Please get your e(n)tymology right OOPS

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

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Bil
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Post by Bil »

It's my current (possibly wrong) understanding that "pollaxe" derives from poll meaning head , now that could either be down to the height of the shaft (head height) or possibly due to the fact that it is good at breaking them (heads that is :D )
The shaft is usually refered to as the que, a term that we still use for a wooden shaft today (snooker anyone?).

Either way that means it actually transltes as "headaxe" which in anybody's book is a very good description.
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Sophia
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Post by Sophia »

Bil,

First things first the COD gives the spelling as poleaxe/poleax rather than pollaxe.The given etymology is indeed that poll meaning head has been prefixed to the axe. Various people on this forum would appear to disagree, but until I can see some academic references to back it up I would suggest is the most reliable in academic terms.

The why of the name is generally a more complicated issue - would need to check an OED to see what the listed first written usage is, also if there are references to any articles on the issue.

The word for the shaft which you give as que which I assume is a variation on the word queue, this is ultimately derived from the Latin cauda meaning tail via the French (queue de cheval meaning both a horse's tail and a ponytail as in the hairstyle).

Sophia :D

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gregory23b
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Post by gregory23b »

one of those odd ones where elements of it play their part.

Latin Palus = stake Old Englis - Pal Middle English Pol, English Pole
ME pollax, polax becomes poleaxe

The confusing thing is that the back of an axe is called a poll, head, but the axes themselves are called axes, other wise if poll axe was to do with this aspect then all axes would be pollaxes (felling axes say - not war ones), they are not.

We see pollax as poll = head rather than an irregular spelling of Pole.

an axe on a pole = poleaxe

to add more grit to the gears the later verb to pollaxe - victorian is a description of the effect of being felled, as if hit by a poleaxe, invariably this felling is a result of being hit on the head (alluding to poll) by an axe (often pigs or cows) - but the term is much later.

I was of the understanding that it was about polls - heads until I not only looked up Partridge but looked at the middle english dictionary.

they all relate but not at the same time.
middle english dictionary

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Post by Sophia »

Drat, been outgeeked there. :evil:

Must bear in mind that my COD is 1982 edition. This is why I recommend OED on-line via library as is bang up-to-date and will reflect the most recent research. :roll:

Note to self - not only purchase Middle French Dictionary but also Middle English, Middle High German and anything else I can find. Plus get hold of this chap Partridge's book. There are definitely gaps in my library. :D

Sophia

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gregory23b
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Post by gregory23b »

Middle english dictionary is online, only organisations can subscribe but the nice people have a facility where people can use it who are not subscribers

http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/m/med/

the password changes each month.

but a very useful tool, as it list the context, the phrasing and what document it is related, plus year. Also where the word is related to others.

It has expanded my brain a bit mainly to look up items such as pavises, bows (long bows) and even broad swords - which is a medieval term contrary to some ideas.

Origins - Eric Partridge

Amazon have a few copies old and new, I didn't realise how expensive it is , I have had mine a while...
middle english dictionary

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Post by Sophia »

Nothing in this life is cheap - I will try abebooks for Partridge - maybe able to get an ex-library copy cheaper.

Middle English link noted - how does one find out when password is updated?

Sophia :D

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gregory23b
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Post by gregory23b »

The password is updated every month, you will enjoy it, an invaluable resource.

Nothign worth having is cheap.
middle english dictionary

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Post by Sophia »

Tell me - all my realy enjoyable hobbies have ended up costing both time and money. No regrets though always managed to have a ball (thinks - still have my fencing kit somewhere may be I should take up with The Exiles and learn a different style of fighting from that I was taught as an adolescent).

Sophia :D

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Sophia wrote:-

Definition of a Luxemburger (where my parents have lived since 1979 and I went to school) - someone who speaks at least three languages by the time they go to secondary school.
Oh gosh, yes. There was a young lad we met at Wiltz station who spoke English, German, French and Italian fluently, passable Flemish and Spanish, and was working on Portuguese and (I believe) Russian. He was about 17 - 18. We were palpably impressed, and told him so. He was very modest about it, and we asked him what he was hoping to do when he grew up. He proudly declared it was his ambition to be Station Master at Luxembourg City Station ...!

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Sophia
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Post by Sophia »

Sounds about par for the course. Use to get the train to and from village to school in Luxembourg city. Only place where you can here the local stopping train to Wiltz announced in the same number of languages and with the same panache as the Rome express.

Sophia :D

P.S. if you were in Wiltz I take it you were checking out Battle of the Bulge stuff - impressive country isn't. If you are feeling energetic there are some great walks over the more inaccesible bits of the BOB area in both Luxembourg and Belgium.

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Post by m300572 »

I was under the impression that a pollaxe?poeaxe was so called as it was derived from a slaughterman's tool - a pol axe was used to kill cattle/sheep by striking them on the poll with an axe which had a projection on the butt of the blade which would penetrate the animals brain and kill it quickly.

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gregory23b
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Post by gregory23b »

poleaxe is listed several times as a weapon of war in medieval texts, slaughtermen used axes (the back 'poll) and mallets to dispatch pigs and cows.

this is a neat diagram of the parts of an axe, the poll is not necessarily spiked for this one

http://www.gransfors.com/htm_eng/yxboken/bok24.htm
middle english dictionary

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Post by Sophia »

The whole Poleaxe debate sounds to me as a bit Chicken and Egg'ish.

I suspect that there is a grain of truth in both origins.

I will have a chat with my Mum at some point and see if she can point me in the direction of any good sources for this sort of discussion.

Sophia :D

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