Obsolete Word of the Day

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Friday, April 28, 2006


It's the gauntlet!

A race which a criminal was sentenced to run in the navy or army, for any heinous offence. The ship's crew, or a certain division of soldiers, were dispose in two rows face-to-face, each provided with a knotted cord, or knittle, with which they severely struck the delinquent as he ran between them, stripped to the waist. Commonly pronounced gantlet.
- Adm. William Smyth's Sailor's Word-book, 1867

The word comes from Ghent and the Dutch word loopen, to run.

On this date in 1789, there was a mutiny on the HMS Bounty. Mister Christian!


Anonymous Douglas W. Boone said...

I think that better scholarship shows this word to be derived from the Swedish gata 'road' and lopp 'course'. (The second part is probably cognate to the Dutch word that you cite.)

Considered as a naval punishment, a Dutch origin would be more plausible, but as you indicate, the practice was not limited to the navy.

We now say "to run the gauntlet" because people lost track of the origin and there's a plausible link to the word "gauntlet" that comes to us from the French and can mean "mailed glove" -- now, blows with one of those would really smart! But that, of course, is a folk etymology.

11/27/11, 10:18 AM  

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