Would you believe it? “Words, words, words.” Hamlet Act II sc. 2.

F in E

“About time you turned up with that ale, I’m fair worn out treadling away here like billy-ho and the damn blank just doesn’t turn.”

On our recent trip to Massachusetts I bought the above book from an excellent second-hand bookshop in Boston – Brattles Books. In fact I bought two, the other is about treen in early colonial New England, but that is another, related story.

Peter Folansbee warned me to be wary of the contents of the book as it’s written by a dealer.  He also pointed out that there is an interesting point in the dust jacket picture of the Stent panel.  The strap on the lathe is broken off.  It was subsequently repaired and modern pictures show the strap complete.  Peter discusses this here.

Anyway I bought the book partly because it has pictures in it (“and what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?” Thought Alice.(Not found any conversation therein so far)).  Well reading all the stuff that isn’t pictures (nor conversations) I came across this interesting paragraph:


F in E-1

Well, well! green pegs – really?  I wonder when we found out about draw-boring M&T joints – did we ever forget?  I started feeling a little uneasy about what I was reading in this book, things were a bit whacky back in 1968 when it was first published, then I came across this:


F in E-2C’mon, you’ve got to be joking – Wagenschott doesn’t resemble wainscot that closely.  Well maybe it doesn’t, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary that is the current, if somewhat puzzling, derivation.  Apparently we English used to import oak from Germany and other countries nearby, for posh work to get the best quarter-sawn figure in oak.  So I learnt something, well two things actually, I thought wainscot just meant panelling (it does too) but it was first applicable to a quality of quartered oak.


Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...

Cover via Amazon

So you can’t always believe what you read, and it’s worthwhile checking, sometimes you may be surprised.  There is a good post on this topic in a blog I follow about searching with Google, you may find it interesting.







3 thoughts on “Would you believe it? “Words, words, words.” Hamlet Act II sc. 2.

    • Ha! What a memory Tico!

      It is a very hepful article, especially this footnote:
      A Dutch or Low Country term which has been in use in England for many centuries, but now imperfectly understood. Its original form was Wandschote (from wand, a wall, and schotte, to defend or preserve). The preserving agent was here wood in the form of boards (literally wall-boards).
      Timber Technicalities: Being Definitions of Terms used in the Home and Foreign Timber, Mahogany and Hardwood Industries…, William Rider and Son Ltd., London, 1921, p. 153.

  1. Apparently the author didn’t know about off-setting the holes for drawboring. That would explain the distortion he describes in the old pins.

    Anyhow, I looked at the OED entry, and nobody seems quite sure of where the English term “wainscot” came from. The word was in use as early as the 14th century, which may predate some of the German words from which it was supposed to be derived, but apparently it originally meant the high-quality oak stock itself rather than the joined paneling in fine houses.

    In keeping with the title of your post, I should also point out that Shakespeare refers to shrunken panels in shoddy wainscot in As You Like It (3.1). Predictably, it’s part of an elaborate insult.

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