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instead of resisting temptations, has yielded to
them, who has been vanquished (vic-tus) in the
spiritual combat, and instead of bridling his evil
passions, follows and is led by them, confessing
that they are too strong for him. Overcoming
and conquering, it will be remembered, is in Scrip-
ture the usual figure for exercising continence and

1 In Cleasby's Icelandic Dictionary, however, synd 'sin,' is
connected with syyi, A.-Sax. syn, a negation or denial, as if an

2 Dr Morris compares ' nasty, ' 0. Eug. nasky, which comes from
hnesc, soft.


self-restraint, and withstanding the natural im-
pulses to evil. 1

For in the words of one of the sacred books of
Buddha, ' he who lives looking for pleasures only,
his senses uncontrolled, idle, and weak, — Mara (the
tempter) will certainly overcome him, as the wind
throws down a weak tree.'' 2 He will have no more
pith 3 or strength of character to stand against the
storm of temptation when it comes, than has the

1 Cf. ' Vinciam dicebant continentem ' (Festus). Ger. weiclding,
a voluptuary or effeminate person, one who cannot govern his
passions. A ' passionate ' man, it has been truly observed, ' is suf-
fering not doing, suffering his anger, or what other evil temper it
may be, to lord over him without control. Let no one then think
of "passion" as a sign of strength. As reasonably might one
assume that it was a proof of a man being a strong man that he
was often well beaten ; such a fact would be evidence that a strong
man was putting forth his strength on him, but of anything rather
than that he himself was strong. The same sense of passion and
feebleness going together, of the first being born of the second,
lies, as I may remark by the way, in the twofold use of the Latin
word " impotens," which, meaning first weak, means then violent,
and then often weak and violent together ' (Trench, Study of
Words, Lect. III.)

' Strong passions mean weak will.' Coventry Patmore.

' The union of the highest conscience and the highest sympathy,'
says Mrs Jamieson, ' fulfils my notion of virtue. Strength is essen-
tial to it ; weakness incompatible with it.

' We too often make the vulgar mistake that undisciplined or
overgrown passions are a sigu of strength ; they are the signs of
immaturity, of " enormous childhood." ' In this respect it seemed
to her that the Indians of a tribe of Chippawas were ' less niched '
than the depraved ' barbarians of civilisation ' to be met with in
great towns. Commonplace- Book, pp. 8 and 242.

' Virtue,' Lat. virtus, properly denoting manlin-.-s or strength of
character, is near akin to vir, a hero ; vireo, to be strong.

2 Vide Clodd, Childhood of Religions.

3 Compare Burns —

' Come, firm Resolve, take thou the van,
Thou stalk o' carl-hemp in man I '

To Dr Blacklod:, Globe ed. p. 103.


woodbine or acacia that is driven to and fro in the
autumnal blast.

Thus as vitis, the winding plant, the vine, and
Dan. vidie, the willow, Eng. ' withy,' are related
to vitium, meaning first a bend, weakness, or faulti-
ness in the limbs, a deformity, and then a moral
fault, a ' vice ;' so are the c vetch/ Ger. wicke,
the twining plant, and our c wicker,' akin to the
Danish veg, pliant ; Swed. wek, yielding, soft ;
Fin. wika, a bodily defect, also a moral fault,
' weakness,' ' wickedness.'

As a result of this relationship between vitis and
vitium, it might be demonstrated that ' vice ' the
mechanical instrument, and ' vice ' the ethical
term expressive of moral turpitude, are words not
merely superficially alike, but radically and funda-
mentally connected. The latter is obviously the
French vice, Lat. vitium ; the former, which was
originally and properly applicable only to the screw
of the implement, is the French vis, a screw, so
called from its resemblance to the tendril of a vine,
vitis. Compare the Italian vite, a vine, also any
kind of winding screw or vice ; Fr. vrille (for
verille), a gimlet, also the screwlike tendril of a
vine (It. verrina, a gimlet, both, perhaps, from
the Latin veru) ; Gk. lugos, a willow- twig, also a
screw-press, a screw.

It follows that when Hood approximated the



two terms in one of his comic poems for the sake
of a pun —

* As harden'd in vice as the vice of a smith/ —

he was really bringing together words which, how-
ever long separated and widely divergent in point
of meaning, still contained the same stem vit, and
the same latent signification of being bent, curved,
or deflected.

( 115 )



In most languages the type of a fool or simpleton
has been sought amongst the race of what So-
phocles calls ' light-minded birds.' l Everybody
has observed the solemn stupidity of the owl, the
air of profoundest wisdom and imperturbable gra-
vity with which it blinks its unspeculative eyes —
the absurd pomposity of the strutting turkey-cock
as he ruffles to the full extent of his feathers,
and inflates his gorge with that lofty air of self-
importance which first suggested the word i gor-
geous/ Who has not felt irritated at the utter
insensibility to danger that the hen exhibits till it
is just upon her, and the altogether dispropor-
tionate amount of panic and commotion with
which she then shrieks away from before it — at
the aggressive hiss with which the braggadocio

1 Kovcpovowv (pv\ov opvidwv (Antig. 342, Wunder). ' He was far
from one of the volatile or bird-witted,' says Dr Jebb in his ' Life of
Nich. Ferrar,'p. 272.


goose strains out her neck after a retreating foe,
and proclaims her imbecility ? Who has not
smiled at the swelling vanity and ostentation
wherewith the peacock mantles and distends his
splendid train, 1

i With all his feathers puft for pride ; '

and who, as he observed them, has not been re-
minded of their counterparts for silliness and
stupidity that he has sometimes met amongst the
unfeathered bipeds ? 2

If a person does anything particulary foolish, we

1 Compare the Portuguese pavonear-se, ' to play the fop or beau,
to strut and show one's self about as the peacock does his feathers '

2 ' That unfeathered two-legged thing, a son.'

Dryden, Absalom and AchitopheL

In the following curious passage from Thomas Adams' sermon
entitled ' Lycanthropy ' we have different sorts of men likened to
fowls : — ' There is the peacock, the proud man ; stretching out his
painted and gaudy wings. The desperate cock, the contentious ;
that fights without any quarrel. The house-bird, the sparrow ; the
emblem of an incontinent and hot adulterer. The lapwing, the
hypocrite ; that cries, " Here it is, here it is ;" here is holiness
when he builds his nest on the ground, is earthly-minded, and runs
away with the shell on his head ; as if he were perfect when he is
his once pipient. There is the owl, the night-bird, the Jesuited
seminary ; that skulks all day in a hollow tree, in some Popish vault,
and at even hoots and flutters abroad, and shrieks downfall and
ruin to king, church, and commonwealth. There is the bat, the
neuter ; that hath both wings and teeth, and is both a bird and a
beast ; of any religion, of no religion. There is the cormorant, the
corn-vorant, the mire-drumble, the covetous ; that are ever rooting
and rotting their hearts in the mire of this world. There is also
the vulture, that follows armies to prey upon dead corpses ; the
usurer, that waits on prodigals to devour their decaying fortunes.
Some men have in them the pernicious nature of all these foul
fowls. '


say he is a c goose ; ' if lie is awkward, stupid,
inexperienced, and generally 6 callow,' we say that
he is a gawk, an owl, an oaf, a booby, a pigeon, a
daw, a gull, a dotterel. Now i gawk ' is the A. -Sax.
geac, (1) a cuckoo, (2) a beardless boy, a simpleton.

Skeg, a name which the Northampton folk have
for a fool or stupid fellow, has the same meaning.
It is only a mutilated form of suck-egg, which is
also applied to the cuckoo. {Vide Sternberg, s.v.)

' Oaf,' 1 formerly spelt auf, ouphe (Shakspere),
aupk (Dryden), 2 aulf (Drayton), is probably iden-
tical with auf (an owl), 0. H. Ger. ufo, (Lett.)
ukpis, (A.-Sax.) uf huf, (Pers.) kuf. z

Compare the Italian gofo, gufo, guffo, c an owle ;
also a simple foole or grosse-pated gull, a ninnie
patch ' (Florio). Fr. goffe, dull, sottish ; Cumber-
land goff, guff, a simpleton ; 0. Eng. ' gofish,'

t Beware of gofisslie peoples speck'

Chaucer, Troilus and Creseide, III. 1. 585.

i Booby ' was once the name of some species of
bird noted for its stupidity. Thus we read in the
' Travels of Sir Tho. Herbert' (1665)—

1 The word is complicated by its resemblance to the prov. Encr.
olf, olph, or alp (a bull-finch). — Systema Agricultures, 1687.
' Alpe, a bryde ' (i.e., a bird). — Prompt. Parv. It also occurs iu
Chaucer. Wedgwood connects 'oaf ' with ' elf.'

2 ' You Auph you, do you not perceive it is the Italian seignior ? '

Limberham, i. 1, Plays, vol. iv. p. 302 (1763).

3 Pictet, Orig. Indo-Europ., voL i. p. 471.


' At which time some Bodbycs pearcht upon the Yard Arm of
our Ship, and suffered our men to take them, an Animal so
very simple as becomes a Proverb ' (p. II). 1

The dodo also, it would seem, was given its
name, probably by the Dutch, on account of its
well-known obtusity. Cf. Frisian dod (a simple-
ton), (Dut.) duty (Scot.) dutty to doze, (Fr.)
doduy i doddypoll,' a blockhead. ' The Dodo, a
Bird the Dutch call Walgh-vcgel or Dod-eersen '
(Herbert, p. 402).

Of similar origin is c dotterel/ a bird proverbial
for its doting stupidity. It was supposed to be so
intent in imitating the motions of the fowler that
it allowed itself to be taken without an effort to

' Dotterels, so named (says Camden) because of their dotish
foolishnesse, which being a kinde of birds as it were of an apish
kinde, ready to imitate what they see done, are caught by
candle-light according to fowlers gesture : if he put forth an
arme, they also stretch out a wing : sets he forward his legge,
or holdeth up his head, they likewise doe theirs : in brief e,
what ever the fowler doth, the same also doth this foolish bird
untill it bee hidden within the net.'

Britain (Trans. Holland, 1637), p. 543.

1 From a like insensibility to danger, another bird is commonly
known as the ' foolish guillemot,' or the him ; Scot, lungie. Loon
(dolt or booby, ' He called the tailor lown,' Othell©,. ii. 3) was an old
Eng. name for the great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), and is
probably a corruption of the name lumme, which, also found in the
form loom, loon, is in some places given to the diver (colymbus),
Dan. lorn, Fin. leomme, Urn. Cf. Dut. loen, Ger. liimmel, a booby
or clown. The name is said to have been applied to the Colymbidse
on account of their lame and awkward gait in walking.

GULL. 119

* This is a mirthmaking bird, so ridiculously mimical that
he is easily caught (or rather catcheth himself) by his over
active imitation.' Fuller, Worthies (1662), p. 149.

' For as you creep, or cowr, or lie or stoop, or go,
So marking you with care the apish bird doth do,
And acting everything, doth never mark the net,
Till he be in the snare, which men for him have set/
Drayton, Polyolbion, Song 25. 1

In Latin it is called morinellus, from morio,
morus (a fool). i To dor the dotterel ' is an old
phrase meaning to hoax, cheat, or make a fool of.
And so ' dotterel ' came to be used for a greenhorn,
a simpleton, a dupe, as, for instance, in the old
play quoted by ISTares —

E. Our dotterel then is caught.

B. He is, and just

As dotterels used to be : the lady first
Advanc'd toward him, stretch'd forth her wing, and he
Met her with all expressions. Old Couple, x. 483.

1 Gull,' 2 denotes any young unfledged bird while
covered with yellow down (' golden guls,' Sylvester ;
Shakspere's 'golden couplets ' of the dove), being
near akin to the Swedish gul (yellow), (It.) giallo,
(Ft.) jaune, i.e., jalne, (0. H. Ger.) gelo, 'yellow,'
and Eng. 'gold.' So the French bejaune, i.e., bec-

1 Quoted in Tooke's 'Diversions of Purley,' p. 464, ed. 1840.

2 As an inexperienced person that cannot shift for himself is
called a gull, i.e., callow, so a knowing, wide-awake person in slang
terminology is said to be 'fly,' ' pretty fly.' This is the Old English
4 flygge,' fledged, mature, able to fly; pro v. Eng. Jligged, from
A.-Sax. fliogan (to fly). ' Flygge, as bryddys, Maturus, volatilis"
(Prompt. Parv., c. 1440).


jaune (} r ellow-beak), 1, a young bird ; 2, c a novice,
ninny, doult, noddy ' (Cotgrave). Cf. our ' green-
horn.' Fr. niais (a nestling, from nidus), i a
noddy, cockney, dotterell, peagoose ; a simple,
witless, and inexperienced gull ' (Cotgrave).

Cf. ' pigeon ' (a soft, gullible fellow, a dupe),
the Italian pigione, pippione (from pipire, to chirp),
(1) a pigeon, (2) a credulous gull; pippionare, to
gull or dupe a person ; dindon, in the Parisian
argot, a fool ; dindonner, to dupe. ' Daw,' ' wood-
cock/ and i widgeon ' were also proverbial expres-
sions for simplicity and foolishness, e.g. —

' In these nice sharp quillets of the law 7 ,
Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.'

Shakspere, 1st Ft. Henri/ VI. iL 4.

' this woodcock ! what an ass it is ! '

Taming of Shrew, i. 2.

' The witless woodcock.' Drayton.

' Woodcocke beware thine eye.'

Percy Folio, i. 44.

(Fr.) beccasse, a woodcock, i beccassd, gulled,
abused (i.e., deceived), woodcockised' (Cotgrave).

'Oh Clnysostome thon deservest to be stak'd ... for being
such a goose, widgeon, and niddecock to dye for love.'

Gayton's Festivous Notes}

1 Cf. (Scot.) 'sookin* turkey,' a simpleton (Jamieson). (Fr.)
dindon and linotte, a blockhead, (Fr.) butor, butorde, (1) a bittern,
(2) a stupid lout. (Sp.) loco, stupid, (It.) locco, a fool; alocco, (1)
an owl, (2) a simple gull (Florio), from Latin ulucus, an owl ;
Sp.) paparo, a simpleton, (It.) papcro, a gosling ; (Gk.) niircpos,

DUPE. 121

The foregoing remarks have been made in order
to show that the comparison of a simple person
easily deceived to some one or other of the orni-
thological species was customary and general. We
now come, at length, to the word ' dupe.' The
French verb duper (to deceive) does not occur in
Cotgrave's 6 French Dictionary ' (1660), but we find
in it ' dupe, duppe, l a whoop, or hooper , a bird
that hath on her head a great crest or tuft of
feathers, and loves ordure so well, that she ever
nestles in it.' It is another form of c hupe, fiuppe,
the whoope or dunghill cock/ which was supposed
to derive its name from the crest or tuft of feathers,
(hupe), which is its most conspicuous feature. It
really corresponds to the Latin upupa (the hoopoe),
(Gk.) epops (eTTo-v/r), (Copt.) kukupka, (Pers.) bubu,
(Syr.) kikup/ia, (Heb.) dukipkatk. 2

(1) a seabird, (2) a featherbrained simpleton, a booby, noddy (L.
and Scott) ; (Gael.) dreollan, (1) a wren, (2) a silly person, a ninny.
The Arabs have a proverb ' Stupid as an ostrich.' When we use
1 buzzard,' however, as an emblem of obtuseness, the reference is
not to the hawk so called, but to a buzzing beetle of the same name.
Cf. the French proverb, ' Estourdi comme un haneton ' (Cotgrave),
(As dull or heedless as a cockchafer). So prov. Eng. dumbledore, a
cockchafer, also a stupid fellow.

1 It. upupa, Prov. upa, Berry patois dube. For the prefixed d com-
pare 'daffodil,' 0. Eng. affodilly, affodyle (Prompt. Parv.) (Lat. Gk.)
asphodelus ; 'dappled' = (Fr.) pommele, as it were streaked like an
apple, cf. the Icelandic apalgrdr, apple-grey (and yet in that lan-
guage depill is a spot).

2 All these words, as well as our ' hoopoe ' are evidently intended
to imitate the cry of the bird, which 'utters at times (Mr Yarrell
tells us) a sound closely resembling the word hoop, hoop, hoop '
(Penny Cycl. vol. xxvi. p. 34). In Ozell's translation of Rabelais it is

122 DUPE.

(Heb.) duktpkath (the hoopoe) according to some
is compounded of duk and pkatk, literally i the
dung-cock.' At all events the bird was considered
notoriously unclean in its feeding and way of liv-
ing generally. Thus Pliny says —

1 The Houpe or Vpupa ... is a nasty and filthy bird other-
wise, both in the manner of feeding and also in nestling : but
a goodly faire crest or comb it hath, that will easily fold and
be plaited : for one while she will draw it in, another while
set it stiffe upright along the head.'

Holland's Trans., vol. i. p. 287 (1634).

Compare these old French verses —

1 Dedans un creux avec fange et ordure
La Huppe fait ses oeufs et sa niaison.' l

1 La Hupe. Manger ne veux sinon ordure,
Car en punaisie ie me tiens,
Si ie suis de belle figure,
Beaute sans bonte ne vaut rien.' 2

That a bird of so fine an appearance should live
in so squalid an abode, and on such foul fare,
was the reason, no doubt, why it passed into
a byword for simplicity and gullibility. For

called whoop. The Arabic name for it hud-hud, the French put-put
and prov. German wut-wut have a like onomatopoetic origin. The
Greeks thought they recognised in its cry the transformed Tereus
exclaiming irov, trod (where, where). Cf. Farrar, Chapters on Lan-
guage, p. 29.

1 Portraits d'Oyseaux, quoted in ' Penny Cycl.' vol. xxvi. p. 35.

2 From ' Le Grand Calendrier et Compost des Bergers ' (1633), a
very curious old French almanack, of which Nisard gives an
account in his ' Histoire des Livres Populaires,' vol. i. p. 84 seq.

DUPE. 123

while the French have a proverb, l Sale comme
une huppe, there lies in the background a remem-
brance that it is un oiseau Impp6, i.e., crested,
high-crowned, and along with this perhaps an
ironical innuendo that it is noble, distinguished,
intelligent. 1 For kuppe also has this meaning,
' proud, lofty, stately, that bears himself high,
that thinks well of himselfe ' (Cotgrave). Now it
was most probably this pretentious air of the hoo-
poe 2 with its lofty crest, which certainly does give
it an air of grotesque importance, contrasted with
its reputedly low and filthy habits, that caused it
to be selected as the type of a humbug, a stupid
pretender, who claims to be considered fine and
clever when he is really quite the contrary, a simple
person easily deceived, or in one word — a dupe.
This metaphorical use of the word is not, as Wedg-
wood remarks, without its parallels in other lan-
guages, for in Polish dudek, a hoopoe, is also a
simpleton, a fool ; in Italian bubbola is a hoopoe,
bubbolare, to cheat, or (to use the old cant term)
' to bubble ' one. Thus it appears that to gull, to

1 E.g. e Les plus huppes y sont pris,' a French proverb quoted
by M. Littre in his great dictionary, s.v. (The most skilful are

1 Bien huppe qui pourra m'attraper sur ce point.'

Moliere, £cole des Femmes, i. 1.

8 ' In spite of the martial appearance of its crest, it is said to be
excessively timid, and to fly from an encounter with the smallest
bird that opposes it.' Johns, British Birds in their Haunts, p. 31 1.

12-4 DUPE.

pigeon, to bubble, or to dupe a person means lite-
rally to delude and ensnare him like a simple bird.
' To cajole ' is of a like signification. It is the
French cajoler (also enjoler), to encage, or entice
into a cage, being from the Old French jaiole, (Sp.)
gay old, (It.) gabbhiola, (Lat.) caveola, cavea, (a

I may add as a supplement to the previous
remarks the following curious legend about the
hoopoes, which traces back their traditional folly
to an ancient date. Mr Curzon, from whose very
interesting c Visits to Monasteries in the Levant ' I
quote it, heard it from the lips of a Mussulman cob-
bler. One day, when the great King Solomon was
on a journey, he was sorely distressed by the heat of
the sun. Observing a flock of hoopoes flying past,
he begged them to form a shelter between him and
the fiery orb. The king of the hoopoes immediately
gathered his whole nation together, and caused
them to fly in a cloud above his head. King
Solomon, grateful for this service, offered to bestow
on his feathered friends whatever reward they
might ask. After a day's consultation, the king of
the hoopoes came with his request.

1 Then Solomon said, " Hast thou considered well what it is
that thou desirest ? " And the hoopoe said, " I have considered
well, and we desire to have golden crowns upon our heads."
So Solomon replied, " Crowns of gold shall ye have : but,
behold, thou art a foolish bird ; and when the evil days shall
come upon thee, and thou seest the folly of thy heart, return

DUPE. 125

here to me, and I will give thee help." So the king of the
hoopoes left the presence of King Solomon, with a golden
crown upon his head. And all the hoopoes had golden crowns ;
and they were exceeding proud and haughty. Moreover, they
went down by the lakes and the pools, and walked by the
margin of the water, that they might admire themselves as it
were in a glass. And the queen of the hoopoes gave herself
airs, and sat upon a twig ; and she refused to speak to the
merops her cousin, and the other birds who had been her
friends, because they were but vulgar birds, and she wore a
crown of gold upon her head.

1 Now there was a certain fowler who set traps for birds ;
and he put a piece of a broken mirror into his trap, and a
hoopoe that went in to admire itself was caught. And the
fowler looked at it, and saw the shining crown upon its head ;
so he wrung off its head, and took the crown to Issachar, the
son of Jacob, the worker in metal, and he asked him what it
was. So Issachar, the son of Jacob, said, " It is a crown of
brass." And he gave the fowler a quarter of a shekel for it,
and desired him, if he found any more, to bring them to him,
and to tell no man thereof. So the fowler caught some more
hoopoes, and sold their crowns to Issachar, the son of Jacob ;
until one day he met another man who was a jeweller, and he
showed him several of the hoopoes' crowns. Whereupon the
jeweller told him that they were of pure gold ; and he gave
the fowler a talent of gold for four of them.

' Now when the value of these crowns was known, the fame
of them got abroad, and in all the land of Israel was heard the
twang of bows and the whirling of slings ; bird-lime was made
in every town ; and the price of traps rose in the market, so
that the fortunes of the trap-makers increased. Not a hoopoe
could show its head but it was slain or taken captive, and the
days of the hoopoes were numbered. Then their minds were
filled with sorrow and dismay, and before long few were left
to bewail their cruel destiny. At last, flying by stealth through
the most unfrequented places, the unhappy king of the hoopoes
went to the court of King Solomon, and stood again before the
steps of the golden throne, and -with tears and groans related
the misfortunes which had happened to his race.


' So King Solomon looked kindly upon the king of the
hoopoes, and said unto him, " Behold, did I not warn thee of
thy folly in desiring to have crowns of gold? Vanity and
pride have been thy ruin. But now, that a memorial may
remain of the service which thou didst render unto me, your
crowns of gold shall be changed into crowns of feathers, that
ye may walk unharmed upon the earth." Now when the
fowlers saw that the hoopoes no longer wore crowns of gold
upon their heads, they ceased from the persecution of their
race ; and from that time forth the family of the hoopoes have
flourished and increased, and have continued in peace even to
the present day ' (p. 152). 1

Their namesakes, the ( dupes,' likewise continue
a numerous family unto this day. That they
flourish and walk unharmed upon the earth because
they are merely feather-headed, unfortunately can-
not be asserted with equal truth. So long as they
can afford a golden spoil they are sure to be
marked down, entrapped, and plucked by Mr
Affable Hawk, his relation Sir Mulberry, and
other professional fowlers. Dupes with crowns of
gold have indeed much to contend with. They,
too, however, lose their attractiveness, and cease to
be persecuted when relieved of their perilous pos-

When the ' dotterel ' was adduced above as an
instance of a bird proverbial for its foolishness, it
was implied that it derived its name from its
doting obtuseness. This was Camden's opinion,

1 One name for the bird in Persian is murghi Sulaymdn, * Solo-
mon's bird.'

DUNCE. 127

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Online LibraryAbram Smythe PalmerLeaves from a word-hunter's note-book → online text (page 8 of 21)