent. In numismatic and monetary (banking &c.) circles, legitimate paper currency is ordinarily spoken of as being “issued”, coin as being “struck” or “issued” --- neither are ever “uttered”.

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Posted: 11 February 2008 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There’s an obsolete sense of utter, dating to the beginning of the 15th century, meaning to put up for sale. The OED notes that these sense was very common in Elizabethan England. The sense appears in Romeo and Juliet, V:i, uttered by the apothecary:

Such mortal drugs I have; but Mantua’s law
Is death to any he that utters them.

The line is highlighted in the movie Shakespeare in Love, where the actor playing the apothecary is constantly practicing this line.

The OED dates the issuing of counterfeit money sense to c.1483, although I’m reading Thomas Hoccleve’s Dialoge for class this week and he has a long section of that poem where he discusses counterfeiting and I’m sure he uses the word; although for the life of me I can’t find it in the text now. This poem is from c.1420.

(One of my tasks in coming days is to go through Hoccleve’s Compleinte and his Dialoge for OED antedatings. Neither poem appears to in the 2nd Edition bibliography and I’ve found several antedatings already.)

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Posted: 11 February 2008 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Forged or fraudulent cheques are uttered rather than issued [British usage, last heard in 1960s in connection with Emil Savundra’s fraudulent insurance empire].

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Posted: 11 February 2008 01:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The word was used in legal contexts for other items than money or cash: you uttered a libel, even though it was written; you could also utter a false certificate. A doctor in Bradford, England in 1861 was accused of uttering a false death certificate (and tried for murder, though acquitted).

It also applied to false certificates of character. In a case in 1864 a man applying for a licence to sell beer, who had obtained the certificate signed by six local householders that he was of good character which he needed before he could obtain the licence, was accused of “knowingly uttering a false certificate” on the grounds that he was clearly not of good character because he was in fact “living an immoral life” by being “in open concubinage” with the unmarried mother of his three children and had been “frequently seen drunk” between 1854 and 1859.

Just to show the Victorians were not as morally rigid as they are often painted, while he was convicted by the local magistrates, the Court of Appeal dismissed the conviction on the grounds that even in 19th century Britain, living openly with the mother of your three bastards did not make you automatically of bad character ...

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Posted: 11 February 2008 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I found the Hoccleve quote in his Dialoge of c.1422, lines 173-75. It’s actually an instance of the word utterer, as in a counterfeiter. This antedates the verb in the OED by some decades and the noun utterer by a couple of centuries:

The vois of ├że peple veniaunce on yow gredith,
Ye cursed men, ye false moneyours,
And on youre outereris and youre maintenours.

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Posted: 11 February 2008 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Excellent find!  The final revision of the Third Edition is going to be far more complete and accurate than any previous one.

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Posted: 11 February 2008 07:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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To D.W.—Please, what are “ maintenours”?  fakers? mountebanks?

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Posted: 11 February 2008 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Great find, Dave.  Such an innocent question I asked just because no one was posting for some days.  Great rewards.

Anyway, to follow up on the noun sense.  Etymonline (the poor man’s on-line OED) has the noun utterance dating from 1454.  The verb “to speak or say” etymonline has from “c. 1400.” But you say that this noun sense of “utterer” as a, counterfeiter at 1422 antedates the verb sense.

Now, I pause while I get the Hertz-rent-a-crane out to lift my paper version of OED1 into my lap ... please bear with me.

O gud Xpist! three pages of microscopic print.

OK, I find aldi’s citation of meaning 2 “to give currency, money...” I think it says 1483.

My grandson is fascinated by the magnifying glass that I used to read these entries and he’s gone off with it, so I’m at a loss.

So, at this point, noun predates verb?

This has all given me a headache.  I’m going to sleep now.

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Posted: 11 February 2008 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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That’s a wonderful find, Dave!

BTW maintenour is maintainer, probably here used in the obsolete legal sense. From OED:

maintainer, n

3. Law. A person who supports a suit in which he or she has no legally recognized interest. Cf. MAINTENANCE n. 1. Obs.

Yep, oeco, c1483 for utter, 2a.

c1483 Chron. London (1827) 110 Every man, because of the said newe exchange, outred gold, and kept sylver.

(And bless you for finding the Thread Review switch).

Fascinating background, zythophile!

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