Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
A tatterdemalion is someone dressed in ragged clothing. The “tatter” part of the word is clear, but two sources I checked point out that the origin of ”-demalion” is unknown. Hence, it is not unexpected that someone might misinterpret the word to add a bit of imagery. A “medallion” may be interpreted as something of worth, and a “tatter medallion” would imply a certain fall from grace. This assigned meaning seems particularly clear in the second example below…
New Statesman – Into the labyrinth. Peter Ackroyd’s new book…
He submerges himself in the offal commerce of Smithfield and the tatter medallion on offer in Petticoat Lane. Understanding that the city’s raison d’etre is …
www.newstatesman.com/200010160045 – Similar pages
PsychoGeography #105: A fox in the kitchen | Independent, Th…
A large, silk-covered ottoman had been reduced to a tatter-medallion, a turd had been deposited in the toilet. Eventually they cornered the interloper in …
findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_2005102… – 45k – Similar pages
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_q … _n15814142
One thing I should add is that we do not know whether ”-demalion” was actually a corruption of “medallion” long long ago. If so, the apparent reversion to “medallion” would seem far less spectacular ...as the imagery would simply have come full circle.
Last edited by jorkel (2008-08-19 03:47:23)
I was unaware of the word tatterdemalion; I had to look it up. It occurs just nine times in the Davies/BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English (360 million words of American English, divided equally among spoken, fiction, newspaper, magazine, and academic texts, collected between 1990-2007).
I was struck by the elevated register of the examples (at least the first one; I suppose turd sort of spoils the effect). I would expect people writing in such a register to check their spelling and do other things that would tend to weed out eggcorns, because that’s what I do. Apparently my own experience is not generalizable to the whole of humanity, though. (Shock!)
Each of the nine occurrences of tatterdemalion in the corpus is an adjective, while Joe’s examples of tatter medalion are both nouns. I don’t know what to make of that, but it’s curious.
San Francisco Chronicle 1992: Tatterdemalion wrappings and a huge head of curly hair mark him out from the chief executives, present and future, who haunt the Hyatt.
Atlantic 1997: first-class Romanian-style, that is, with tatterdemalion but comfortably upholstered compartments and equally tatterdemalion but solicitous attendants
The Diamond Shadow 2007: He has clothed himself in this tatterdemalion ragtaggery for no reason I can put name to.
I like this one a lot. Does anyone have an OED handy? (I seem to have misplaced the online library card I can use to access it.) The “tatterdemalion” cites are very curious in style.
Here’s the OED citation—some of the formatting is lost:
[f. TATTER n.1, or more prob. TATTERED a., with a factitious element suggesting an ethnic or descriptive derivative. The earlier pronunciation rimes with battalion, Italian, stallion, as shown by the frequent doubling of l.]
A person in tattered clothing; a ragged or beggarly fellow; a ragamuffin.
1611 B. JONSON Introd. Verses in Coryat’s Crudities, This Horse pictur’d showes that our Tatter-de-mallian Did ride the French Hackneyes and lye with th’ Italian. a1626 MIDDLETON Mayor of Queenb. V. i, He’s not so wise as he ought to be, to let such tatterdemallions get the upper hand of him. 1630 CAPT. SMITH Trav. & Adv. xvi. 30 Yet those tattertimallions [Tartars] will have two or three horses, some foure, or five. 1642 HOWELL For. Trav. (Arb.) 37 Great numbers of poore French tatterdimallians, being as it were the Scumme of the Countrey. 1693 Oxford-Act 2 Loyal Oxford..Soon form’d in Squadrons and Battalions To Swinge the Duke’s Tatterdemalions. a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Tatter-de-mallion, a ragged, tatter’d Begger,..having better Cloths at Home. 1879 Scribner’s Mag. XIX. 296/1 It is rare to see a tatterdemallion in Paris.
1608 DEKKER Belman Lond. (1640) 3 Rector Chory (the Captain of the Tatterdemalions). 1622 DEKKER Virg. Mart. III. i, Among so many millions of people, should thou and I onely be miserable totterdemalions? 1637 HEYWOOD Roy. King II. vii, A Tatterdemalean, that stayes to sit at the Ordinary to day. 1650 HOWELL Giraffi’s Rev. Naples I. 7 A few poore Tatterdimalians had made all that noise. 1771 SMOLLETT Humph. Cl. 24 May, Mrs. Bramble.. said, she had never seen such a filthy tatterdemalion. 1858 O. W. HOLMES Aut. Breakf-t. xi. 108 A group of young tatterdemalions playing pitch-and-toss.
b. attrib. or as adj.
1614 J. COOKE Greene’s Tu Quoque Kjb, Puh, the Italian fashion? the tatterd-de-malian fashion hee meanes. 1651 BIGGS New Disp. §53 That Tatterdemalion Linostema of Peripatetical and Galenical predicaments. 1837 CARLYLE Fr. Rev. I. IV. iii, Saint-Antoine..reinforced by the unknown Tatterdemalion Figures, with their enthusiast complexion and large sticks. 1855 F. CHAMIER My Travels II. vi. 85 The most beggarly remnants of tatterdemalion garments. 1893 Spectator 25 Nov. 738/1 These tatterdemalion scraps and fragments of political discontent.
Hence (nonce-wds.) tatterdemalionism, the style or practice of a tatterdemalion; tatterdemalionry, the body of tatterdemalions.
1840 Blackw. Mag. XLVIII. 491 Hungarian, Croatian, and Wallachian tatterdemalionry. 1884 Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, etc. 27 The tatterdemalionism with which we usually associate the abodes of such. 1887 Blackw. Mag. CXLI. 821 His coat was out at both elbows… It was..a kind of defiant tatterdemalionism that the Colonel liked to hug.
Last edited by patschwieterman (2008-08-25 01:52:40)
Thanks, Pat, that’s fast!
So basically the OED doesn’t know where the ”-dermalion” comes from, but it’s certainly not related to “medallion” except in the most allusive sense (usage of the -ion morpheme, maybe).
Still looking into it. Whatever it is, it isn’t new. Here’s a 1934 poem :
★ Berton Braley’s 1934 poem:
‘’This is the ballad of Henry Morgan /
‘’Who troubled the sleep of the King of Spain /
‘’With a frowsy, blowsy, lousy pack /
‘’Of the water rats of the Spanish Main, /
‘’Rakes and rogues and mad rapscallions /
‘’Broken gentlemen, tattermedallions /
‘’Scum and scourge of the hemisphere, /
‘’Who looted the loot of the stately galleons, /
‘’Led by Morgan, the Buccaneer.’‘