I. Marc Carlson
IMC at vax2.utulsa.edu
Fri Jul 14 07:23:33 PDT 1995
On 13 Jul 1995, Mark Harris wrote:
>> I was the one who made the orginial coment. Please look it up, but
>> I am now convinced that technically fencing is a period term. I'm
>> still not convinced that it is the term we should use. 1581 is
>> almost out of period, so it was probably not a readily accepted
>> term. Secondus, if we use it simply because it was mentioned once,
>> then we are also saying that a lot of New World items should be
>> common fair at our feasts simply because they had been seen once
>> in Europe before December 31, 1599.
><James Crouchet <crouchet at infinity.ccsi.com>>
>Now wait a minute. Let's see if I can make sense out of this. You want
>to use _rapier combat_, a term made up of two period words but, as best
>as we can tell, not actually a period term.
Gentlemen, please. Allow me to see if I can beat this thing into the
All terms lifted, er, extracted from the OED, 2d ed. (Only those usages
that are pre 1600 are used (with one exception).
fencing, vbl. n.
[f. fence v. + -ing1.]
The action of the vb. fence.
1. The action or art of using the sword scientifically as a weapon
of offence or defence; the practice of this art with a blunted
sword, foil, or stick.
1581 Mulcaster Positions xviii. (1887) 79
Concerning fensing, or skill how to handle the
fence, v. Also 5_6 fens(e.
[f. the n.]
a. To practise the use of the foil or sword.
b. To use the sword scientifically either for offence or
1598 Shakes. Merry W. ii. iii. 14 Alas sir, I
c. transf. of animals.
d. fig. Frequently of a witness: to fence with (rarely trans.
to fence), to parry, try to evade (a question).
2. trans. (Const. against, from.) To screen, shield, protect:
a. the body, or a part of it.
1549 Olde Erasm. Par. 2 Cor. vi. 7 On euery syde
surely fensed with the armoure of iustice.
1581 Mulcaster Positions xxvii. (1887) 106 The arme
in this [arm ball] is fensed with a wooden brace.
1586 A. Day Eng. Secretary (1625) 139 His pined
corps, whom furres must fence from the least blast
b. a building, locality, esp. from weather or wind.
1577 B. Googe Heresbach's Husb. i. (1586) 12 b, I
lay my corne upon a fayre floore, closely fenced
and seeled against Mise.
c. gen. in material or immaterial sense.
1510 More Picus Wks. 8/1 Fensyng my selfe with the
1553 T. Wilson Rhet. 57 Every creature livyng
should fense it self against outward violence.
1593 Shakes. 3 Hen. VI, ii. vi. 75 Where's Captaine
Margaret, to fence you now?
3. trans. To equip for defence. Obs.
1599 Hakluyt Voy. II. i. 131 A ship_well fensed
4. intr. To set up a defence against; to provide protection
5. trans. To keep out, ward off, repel. Said both of persons and
things. Also to fence off, out. Often with mixture of sense 6.
1592 Greene Poems, Shepherd's Ode 66 A cloak of
grey fenc'd the rain.
6. trans. To surround with or as with a fence (see fence n. 4, 5);
to enclose, fortify, protect.
1435 Nottingham Rec. II. 355 Thay to fens it [Est
Croft] ham selfe at thayre awne coste.
1494 Fabyan Chron. vii. 466 Ye Englysshe hoste_was
myghtely fensyd with wood and tryes.
1535 Coverdale Ezek. xxxvi. 35 The_broken downe
cities, are now stronge and fensed agayne.
1583 Stanyhurst Æneis ii. (Arb.) 54 Whate forte
were best to be fenced?
b. with about, in, round, up. to fence off: to keep off by a
fence. Also absol.
1535 Coverdale 2 Chron. xiv. 7 Let vs buylde vp
these cities, and fense them rounde aboute with
c. To part off by a fence or fences. In quot. fig.
1523 Fitzherb. Husb. _125 Yf it [thy dyche] be .v.
fote brode [t]han it wolde_fence it selfe & the
lower hedge wyll serue.
7. intr. Of a horse: To leap a fence.
8. trans. (Sc. Law.)
a. To open the proceedings of (the Parliament or a Court of
Law) by the use of a form of words forbidding persons to
interrupt or obstruct the proceedings unnecessarily.
1513/75 Diurn. Occurrents (Bannatyne Club) 214 He
post to William Pikis housband thair fensit the
1565 Lindesay (Pitscottie) Chron. Scot. (1728) 199
The Queen stayed till the Parliament was fenced.
fence, n. Also 4 fens, 6 fenst.
[aphet. f. of defence.]
1. a. The action of defending; = defence. Also, the attitude of
self-defence; in to stand at fence.
1330 R. Brunne Chron. Wace (Rolls) 8638 $en Octa
studied in his $ought: To stonde to fens auailled
1375 Barbour Bruce xx. 384 That for default of
fenss so was To-fruschit in-to placis ser.
1430 Syr Tryam. 551 He stode at fence ageyne them.
1400/50 Alexander 4753 For nouthire fondis he to
flee ne na fens made.
1500 Felon Sowe Rokeby in Whitaker Craven (1878)
1569 Yet, for the fence that he colde make, Scho
strake yt fro his hande.
b. cap of fence: see cap n. 4. coat of fence: see coat n. 5.
So doublet of fence: see doublet. house of fence: a fortified
house. man of fence: a defender. Obs.
1425 Wyntoun Cron. ix. xxi. 12 De Hous of fens of
1463 Mann. & Househ. Exp. (1841) 158 Ffusten_ffor
to make doblettys off ffence.
1470 Henry Wallace v. 1095 No man of fens is left
that house within.
1488 Will of Sharnebourne (Somerset Ho.), Doblette
1514 Will of R. Peke of Wkd. 4 June, All my cottes
of fense of manse body.
1555 Reg. Gild Corp. Christi York (Surtees) 202 My
coote of fenst, and steele cappe.
2. a. The action, practice, or art of fencing, or use of the
sword. to make fence: to assume a fencing attitude. Also,
master, teacher of fence.
1533 Udall Flowres Latine Speaking (1560) 133
Disciplina gladiatoria, is_the waie of trainyng men
in_the schooles that maisters of fence keepe.
1535 in W. H. Turner Select. Rec. Oxford 131
Dennys, a poore scholler and a teacher of fence.
1599 Shakes. Much Ado v. i. 75 Ile proue it on his
body_Despight his nice fence.
3. Means or method of defence; protection, security. Obs.
1440 Promp. Parv. 155/1 Fence, defence fro enmyes,
1565 Jewel Repl. Harding 550 It is thought to be
the surest fence, & strongest warde for that
Religion, that they should be keapte stil in
4. concr. That which serves as a defence.
a. Of persons: A bulwark, defence. Obs.
1400 Destr. Troy 7363 He was fully the fens_Of all
the tulkes of Troy.
1552 Godly Prayers in Liturg. Serv. Q. Eliz. (1847)
248 O Lord Jesus Christ, the only stay and fence of
our mortal state.
b. Of things: A defence, bulwark. arch. (now with mixture of
1440 Promp. Parv. 155/1 Fence, or defence of
closynge (clothynge, P.).
1548 Udall, etc. Erasm. Par. Luke x. 4, I send you
forth naked, wythout weapon or fense.
5. a. An enclosure or barrier (e.g. a hedge, wall, railing,
palisade, etc.) along the boundary of a field, park, yard or
any place which it is desired to defend from intruders. sunk
fence: one placed along the bottom of a depression in the
ground; sometimes applied to a ditch. Often preceded by a
qualifying word, as: gun-, pale-, quick-, ring-, snake-,
wire-, etc. fence, for which see those words.
1512 Nottingham Rec. III. 340 Owre fense be twixe
our medo and Wilforth Pastur.
1570 Levins Manip. 63/16 A Fence, vallum.
Therefore the use of the sword for "de-Fence" is not found prior to
1533, however it may well be that it just wasn't written down until
then, or was used in a source that was lost to us (the drawbacks to
using the OED as an absolute source).
1. a. A weapon adapted for cutting and thrusting, consisting of
a handle or hilt with a cross-guard, and a straight or curved
blade with either one or two sharp edges and a sharp point (or
sometimes with blunt edges, and used only for thrusting).
Swords are of various shapes and sizes, some with distinctive
names, as broadsword, claymore, rapier, sabre, scimitar, etc.;
but, without qualification, the word is commonly understood to
mean a large weapon such as those used in warfare.
rapier. Also 6 raper(e, -yer, -yre; Sc. and north dial. 6_, 20
rapper; 8 -ier.
[a. F. rapière (1474 in Du Cange) of unknown origin.]
a. Originally, a long, pointed, two-edged sword adapted either
for cutting or thrusting, but chiefly used for the latter. In
later use, a light, sharp-pointed sword designed only for
thrusting; a small sword.
1553 Eden Treat. Newe Ind. (Arb.) 20 A rede is to
them in the stede of sworde, rapyre & iauelyne.
As long as I am at it:
sword, v. rare.
[f. prec. n.]
1. trans. To equip or arm with a sword. (See also sworded.)
In quot. used satirically in reference to the previous
speaker's words, and in double sense: see 2.
[OE. sweordple_a, f. sword n. + play n.]
1. a. Fight, battle. OE.
b. The action of plying or wielding a sword briskly, as in
fencing; the art or practice of fencing.
1000 Waldere 13 (Gr.)..
It appears that the problem with most of the Tournament terms is
that the major term for "foot combat" (i.e., not on horse back) is
Melee. Further, other terms, such as "Hastilude" (L. Hastiludium),
or "Lance Game", refer also to mounted combat. I can't find any
indication of a "Spathaludium" sort of term (i.e., "Sword Game").
*A Plaisance* means fighting with a blunted weapon, as opposed to
*A Outrance*, or fighting with an edged weapon, but that doens't
limit it to what we term "Heavy Weapons Combat" (although
"Spathalude a plaisance" would be perfect, but I can find no
indication that it was used before I made it up :) ).
Still looking, then.
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