|Les petits métiers d'autrefois
||[Jul. 17th, 2015|08:36 pm]
I was looking in Langenscheidt because I wanted to know the German word for 'telescope' (I had my reasons), and on my way there I passed the word 'toadeating'.
This is not a word I had met before. The German equivalent is 'Speichelleckerei' which didn't help me much either, but luckily, just adjacent was 'toady', and the translation is pretty similar. So, toadeating, something to do with toadying?
Chambers to the rescue: a toadeater (Chambers gives it a hyphen, but Chambers, as we know, is not to be relied on in the matter of hyphens) is an archaic term for a toady, "a fawning sycophant, orig. a mountebank's assistant whose duty was to swallow, or pretend to swallow, toads."
There's a fantasy trilogy right there, just waiting to be written.
I certainly knew toad-eater from somewhere, but cannot at this moment figure where - though I'm guessing Georgette Heyer, as a pre-emptive strike. Also I find this from Robert Burns...
- though I'm guessing Georgette Heyer, as a pre-emptive strike.
See below: I also got the word from Heyer. I tracked down the reference.
Yup, that's the one. I love Sylvester. "Yes, I do have a lot of books, don't I? And no, I don't believe I have read them all..."
I love Sylvester.
It was the first Heyer I read; it may well remain my favorite. I had read just enough Gothic novels to make it correctly hilarious.
Heh. Me too! You never forget your first...
(I was lucky: my first Heyer, like my first Dick Francis - Reflex, since you ask - was chosen for me, by someone who knew the works well and me better. More like an arranged marriage than a first date, both times.)
The Heyer is very fine, but I love the Burns better, for I am a bad and wicked person...
I love that I post something that seems totally new and bizarre, and my learned friends say "Oh, that old thing!"...
an archaic term for a toady, "a fawning sycophant, orig. a mountebank's assistant whose duty was to swallow, or pretend to swallow, toads."
I know the term and cannot at all remember where I learned it. I associate it with Georgette Heyer. I don't know which one.  Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle!
The retort had made his eyes flash, but the look of dismay which so swiftly succeeded it disarmed him. "If ever I met such a chastening pair as you and Orde! What next will you find to say to me, I wonder? Unnecessary, I'm persuaded, to tell you not to spare me!"
"Now that is the most shocking injustice!" she exclaimed. "When Tom positively toad-eats you!"
"Toad-eats me? You can know nothing of toad-eaters if that is what you think!" He directed a suddenly penetrating look at her, and asked abruptly: "Do you suppose that that is what I like? To be toad-eaten?"
She thought for a moment, and then said: "No, not precisely. It is, rather, what you expect, perhaps, without liking or disliking."
"You are mistaken! I neither expect it nor like it!"
She bowed her head, it might have been in acquiescence, but the ghost of a smile on her lips nettled him.
I am sure the term appears elsewhere in her work as well, but that's where I remember seeing it first. I feel much better having sourced it.
Edited at 2015-07-18 05:54 am (UTC)
Oh, the triumph of having pinned down the half-remembered!
And she makes it a verb, which is quite wonderful. Is it authentic, do you think, or a Heyeresque flourish all her own?
Is it authentic, do you think, or a Heyeresque flourish all her own?
My guess is it's authentic, but also that she used it far more freely than it appears in the historical record, like the now-popular phrase "make a cake of oneself" (which I have been informed occurred once in private correspondence before Heyer fell in love with it and introduced it into her Regency slang).
OK, that's plausible (I have read very little Heyer).