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Friday, 30 November 2012


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Your word for today is: merry-andrew, n. and adj.

merry-andrew, n. and adj.

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌmɛrɪˈandruː/,  U.S /ˌmɛriˈændru/

Forms:   16 merry andree,   16– merry-andrew,   17 mery andrew.   Occurs with varying word division, and with capitalization of the first or second element or of both.

Etymology: <  merry adj. + the male forename Andrew (see Andrew n.).
Associated as a proper name with Bartholomew Fair, as in the following quots., probably from the performances of a particular entertainer whose persona was that of a fool, and who became the subject of at least one ballad (see quot. 1680) and perhaps a puppet show (see quot. 1668):

1668  S. Pepys Diary 29 Aug. (1976) IX. 293, I..took her and Mercer and Deb to Bartholomew-fair, and there did see a ridiculous, obscene little stage-play called ‘Mary Andrey’, a foolish thing but seen by everybody.

1680   (title of ballad) The unfortunate lover: or, Merry Andrew's sad and wofull lamentation for the loss of his sweetheart Joan.

c1680 Descr. Bartholomew-Fair, Arch Merry Andrew will rend out his voice: Though his looks are but simple, & his actions the same,..By playing the fool he does get store of Coyn.

1691  R. Ames Lawyerus Bootatus & Spurratus 4 Let's..step to Fair of Bartlemew..Here Merry-Andrew with his Babble, Diverts the crouds of gaping Rabble.

Claimed by Thomas Hearne (1678–1735) in preface to his edition of Benedictus Abbas (1735) to have been originally applied to Andrew Boorde (c1490–1549), English physician and author. However, there is no supporting evidence for this theory.

A. n.


 a.  A person who entertains people with antics and buffoonery; a clown; a mountebank's assistant.

1677  W. Sherlock Answer Scandalous Pamphlet 69 As it would be very gravely to confute Tom Thumb, or merry Andree, of a Town Lampoon.

1684  Dryden Epil. Univ. Oxf. in Misc. Poems 266 Th' Italian Merry-Andrews took their place, And quite Debauch'd the Stage with lewd Grimace.

1697  Dryden Ded. Æneis in  tr.  Virgil Wks. sig. d1v, This is like merry Andrew on the low Rope, copying lubberly the same Tricks, which his Master is so dextrously performing on the high.

1749  H. Fielding Tom Jones IV. xii. viii. 248 He found the Master of the Puppet-show belabouring the Back and Ribs of his poor Merry-Andrew.

1768  J. Cremer Jrnl. 19 July in  R. R. Bellamy Ramblin' Jack (1936) 167 To Zant Town like Mery Andrews on a Stage.

a1818  M. G. Lewis Jrnl. W. India Proprietor (1834) 51 The John-Canoe is a Merry-Andrew..bearing upon his head a kind of pasteboard house-boat.

1851  G. Borrow Lavengro (1893) lii. 202 Listening to the jokes of the merry-andrews from the platforms in front of the temporary theatres.

1881 Cent. Mag. Nov. 32/1 Nothing could be more strange than to see maskers, with the heads of camels, of apes, of devils, and merry-Andrews, kneeling thus before the passing sacrament.

1940  R. Gibbings Sweet Thames run Softly xiv. 113 They behaved with all the effrontery of merry andrews at a carnival.

1991  L. Norfolk Lemprière's Dict. (1992) 573 Mountebanks and their merry-Andrews, gambling-house captains and combination-boys ply their trades as the mob floods west through Fetter Lane and Lincoln's Inn Fields.

 b.  In extended use: a fool, an idiot; a joker.

1694  A. Wood Life & Times (1894) III. 458  (note) To make your self the merry andrew of the company [you] did venter upon a person freely to expose him to scorne.

1772  tr.  J. F. de Isla Hist. Friar Gerund I. 488 Those who are not sought out as the Merry-Andrews of the pulpit.

1827  T. Carlyle J. P. F. Richter's Leben in Edinb. Rev. June 187 Richter is a man of mirth, but he seldom or never condescends to be a merry-andrew.

1910  ‘H. H. Richardson’ Getting of Wisdom vii. 70 She grew cautious, and hesitated discreetly before returning one of those ingenuous answers, which, in the beginning, had made her the merry-andrew of the class.

1990 Twenty Twenty July 59/2 Nineteen forty-seven found him partying with the deported Lucky Luciano in Cuba, in company with merry-andrews like hit-man Albert Anastasia.

†2.  In pl. Low-quality playing cards. Also Merry Andrew playing cards. Obs.

1759 Pennsylvania Gaz. 4 Jan. 3/1 Lately imported from London.., common 4d cadus, merry Andrew playing cards, broad and narrow incle and filletting tapes, [etc.].

1866  in Stationer & Fancy Trades Register 1 Sept. in Trans. Philol. Soc. (1867) 63 The different qualities of cards are distinguished as Moguls, Harrys, Highlanders, and Merry Andrews.

1867  D. P. Fry Playing-card Terms in Trans. Philol. Soc. 55 Andrews, Merry Andrews, playing-cards of the fourth or lowest class or quality.

 B. adj.

 That is or resembles a merry-andrew; characteristic of a merry-andrew; foolish.

1678  A. Behn Sir Patient Fancy v. i. 90, I am made a John A-Nokes of, Jack-hold-my-staff, a Merry Andrew Doctor to give Leander time to marry your Daughter.

1689 Answer to Two Papers 25 So..Reverend a Prelate..whom he stiles, in a sort of a Merry-Andrew-Vein, Church of England Apostle and Captain of her Life-Guard.

1798  D. Rivers Lit. Mem. Living Authors I. 119 The jokes and merriment of this merry-andrew philosopher.

1816 Sporting Mag. 47 177 Scroggins made some merry-andrew tricks to save his wind.

1825  T. Hook Sayings & Doings 2nd Ser. I. 196 The merry-andrew dresses of the younger branches of the family not very distinctly marking the difference of their sexes.

1847  A. Smith Christopher Tadpole (1848) xlix. 422 A poor fellow who went about the country in the merry-Andrew line.

1909 Daily Chron. 25 Sept. 7/4, I confess that affair with the merry-andrew chap upset me a bit.


 merry-ˈandrewism n. rare buffoonery, clownishness.

1836 Fraser's Mag. 13 37 Nothing is more distasteful..than the undiscriminating Merryandrewism of an ingrained vulgarian.

merry-ˈandrewize v. rare (intr.) = merryandrew v.

1861  T. L. Peacock Gryll Grange viii, Arch-quacks have taken to merry-andrewizing in a new arena.

†merry-Andrew-like adv. Obs. rare

1787  J. Wolcot Lousiad ii, in Wks. I. 238 Turn it [sc. thy wig] inside out, And wear it, Merry-Andrew like, about.

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