dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #1015

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue May 17 17:04:12 EDT 2005

>-deborah, who lives under bridges and eats Billy goats

By the trippe?


Thanks to all who are helping me sort out these net-terms; not having web
access is a real handicap when it comes to looking such stuff up, because
it mostly hasn't made it into the hard-cover dictionaries I have around the

The quotation

>It is possible that the hackish sense of .flame. is much older than
>that. The poet Chaucer was also what passed for a wizard hacker in his
>time; he wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, the most advanced computing
>device of the day. In Chaucer's Troilus and Cressida, Cressida laments
>her inability to grasp the proof of a particular mathematical theorem;
>her uncle Pandarus then observes that it's called .the fleminge of
>wrecches.. This phrase seems to have been intended in context as .that
>which puts the wretches to flight. but was probably just as ambiguous in
>Middle English as .the flaming of wretches. would be today. One suspects
>that Chaucer would feel right at home on Usenet.

made me reach for those hard-covers, though, because that *is* in them.

It's a bit sad, but "flemen" just meant "to put to flight" in Middle
English, "flem" being flight and "fleme" being fugative, as well as
"flemer" being banisher, all from the Anglo-Saxon "fleam", flight.  Chaucer
uses "fleme" and "flemed" in other places where it's not mysterious at all,
and he uses "flambe" or "flaumbe" or "flaume" when he means "flame".
T'chah.  Bah, even.  Nice idea, shame it doesn't really work.

Whoever put that up didn't have a Riverside Chaucer to hand, I expect.  The
explanation for TC III l.933 is in the Explanatory Notes at the end, and it
makes sense: the Dulcarnoun was the 47th proposition of the first book of
Euclid's geometry and was known as the "Fugi Miserorum" because it is
beastly difficult; Pandarus' "the flemyng of wrecches" is just a direct
translation.  Dull.


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