Bounders

Dr Biswell was most indignant about the promised public workers’ strike which has been called on his name-day. He threatens to go and drive a tram, since that it what one does in these circumstances. Whether there are trams in Manchester these days, I do not know, but if there are, Dr B will be offering his services. Anyway, it was in the context of this conversation that I was led to reflect on the word ‘bounder’. Clearly, it implies that with one bound, a chap could put himself beyond the pale of civilised society, which is presumably where he bounded from, but where did he bound to? And why? Or is it the bounce that counts? As a pejorative of its time, it is unlike, say, ‘counter-jumper’, in which the direction and purpose of the athletic activity is clearly implied. Does anyone out there have views? The philologically inclined might recall that in Old Norse a bondr is a farmer, so by extension an uncouth person, but whether there is a freak of linguistic happenstance which caused this to pop to the surface between the wars, I am inclined to doubt.

9 Responses to “Bounders”

  1. Jill Says:

    You just might be onto something here. A cursory look at our tattered Engelsk-norsk/norsk-engelsk Stor ordbok confirms that bonder has numerous meanings including farmer, or country folk. By extension, a bonderfanger is a conman, and a bonnder is a cad and thus by extension a “bounder” acording to my use of the word.

  2. Jill Says:

    One of the lovely aspects of the blog is that it provides yeast for engagement in interesting ideas. So while up at Uni. today I spoke to one of the senior researchers at CASTL (Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics).He was rather reluctant to commit himself to the metaphorical use of bounder. In fact as a Yank, he had never heard of the term. So for example in the U.S a “Jay Walker” is perjorative for someone from the country who does not know the rules of the city. This would be the equivalent for a bondr in Norwegian . By extension a bondr also arrives in the city with dirty boots- a skitstøvel” or dirty boot, or by extension a heel or cad.Thus according to my source, there are numerous examples of this over-layering as these variations “exist in the register.” Where all this leads, one never knows!

  3. Jane Says:

    [Peter here] I wonder if a Norwegian slang term could have jumped across to upper class English slang at the time when holidays in Norway were such a strong fashion (roughly the second half of the nineteenth century)?

  4. Will Says:

    Indutibably. Be still, my beating heart.

  5. Jane Says:

    Indeed. In a line cherished, nay showcased in that splendid anthology of Bad Verse called The Stuffed Owl, the heart is apostrophised thus: ‘Thou little bounder, rest!’ The line came to mind from time to time when we were trying to get the infant Miss Dog to go to sleep.

  6. cp Says:

    Infant Miss Dog! Please. A photograph?

  7. Jane Says:

    CP, there were a couple of photographs of the infant Miss Dog, but I’m sure you saw them because they used to live on the dresser.

  8. cp Says:

    I know about the photographs of the faithful departed. I thought that there might be a new Miss Dog.

  9. Jane Says:

    No Miss Dog will eventuate until after the end of term –we can’t get enough cover while we’re rushing in and out of Aberdeen. And as and when she does, she (or possibly he) is more likely to be an adult rescue dog than a squashy puppy.

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