THORLAC Turville-Petre has objected to the standard etymology from OE rād > ME rode, both meaning ‘a ride, an act of riding’.1 His difficulties are that ME rode will not adequately explain a line in the ME poem Patience, nor a particular instance in Shakespeare; and neither will it explain early Scots rode, apparently meaning ‘road’. He therefore proposed an alternative origin in OE rodu ‘a (linear) clearing’, which he sees in a thirteenth-century reference to Buggilderode in Stowe in Buckinghamshire. The OED entry for road, n. was revised in 2010,2 noting Turville-Petre’s observations, but concluded tentatively ‘it is indeed possible that two words of distinct origins may have merged, or at least that one may have reinforced the other. However, this explanation leaves various difficulties, such as why apparently unlengthened forms as well as lengthened forms are found at rod, n.2’. I believe, however, that there is crucial additional evidence from the seventeenth century which neither Turville-Petre nor OED have used. Here I attempt to restore the standard etymology, suggesting that usages of the period 1610–90 in official documents and on maps prove that a shift of meaning of rode from ‘ride’ to ‘road’ occurred precisely in this period. In contrast, the infrequent figurative literary usages are peripheral to this sense development and should thus be given much less weight in attempts to find the correct etymology. I will suggest that Turville-Petre’s examples have other plausible interpretations. I argue that the following examples show quite clearly the sense development of rode from ‘ride’ to ‘road’. Especially important for understanding this metonymy are those usages which (to the modern mind) are ambiguous between the two senses, or at least do not strongly imply that a street is designated. In the earliest examples, the word is qualified with ‘highway’, suggesting that that ‘road’ alone needed disambiguation. Such is the case in a Hertford county session of 1612–13, which made note that a foot bridge … in the King’s roode upon the London high way is decayed.3 A parliamentary bill of 1621–22 (also referring to a Hertfordshire road), was entitled An Acte for the repaire of the great Roade and highway to London from the Northe partes … .4 This ambiguity between the senses ‘ride’ and ‘road’ persists: a document of 1635–44 relating to the postal service refers to Plymouth, Exeter, and with the two other places in that road.5 The 1660 act of parliament which established the post office speaks of Horses … to ride post in any of the Post roads and the severall roads in England Scotland and Ireland.6 Note here the close association between the words ‘ride’ and ‘road’. A further act of 1661 refers to the Roade through which his Majesty is to pass.7 This is again ambiguous, but in a 1662 act, the word ‘road’ was fully equivalent to ‘highway’: any Common or Publique High way or Road.8 Much better known is the so-called Turnpike Act of 1663, often cited as intended to improve the Old North Road (Ermine Street), but in fact the act did not refer to the road by that name, and did not use the term ‘turnpike’.9 Instead, its title contains reference to the bad State of the Roads in the Counties of Hertford, Cambridge, and Huntington; Whereas the auntient Highway and Poast Roade leading from London to Yorke … .10 A Royal Society minute of 1681 stated that Mr John Adams presented his proposalls about making an Actuall Survey of England by measuring the boundary line and the distances between places both in the Road and in the Straight lines … ; this is still susceptible to the old interpretation (in the road might mean ‘along the route as ridden’), or the new one.11 With these cases in mind, we can re-examine a travelogue cited by OED. Ray’s Observations topographical12 of 1673 is cited thus: We diverted out of the common rode to Geneva, but the immediately preceding text We travelled a streight rode is not cited, nor is it pointed out that these are the only two instances of rode (as a noun) in the entire book. I suggest therefore that this is another ambiguous case, and of more value as evidence for the meaning being in flux, than for the new meaning. Further supporting evidence is provided by maps and road-books of the seventeenth century; in fact, evidence of the absence of uses of rode in the sense ‘road’ in the earlier part of that century is especially important here. A manuscript description of English inter-town routes of 1603,13 and Speed’s maps of c.1610 do not use the word ‘road’ at all.14 But Ogilby’s Britannia of 1675 uses the word extensively; the title page declares that the work contains a description of the principal roads, and each map is entitled the road from X to Y or similarly.15 After about 1680, the word ‘road’ was also frequently used in the new, modern sense in Pennsylvania.16 Initially the word ‘road’ was used only for a route between towns, and before the nineteenth century it is not found at all to name roads in the central parts of towns.17 The 1737 Rocque map of London has The Essex Road, The Kent Road, and Tottenham Court Road on the outskirts, yet no street is called ‘road’ in the old central parts.18 The Cole and Roper town maps of 1810 have no instance of the word;19 and when soon afterwards it starts to become more common on maps, it is still only on the edges of towns, and named from the destination, such as Lower Bristol Road in Bath, and London Road in Nottingham.20 All this is clearly consistent with the sense development here proposed. The new meaning seems to be strongly tied to the rapid progress in post-roads and turnpikes in the late seventeenth century, which changes would have been an impetus for the semantic shift; this is the well-known process of societal change giving new meanings to old words.21 At the same time the distinctive new spelling with <oa> became fixed.22 To complete the argument, we need to counter the objections of Turville-Petre. Shakespeare’s use in Henry IV (act II, scene i): I think, this be the most villainous house in all London road for fleas: I am stung like a tench involves obscure word-play apparently in the jargon of carriers, and thus here ‘road’ might still mean ‘ride’, or refer to the Thames as an anchorage.23 ME rode meaning ‘anchorage, roadstead, sea-road’ is very well attested from the fourteenth-century onwards, and is generally found referring to sheltered inlets or bays. Similarly in Patience, given that the text has Jonah likening the whale’s alimentary canal to a rode, it is possible again that a roadstead was meant. In any case, these two instances are insufficiently diagnostic to be of much value for the etymological question. The Scottish picture is confused, but nothing there appears to have any bearing on the southern English developments.24 Buggilderode, apparently the same place as Bugenroda in the OE charter S: 943, remains the most difficult example to explain.25 It has been much discussed, but without a precise reconstruction of the geography having been made;26 furthermore, place-name scholars are well aware that an element written -rode can represent three distinct words, with the meanings ‘rood (of land)’, ‘rood (cross)’, and ‘clearing’. Perhaps even the sense ‘ride’ may not be impossible.27 This considerably weakens the evidential value of this particular example; nevertheless, we cannot avoid consideration of an explicit reference from the year 1226 to the regiam viam que vocatur Buggilderode.28 Perhaps this is a unique early example of the same sense development noted in the seventeenth century above (in other words, -rode in Buggilderode meant ‘ride’ but was being re-interpreted as if ‘road’), but even if so, there is no evidence at all of continuity between what would then be two parallel developments 400 years apart. I thus maintain the view that the seventeenth-century process is new, and unrelated to Buggilderode, whatever the original sense of that name. I suggest that none of the charter examples given by Turville-Petre (2008) are unambiguously tracks; andlang rode on þa ealdan mearce might mean ‘along the clearing at the old boundary’, and similarly for the other cases. There is evidence that boundaries were kept clear to facilitate perambulations, which were regularly undertaken in order to detect encroachments.29 More generally, and much more seriously, proposing an origin for ‘road’ in OE rodu requires us to believe that the word which eventually became ‘road’ was in use with the sense ‘way’, but was unrecorded for over 600 years (with the possible exception of Buggilderode). Yet roughly equivalent terms such as weye, lane, path, and strete are of very frequent occurrence in charters, land-grants, and deeds throughout the Middle Ages, especially as they often denote property boundaries. It is very hard to believe that if the term rode (in the modern sense) were available it would not turn up occasionally in this class of document. And as if to confirm the loss of the old sense ‘ride’ of rode by 1700, we find that immediately afterwards the vacuum is filled by the creation of a new noun ‘ride’ from the verb.30 Modern English ‘road’ is simply ME rode ‘ride’ with a shift of referent from the action to the place where it occurs.31 Skeat had already got it right in 1888.32 Footnotes 1 Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘The etymology of “road” ’, N&Q, lv.4 (2008), 405–6. (10.1093/notesj/gjn180), following a suggestion of Peter R. Kitson Guide to Old English charter boundaries (Unpublished typescript in the Institute for Name-Studies, University of Nottingham, n.d.), §6.42. 2 http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/166506 (accessed 27 March 2018). 3 W. J. Hardy (ed.), Hertford County Records: Notes and Extracts from the Sessions Rolls, 1581 to 1698. Vol. 1 (Hertford, 1905), 40. 4 G. Emmison, ‘The earliest English turnpike bill (Biggleswade to Baldock road), 1622’. Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, xii (1934–35), 108–12. 5 Herbert Joyce, The History of the Post Office from its Establishment down to 1836 (London, 1893), p. 17. 6 Alexander Luders et al. (eds), The Statutes of the Realm. 11 volumes, reprinted 1963; printed by command of His Majesty King George the Third, from original records and authentic manuscripts. (London: Dawsons of Pall Mall 1819), 5.297–301. 7 Luders et al. The Statutes of the Realm, 5.310. 8 Luders et al. The Statutes of the Realm, 5.374. 9 William Albert, The Turnpike Road System in England 1663–1840 (Cambridge, 1972), 14. 10 Luders et al. The Statutes of the Realm, 5.558–9. 11 Edward Heawood, ‘John Adams and his map of England’, The Geographical Journal, lxxix.1 (1932), 37–44, at 39. 12 John Ray and Francis Willughby, Observations topographical, moral, & physiological; made in a journey through part of the Low-countries, Germany, Italy, and France: with a catalogue of plants not native of England, found spontaneously growing in those parts, and their virtues (London: Printed for John Martyn, printer to the Royal Society,1673), 431. 13 Gladys Scott Thomson, ‘Roads in England and Wales in 1603’, The English Historical Review, xxxiii (1918), 234–43. 14 http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/PR-ATLAS-00002-00061-00001/1 (accessed 27 March 2018). 15 Roger Cleeve (ed.), Ogilby’s road maps of England and Wales: from Ogilby’s ‘Britannia’, 1675 (Reading, 1971). 16 Peter du Ponceau et al. (eds), Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania. Vol. 1. 1683–1700 (Philadelphia: Jo. Severns & Co; Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1852); Terry McNealy, ‘Bristol: the origins of a Pennsylvania market town’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, xcv(1971), 484–510. 17 Perhaps the fact that ‘road’ is a recent word is behind the oddity that the word is a stressed generic in compounds such as London Road, in contrast to the stressed specific ‘Church’ in names such as Church Street. 18 Ralph Hyde (ed.), The A to Z of Georgian London (Lympne Castle, 1981). 19 Brian Stevens (ed.), Plans of English Towns 1810 by G. Cole and J. Roper (Monmouth, 1970). 20 Ashley Baynton-Williams (ed.), Town and City Maps of the British Isles 1800–1835 (London, 1992), 61, 64. 21 Thus the claim of OED road n. III. 4.a that our word is ‘attested earliest in figurative context’ is not correct, with the possible exception of an open roade to sinne 1580. 22 D. G. Scragg, A History of English Spelling. Vol. 3. Mont Follick Series (Manchester, 1974), 77. 23 The sense of ‘anchorage’ was well known to Shakespeare, with examples at Comedy of Errors III.2 and Two Gentlemen of Verona I.1 and II.4. Elsewhere in Shakespeare ‘road’ means ‘raid’ or ‘inroad’; the even road of a blank verse in Much Ado about Nothing V.2 perhaps remains of uncertain meaning. 24 http://www.dsl.ac.uk/results/rode; http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/dost/rode_n (accessed 27 March 2018). 25 P. H. Sawyer (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Charters. An annotated list and bibliography (London, 1968), 284. 26 Allen Mawer and F. M. Stenton, The Place-names of Buckinghamshire. Vol. II (Cambridge: English Place-Name Society, 1925), 259; A. H. Smith, The Place-names of the East Riding of Yorkshire and York. Vol. XIV (Cambridge: English Place-Name Society, 1937), xlviii; Margaret Gelling, The Place-names of Oxfordshire, part 1. (Cambridge: English Place-Name Society, 1953), 242. 27 A. H. Smith, English Place-name elements. Vol. XXVI.2 (Cambridge: English Place-Name Society 1956), 86–7; Margaret Gelling and Ann Cole, The Landscape of Place-names, new edn (Stamford 2014), 243–4. 28 H. E. Salter (ed.), Cartulary of Oseney Abbey. Publications of the Oxford Historical Society. Six vols, OHS 89, 90, 91, 97, 98, 101 (Oxford, 1929–1936), v.243) and Smith, The Place-names of the East Riding of Yorkshire and York, xlviii, where the possibly synonymous Bugildweye and Bogildstret are cited from the cartulary of Oseney Abbey (Salter, Cartulary of Oseney Abbey, v.456,479). 29 Keith Briggs, ‘The bounds of the Liberty of Ipswich’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, xli.1 (2017), 19–38. 30 OED ride n.2, 2.a ‘A turn or spell of riding on a horse or other animal …’, first records the noun in 1708. 31 The compounds rodeweye and rodestrete, found repeatedly in fourteenth-century documents from Suffolk and elsewhere, seem certain to mean ‘riding way’, and rodeweye has no direct connection to modern ‘roadway’, which is apparently a later parallel formation. The fenland term roddon may be another such compound (Richard Coates, ‘The origin of Roddon’, N&Q, lii.2 (2005), 170–2). 32 Walter Skeat, ‘The etymology of “road” ’. The Academy, DCCCLXIII (1888), 322. I thank Peter McClure and Laura Wright for valuable comments on a earlier draft. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Apr 3, 2018
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