Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're Bobbing on the Surface

It still bugs me that no one remembers what "swachele" means.

I lent out moch moni on plate and jewells this yere, and had many trifells giuen me. I bought my swachele sword this yer, and did the hangers with siluer. - Forman's diary, 1600

Tantamount to: "I spent a lot of money on armor and jewelry this year and received many trifles. I bought my swachele sword this year and had the hangers done in silver."

We may infer what swachele means. It could mean "fancy" or something along that line. It could be related to "swashbuckling." That's my best and most obvious guess.

1693: "The huff, snuff... swash-buckling High Germans."
1897: "He strikes one as a bravo, he swashbuckles and swaggers."

Swash as a transitive verb means "to dash or cast violently."
1577: "The Archbyshop of Yorke... swasht him down, meaning to thrust himselfe in betwixt the Legate, and the Archb. of Canterbury."

It also means "to make noise as of swords or of a sword beating on a shield; to bluster with weapons; hence, to swagger."
1593: "I giue them right to sweare it out with wordes, I giue them might to swash it out with swordes."

I don't know how I first found the word swachele but it led me to the first passage mentioned here, and all other searches have summoned up that passage with minor variations in spelling and interpretation. I can't think of any other words that resemble swachele, and while my inference technically fits the sentence, I don't wish to presume the foreman's motives. Maybe he wanted to buy a fancy sword; maybe he wanted a flashy sword to show off; maybe he was treating himself after a hard year of labor, a relief from toting around some ragged scabbard and dulling blade within.

And maybe swachele means something else entirely. We may never, ever know, and that really disturbs me.

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