Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
I dare say this has been covered before.
“Rood screens” are ornate screens that are a feature of churches. A “rood” is a pole and a cross, especially the Holy Cross, hence the name.
“I wandered into a derelict forlorn church ‘Our Lady’s’ on St Domingo Road and saw part of the rude screen on the floor”
“In the underground city we visited there was one cave of particular interest – it was a church, complete with very primitive rude screen separating people”
“a wrought-iron Tiffany rude screen”
and many more.
They surely can’t think it means “offensive”, but perhaps that “primitive” is a clue. Things like “we constructed a rude shelter” and “a rude fence” have obviously led to the confusion.
Last edited by JuanTwoThree (2010-02-19 13:49:09)
I don’t see any mention of this confusion on the web or on our forum.
I’m inclined to think this is more of a misspelling than an imagery transferring eggcorn. “Rude” and “rud” were common spellings for “rood” until the orthographic standardizations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
I always worry about reshapings in which the eggcorn candidate and the acorn are exact homophones. Anything that can be misspelled will be misspelled, and Kem has to be right in stating that some of the instances for “rude screen” are likely misspellings and only that.
But I’m not willing to dismiss this one as quickly as Kem. (Yeah, I know, Kem and I are exchanging our usual places—I’m usually the one playing the head-shaking skeptic.) Like JuanTwoThree, I find that second citation particularly interesting—as if “rude screens” and the primitive naturally go together in the writer’s mind. (I tried to decide whether the fact that the writer was an Episcopalian minister made any difference, but as usual I found myself pushing that evidence in both directions.) For me, the real problem here is that I’m not sure most people would think of the rood screens they’re talking about as “primitive,” or consider primitiveness as a significant aspect of the object in general. And my separation=rudeness idea may be a bit of a reach. In any case, I think this is an interesting but ambiguous find.
“Rude” seems to have been a common spelling for Scots writers working between 1400 and 1600 – as far as I can tell, all the OED’s citations of that spelling come from that place/time period – but I’m not sure that fact is connected to the examples posted by JuanTT.
It’s true that rood screens are anything but offensive, except perhaps to people of a Low persuasion who find something obectionable about their Romish ornateness. And by and large their ornateness stops them from being “rude” in another sense.
Clutching at straws, I wonder if there’s not the idea that how they separate the congregation from the choir and altar is what makes them “rude screens”, the uncouth worshippers being the “rude people” .
“The “mysteries” of the Mass were celebrated behind a “rude screen” in mediaeval cathedrals—so that the people could not see what was going on”
“A strategically placed rude screen constructed between the nave and the congregation and the altar area”
I think that how rood was spelled before spelling settled down is a bit of a red herring. Certainly modern Scots of all people would be familiar with Holyrood, although there seems to be a Holyrude Church in Sterling, just to muddy the waters.
Which seems like a good moment to ask whether a misspelling that takes an unfamiliar word and reshapes in a more accessible way doesn’t have something of the eggcorn about it. “Don’t be rood!” seems to me to be purely badly spelled, and arguably /rood/ is closer to being a phonetic transcription of “rude” than /rude/ is, if you follow. Whereas recasting the spelling of “rood” as the familiar “rude” can only happen alongside an understanding of the meaning(s) and pronunciation (mine at least) of “rude”, can’t it?
Today’s OED Word of the Day is rood-tree, “the cross on which Jesus died”. This one lends itself directly to the rude tree, though I only found one hit, from a 15th century prayer set to music. First, the original hymn, from Bartleby:
Jesu, in whom is all my trust,
That died upon the roodë tree,
Withdraw my heart from fleshly lust
And from all worldly vanity.
Then this from a church program. Probably someone believed they were correcting the archaic spelling of roodë.
Jesus, in whom is all my trust, That died upon the rude tree,
Withdraw my heart from fleshly lust, And from all worldly vanity.
http://storage.cloversites.com/firstpre … 9.23_3.pdf
I see a few references to churches with a “road screen”, but on closer inspection most links appear to be a systematic error of Google books’ parser. The scanned page of the book in the link actually says “rood screen”. This makes me distrust the few sites I’ve found where “road screen” is actually printed out, since these might have started from a scanned document.