pettifogger
Posted: 10 March 2008 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I forget if we have discussed this before.  This is an old Dickensianesque word for a lawyer who is marginally disreputable, not a player, or who tends to focus on minutiae or unimportant points.

One on-line dictionary that I consulted says that the word is from “petit vogue”—which would make it a nice example of an English corruption of a foreign term—similar to “buckaroo” or “Elephant and Castle”.

Is this accurate?

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Posted: 10 March 2008 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t know, but the petty fog the other dictionaries produce seems sufficient without bringing in little French sails (I know, but that’s what babelfish says it is...).
Also, the Elephant and Castle = la infanta de castille is pretty much debunked, AFAIK

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Posted: 10 March 2008 09:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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No, that’s just another etymological folk legend.  Pettifogger is just petty plus the earlier fogger, of which the OED says:

[Of somewhat obscure history; but prob. derived from Fugger, the surname of a renowned family of merchants and financiers of Augsburg in the 15th and 16th c.
The name passed as an appellative into several European langs. In German fugger, fucker, focker (see Grimm) has had the senses ‘monopolist, engrosser’, ‘usurer’, ‘man of great wealth’, ‘great merchant’, and, in certain dialects (doubtless originally through ironical use), ‘huckster, pedlar.’ Kilian 1598 has Flem. focker ‘monopolist, universal dealer’ (monopola, pantopola), giving fuggerus and fuccardus as popular mod.L. equivalents; and in mod.Du. rijke fokker is an avaricious rich man. Walloon foukeur and Sp. fúcar are contemptuous designations for a man of great wealth. A ‘petty Fugger’ would mean one who on a small scale practises the dishonourable devices for gain poularly attributed to great financiers; it seems possible that the phrase ‘petty fogger of the law’, applied in this sense to some notorious person, may have caught the popular fancy, and so have given rise to the specialized use in sense 1. ...]

1. A person given to underhand practices for the sake of gain; chiefly, a contemptuous designation for a lawyer of a low class. Usually preceded by petty (see PETTIFOGGER). Obs.
1576 FLEMING Panopl. Epist. 320 As for this pettie fogger, this false fellowe that is in no credite or countenance. [...]

I leave the jokes as an exercise for the reader.

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Posted: 10 March 2008 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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This one is fascinating.

And LH beat me to it!

I had no idea it was connected to the family name. (I should add, possibly connected).

[ Edited: 10 March 2008 09:08 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 10 March 2008 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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In the comic strip Wizard of Id, there is a lawyer named “Larsen E. Pettifogger.”

FWIW.

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Posted: 10 March 2008 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I leave the jokes as an exercise for the reader.

Well, since that moronic movie title, “Meet the Fockers,” was perpetrated on the public, the fun has gone out of the name. I think it was only outdone in stupidity by the famous “Pecker” about a boy who got the nickname because he pecked at his food.

But I’d be interested to hear from Dutchtoo if the name under discussion, also made famous by the aircraft, in fact is related to “vocker,” which I believe means “breeder.” Speaking of the aircraft, that reminds me my Dutch professor in college was an avid aviationist, I believe. He used to talk about the neat little Fokker he had parked at home.

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Posted: 11 March 2008 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Has Elephant and Castle really been debunked?  It seems hard to come up with an origin otherwise—unless it is just a whimsical combination of words.

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Posted: 11 March 2008 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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One sense of castle is “A small wooden tower used for defence in warfare; a tower borne on the back of an elephant.”

c1400 MANDEVILLE xviii. 191 The Castelles of Tree.. that craftily ben sett up on the Olifantes Bakkes, for to fyghten aȝen hire Enemyes.
1489 CAXTON Faytes of A. I. xxiv. 77 The girdell that helde vp the castell vpon theyre backes.
1503 HAWES Examp. Virt. ix. 167 Syttynge in a castell.. On an olyphauntes backe.
1843 MACAULAY Proph. of Capys xxiv, The beast on whom the Castle With all its guards doth stand.

It was quite natural for a pub to use an elephant with a tower on its back as a vivid and memorable sign.

In general, it’s not a good idea to use one’s own imagination as a standard for the likelihood of word origins; the historical senses of English words are manifold and unpredictable.

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Posted: 11 March 2008 12:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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languagehat - 11 March 2008 09:01 AM

One sense of castle is “A small wooden tower used for defence in warfare; a tower borne on the back of an elephant.”

Indeed, as also seen in fo’c’sle (forecastle) on a ship:

OED -

1. Naut. A short raised deck at the fore end of a vessel. In early use raised like a castle to command the enemy’s decks. Obs. exc. arch. or Hist.

languagehat -

In general, it’s not a good idea to use one’s own imagination as a standard for the likelihood of word origins

And the same is equally true of the origin of pub names. An elephant and castle crops up as a crest in a number of armoreal bearings, the most significant, in this case, beiing the Cutlers’ Company of London, one of the City guilds, the relevance being that knives were often ivory-handled: the South London pub, it is said, was converted about 1760 from a smithy that had the same name and sign. Sic transit gloria mundi - the pub is now a Starbucks outlet ...

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Posted: 12 March 2008 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It wasn’t imagination, just my failure to do my homework.  Thanks.

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Posted: 08 October 2009 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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"doubtless originally through ironical use” says the OED above. I would’ve said ironic use. Are they interchangeable?

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Posted: 09 October 2009 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Elephant and castle” is the standard term in heraldry for an elephant with a howdah on its back. It’s not unique to the Cutlers, by any means; the arms of the Royal Africa Company, the family of Corbet and the city of Dumbarton all bear this charge.

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