Thursday, April 24, 2014

Myles Who?

Myles Who?

Last week’s post included a compound word coined by the Disney screenwriter of Bambi. This week we’ll look back a bit further & consider some of the words first written down by Myles Coverdale, who, in 1535, published the first-ever English translation of the Bible (predating the King James version by seventy-six years).

Even though most etymologists believe many of the compound words Coverdale was the first to write down were in common usage, the commoners using them weren’t bothering to write them down, so the following words are known as Coverdale words:

fleshpot – meaning luxuries regarded with envy, though the literal meaning was pots in which flesh was boiled. One could argue for either meaning in the Exodus verse in which the word appears.

noonday – a simple compound of noon and day, from Job

lovingkindness – I’ve always associated this word with my mother, known in the family as Muz. She strived to live this word & most who knew her would agree that she succeeded. Lovingkindness appears in Psalms.

bloodthirsty – not a word one would expect in Psalms, but predictability is not the Old Testament’s strongest suit.

uproar – meaning to move, stir or shake, or a revolt or commotion (appearing in Kings, Matthew & Acts), from the German aufruhr, meaning tumult or riot, & definitely not related to the word roar, which came to English through Old English & Dutch from Sanskrit ragati, meaning barks.

sackbut – from the book of Daniel, sackbut came from the French saquebute, a bass trumpet with a trombone-like slide. Interestingly, the instrument bore a striking resemblance to the saqueboute, a hooked lance-like weapon of northern France, used in battle to pull riders from their horses. Apparently Coverdale incorrectly used the term in Daniel to refer to Aramaic instruments known as sabbekha, a small triangular harp. I’m often in the minority when it comes to religious/spiritual issues, but it seems to me that a joyful noise is a joyful noise, no matter the nature of one’s sackbut. Of course, the question remains whether it was the French or the Aramaic who first coined the phrase, Does this dress make my sackbut look big?

Any responses about Myles Coverdale or these words attributed to him? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, English Bible History & Wordnik


  1. I always learn so much on this blog, Mr. Monger! I'd never heard of Myles Coverdale. And I grew up in the Anglican church. We should have been told!!

    So fascinating about sackbuts. I always thought of them as looking like an English horn. But it was really one of those little angel harps that Daniel was playing! I don't suppose they had a lot of brass to make instruments out of in the Bronze age, did they?

    I agree that lovingkindness is a marvelous word. We need to use it more often.

  2. Anne, I'm so glad to be offering something new. I'm thinking we need to use the word lovingkindness more, but more importantly, we need to live it -- tall order, but worth working toward.