July 24, 2004


Following up on my post about "all's I know", I checked the OED, which was helpful, as it almost always is for questions that can be associated with the usage of particular English words.

The OED's entry for as points to cases where loss of such (in patterns like "such X as Y") leads to as being essentially drafted into service as a "relative pronoun" (though maybe it's more of a "complementizer introducing a relative clause"?):

24. a. The antecedent such is also replaced by that, those, or entirely omitted, leaving as an ordinary rel. pron. = That, who, which. Cf. Norse use of som. Obs. in standard English, but common dial. in England and the United States.

[...some citations omitted]
LD. BERNERS Froiss. II. Pref., The ymages as they used in olde tyme to erecte in worshyp.
1592 SHAKES. Rom. & Jul. II. i. 36 That kind of Fruite As Maides call Medlers.
1603 HOLLAND Plutarch's Mor. 222 To those as have no children.
1645 FULLER Good Th. in Bad T. (1841) 32 It is false that the marigold follows the sun, whereas the sun follows the marigold, as made the day before him.
1747 GOULD Eng. Ants 70 That prodigious Size as we see in many Places.
c1852 Lamplighter (1854) 91 It's he as lives in the great stone house.

The OED also mentions the use of as in introducing sentential complements:

28. Introducing a noun sentence, after say, know, think, etc. Sometimes expanded into as that. Obs. and replaced by that; but still common in southern dialect speech, where often expanded to as how. ...

1483 CAXTON G. de la Tour Fiiijb, I saye not as ye shalle be pryuely and alone one by other.
1578 TIMME Calvin on Gen. 331 It seemeth to be a very absurd reason that he giveth, as that the children of Abram could not be saved.
1689 Tryal Bps. 55 Do you know My Lord Bishop of St. Asaph's handwriting? Not as I know of.
1712 STEELE Spect. No. 508 p. 6 That the Fop..should say, as he would rather have such-a-one without a Groat, than me with the Indies.
1748 RICHARDSON Clarissa (1811) IV. 259 Pray let her know as that I will present her..my Lancashire Seat.
1771 SMOLLETT Humph. Cl. I. 274, I believe as how your man deals with the devil.
1833 MARRYAT P. Simple xiii. (Hoppe) Seeing as how the captain had been hauling him over the coals.
1856 MRS. STOWE Dred xi. 100, I don't know as you'll like the appearance of our place.

This clears almost everything up, I think, except... what in the world does "Fiijb" mean?

This item occurs 15 times in the OED. Here are few more examples:

1528 PAYNEL Salerne's Regim. Fiiijb, Suche wynes..amende the coldenesse of complection.

1483 CAXTON G. de la Tour Fiiijb, Ye may eslargysshe yourself to say or do your wylle. Ibid. Iij, God..moueth hym self to pyte and eslargyssheth his misericorde.

1579 HAKE Newes out of Powles (1872) Fiiijb, O wylie wincking wyzard Woolues.

The first person to solve this mystery for me wins a free year's subscription to Language Log.

It should go without saying that Fiiijb is not part of the quotation in any of these examples. For instance, the larger context of the last citation is Edward Hake, The syxt Satyr (from Newes out of Powles Churchyarde, 1579):

297 They talke from feare of check at large.
298 But yet of them there bee
299 That prease amongst professors true,
300 and well with them agree.
301 For why, their lyuings so doe lye,
302 that but they seemed such,
303 They neuer coulde aspire so high,
304 nor yet obtaine so much
305 As now they doe. O Ianus Iacks
306 and double faced Dogs?
307 O wylie wincking wyzard Woolues,
308 O grunting groyning Hogs?

For those of you who may be puzzled by Elizabethan spelling, that's

... O Janus jacks
and double faced dogs?
O wily winking wizard wolves,
O grunting groaning (?) hogs?

In whatever spellings, there's no "Fiiijb" anywhere around in the original, needless to say. And there is no "fiiijb" in Google's index (yet). So Fiiijb must be some OED citational thing, but it's not one that I understand.


Posted by Mark Liberman at July 24, 2004 11:31 AM