encyclopedia

Word Wednesday: Abacot

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Devil's Dictionary Image
Screen Capture
Ambrose Bierce
The Devil’s Dictionary

Generations of reference books once included this term, including the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, dated 1771 […]

James Murray, the famous editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, found that the original word was bycoket, which was indeed a form of headgear, a cap or headdress with a peak both in front and behind, whose name he thought derived from an Old French term for a small castle crowning a hill. He declared abacot to be a ghost word and wrote in an article in [T]he Athenaeum in February 1882:

“There is not, never was, such a word.”

His entry for abacot in the first edition of the OED read in its entirity [sic] “a spurious word found in many dictionaries, originating in a misprint of bycoket.” In the bycoket entry, he told the story:

Through a remarkable series of blunders and ignorant reproductions of error, this word appears in modern dictionaries as abacot. In Hall’s Chronicles a bicocket appears to have been misprinted abococket, which was copied by Grafton, altered by Holinshed to abococke, and finally “improved” by Abraham Fleming to abacot (perhaps through an intermediate abacoc) […]

One may instead argue that since the word has — albeit rarely — been used, then it exists and ought to be treated as such. There is, after all, no shortage of words that have been grossly altered through popular error. The revision of its entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in December 2011 takes this view […]

Michael Quinion
Weird Words (Abacot)
World Wide Words
April 15, 2006 (Updated: June 23, 2012)

You want to know what an abacot/bycoket is? Think Robin Hood. ~Vic

Tune Tuesday: I Will Always Give Thanks 1665

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John Blow Image One
Artist: Robert White (Engraver)
18th Century
Collection: National Library of France
Source: Gallica Digital Library
Photo Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Three hundred, fifty-five years ago, John Blow, an English Baroque organist, composed the “club anthemI Will Always Give Thanks, collaborating with Pelham Humfrey and William Turner. There is not a lot written about this song but, there are two suggestions of it either being an honoring of the victory over the Dutch in 1665 or a simple commemoration of the three men working together.

In late 1668, Blow was appointed to Westminster Abbey as its organist and three of his students were William Croft, Jeremiah Clarke and Henry Purcell. In 1685, he became the private musician to King James II. He was the choir-master at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1687 and became Composer to the Chapel Royal in 1699.

As a side note, 1665 was a bad year. Sounds familiar. ~Vic

Additional Reading & Sources:
Choral Evensong/John Blow Death Anniversary (BBC October 1, 2008)
John Blow Biography (encyclopedia.com)
Tales for Our Time (Mark Steyn Online)
John Blow Anthems (The Gramophone Newsletter Site)
John Blow Commemoration (Westminster Abbey Site)
A Journal of the Plague Year (Wikipedia)
Battle of Lowestoft (Wikipedia)
Great Plague of London (Wikipedia)