[Milton-L] Strange word

Nancy Charlton nbcharlton at comcast.net
Fri Aug 10 17:50:06 EDT 2012


I wonder whether someone could solve this puzzle.

The OED has been choosing words related to the Olympics in its 
daily Word of the Day email, and today's is "pentathlon." Pretty 
straightforward until it came to this usage example:

1603 P. Holland tr.  Plutarch /_Morals_/ (Gloss.) at 
/Pancratium/, The practise of all the fiue feats of activity, 
which is called Pentathlon and Quinquertium: to wit, buffetting, 
wrestling, running leaping and coiting.


Buffeting must be akin to boxing; wrestling, nothing new there. 
Is a comma omitted in "running leaping" thus perhaps like the 
broad jump, or is it a series "running, leaping"?

But "coiting"?  This must be an example of extreme change of 
meaning! Well beyond the Great Vowel Shift!

I think we've discussed Milton's involvement in sport, or lack of 
it, but I can't help wondering what he'd think of contemporary 
Olympics.  Beach volleyball?

And BTW, the pentathlon events are scheduled for this weekend, 
according to its web site, 
http://www.london2012.com/modern-pentathlon/about/.  I don't know 
whether NBC will bother broadcasting any of it.

A Gold to all,

Nancy Charlton






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