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Nail. To hit the nail on the head, a popular phrase common to many languages, meaning to furnish a clinching argument, to strike home, the metaphor being obviously borrowed from the fact that to drive a nail home it must be hit full and square on the head.
This hitteth the naile on the hed.
HEYWOOD : Proverbs, ch. xi.
Rabelais, Book iii., ch. xxxi. Nail, Down on the, a slang phrase for a cash payment. The nail is sometimes supposed to be a figure of speech for the nail-studded counter whereon the money might be paid. But it is more likely a reminiscence of the classical phrase "in unguem” or “ad unguem,” signifying "to a nicety,” * to the finger-tips." In a parliamentary deed of King Robert the Bruce dated July 15, 1326 (Scots Acts, i. 476), occurs the phrase, “ Pro quibus prisis et cariagiís plena fiat solutio super unguem” (“For which prises and carriages full payment shall be made on the nail"). An early use of the English phrase is quoted in Nares's Glossary :
When they were married, her dad did not fail
The Reading Garland (no date). The French have a corresponding phrase, “payer rubis sur l'ongle.” This grew out of the custom called “faire rubis sur l'ongle"-.l., to drain a tumbler so completely that there remains in it only one drop of wine, which, being put on the nail, looks like a ruby.
Je sirote mon vin, quel qu'il soit, vieux, nouveau ;
REGNARD: Folies Amoureuses, iii. 4.
La sottise en est faite ;
PIRON : Contes. O'Keefe, in his “ Recollections," tells of a pillar in the centre of the Limerick Exchange with a circular disk or plate of copper, about three feet in diameter, laid across the top, and called “the Nail.” On this metal disk the earnest of all stock-exchange bargains had to be paid. A similar custom prevailed at Bristol, where before the Exchange were placed four pillars, called “nails,” intended for the like purpose. O'Keefe believes that here is the origin of the phrase ; but in fact the phrase gave the name to the pillars.
Nail-money. This was the six crowns given in the days of chivalry, by each knight who came to take part in a tournament, to the "roy des harnoys". (herald) for affixing his arms to the pavilion.
Nails, Twopenny, etc. The origin of the expression twopenny, sixpenny, tenpenny, etc., as applied to nails lies in an English corruption of the word pounds. Anciently nails were made a specified number of pounds to the thousand, and this standard is still recognized in England and other countries. For instance, in England a tenpenny nail is understood to be one of a kind of which it would require one thousand to make ten pounds, and a sixpenny nail one of a kind of which an equal number would make six pounds. “ Penny” is really a survival of the English “pun," a corruption of "pound.” Formerly the pound-mark (£) followed the figures designating the size of the nails, thus, 2£, 6£, 104, and so on, but this in time gave way to the pence-mark (d), as at present.
Namby-pamby, affected, artificial, childish. Pope applied the word to the verses addressed to Lord Carteret's children by Ambrose Philips. The first word is a baby way of pronouncing Amby, or Ambrose ; the second is a jingling corruption of the surname. Macaulay accordingly says correctly that this sort of verse “has been so called after the name of its author."
Name, What's in a ? This famous inquiry is put into Juliet's mouth in “Romeo and Juliet," Act ii., Sc. 2:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
Without that title. In “Love's Labor's Lost,” Açt i., Sc. 1, Shakespeare had already made use of a similar sentiment :
Small have continual plodders ever won,
Save base authority, from others' books.
That give a name to every fixed star,
Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
And every godfather can give a name.
See what a lovely shell.
Could give it a clumsy name.
The beauty would be the same Emerson in his poem of “Blight” has an equally scornful reference to those sciolists who
Love not the flower they pluck and know it not,
And all their botany is Latin names. Nameless City, i.e., the most ancient Rome, which was said to have had another and older name, which it was death to pronounce. This mysterious name is supposed to have been Valentia, of which the Greek word 'Púsun is a translation.' or 'Póun, the Greek form of Rome, the earliest recorded use is made by Aristotle, although this does not exclude the possibility, on the contrary would seem to point to the probability, of its earlier use, and that it was the common and current name of the city at the time. The city was known by other local names, but "all are inferior, I think, to the one sacred and proverbial name which belonged to Rome. They take many words to convey one idea. In one word, the secret qualifying name of the ancient city, many ideas found expression,-Valentia !" (Dr. DORAN.)
Names assumed in religion. It is well known that Popes change their name on assuming the tiara, as do the members of various religious orders when they take the vows. An ancient tradition, mentioned as an on-dit by Platina and accepted as a fact by Machiavelli (History of Florence, Book i., ch. i.), asserts that Sergius II., who became Pope in A.D. 844, set the fashion which has been followed by nearly all his successors. “It has been said that Sergius's name was originally Osporci (pig-face), and that on his election he changed this to Sergius because of the disagreeable nature of his original appellation. The custom has come down to our days, and the Popes almost all have, in their creation, altered their family name for some name of their own selection." (Platina: In Vita Sergii.) But this story has been fully refuted. Indeed, it carries its refutation on its face, for the Popes had been always called by their first names, so that the assumption of Sergius as a pontifical name did not affect the other name at all. In any event, it was not Sergius II, who was called Boccadiporco (which Platina Latinizes as Osporci), but Sergius IV. The latter was elected Pope in 1012. It is quite clear, moreover, that the custom originated before this date. In 999, for example, Gerbert, or Gerbertus, took the name of Sylvester II. A very plausible suggestion has been made that the leader in the innovation was the first Pope whose name happened to be Peter. Naturally he would find himself in an embarrassing position. To have called himself Peter II. might seem wanting in humility, while Peter I. would have been a practical denial of the raison d'être of his own position. The first-known Peter was Pietro di Canevanno, who became John XIV. in 984. But there must have been other Peters before him in that long stretch of nine centuries, and it is safe to assume that the custom set by some eponymous predecessor had come into tacit use, being greatly assisted by the mediæval love of symbolism and the possible suggestion that Christ had instituted it in giving a new name to St. Peter, and that hence it ought to be adopted and perpetuated. In later times, the only Pope who broke through the tradition was Adrian IV. (1522), who retained his own name exactly. Julius II. took one that very closely resembled his own name of Giuliano (in Latin, Julianus).
Names, Curiosities of. There is a great deal in a name, in spite of Shakespeare's query. And, in fact, Shakespeare probably knew what he was about when he put the query in the mouth of a girl of fourteen, ignorant and inexperienced. For surely he was aware of the value of names. In the very title “Romeo and Juliet” is there not reflected all the deliciousness of the soft Italian skies ? Call it " John and Tabitha,” for instance, and the illusion vanishes. Or take Goethe's play of “Faust:" was not the name of Gretchen a happy choice for the heroine ? Does not that caressing diminutive suggest simplicity and purity and innocence ? Gretchen is simply the English Maggie, yet how vulgar the fall when you translate it! On the other hand, the Marguerite of the French is too stately and too haughty. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Gounod's opera seems tawdry and meretricious beside Goethe's tragedy. Why should Petrarch be praised for loving Laura ? Anybody might love so mellifluous a union of vowels and consonants, but we cannot understand how the Lord of Burleigh fell in love with Sarah Hoggins. By whom is the butterfly best loved, -by the Greek who calls it Psyche, the Spaniard who calls it Mariposa, the Italian who calls it Farfalla, or the Dutch who damns it with the hideous name of Witze and the German who makes it ridiculous as Schmetterling ?
Unconsciously to ourselves we form a mental picture of people that are unknown to us from their names. We expect more from Gwendolen than from Hephzibah, from Hector than from John. The names that have become famous are those which have a sonorous and stately ring. George W ashington, Alexander Hamilton, Lafayette, Shakespeare, Wolfgang von Goethe, Gustavus Adolphus, Alfred Tennyson, Ludovico da Vinci, Michael Angelo Buonarrotti, Raffaelle Sanzio. One can understand how an obscure Corsican born with such a name as Napoleon Bonaparte might have conquered the world. Authors and actors know the value of a mouth-filling name. Herbert Lythe becomes famous as Maurice Barrymore, Bridget O'Toole charms an audience as Rosa d'Erina, John H. Brodribb becomes Henry Irving, Samuel C. Clemens and Charles F. Browne attract attention under the eccentric masks of Mark Twain and Artemus Ward. John Rowlands would never have become a great explorer unless he had first changed his name to Henry M. Stanley. James B. Matthews and James B. Taylor might have remained lost among the mass of magazine contributors but for their cunning
in dropping the James and standing forth as Brander Matthews and Bayard Taylor.' Would Jacob W. Reid have succeeded as well as Whitelaw Reid?
Íhe Italians are adepts in this sort of thing. If a man's name be not up to the dignity of his personality they find some sopranome-some nickname or nom de guerre—which shall more accurately label and define him. Pietro Vanucci sounds harsh and common, Antonio Allegri lacks distinction, so they are known as Perugino and Correggio, from their birthplaces. Domenico Corradi is an ugly clash of consonants, but how mellifluous and how characteristic is Ghirlandaio, a nickname taken from his father's trade as a garland-maker. Giorgione suggests color and harmony, and admirably befits the gorgeous Venetian painter whose baptismal name was the more plebeian Giorgio Barbarelli.
An ingenious writer in the Athenæum has even suggested that between the character of a great man and the mere names of the places associated with him there is often a harmony as happy as it is inscrutable. Every one feels, for instance, that there would be something lacking to Drummond if he had not lived at a place called Hawthornden. Shakespeare could not fail to be born at a town so beautifully and appropriately named as Stratford-on-Avon. As Scott was not born at a place called by the appropriate name of Abbotsford, the fates very properly decreed that he should make money expressly to purchase Cartley Hole and rechristen it aright. And there was no reason in the world, save that love of harmony in black or white which characterizes fate, why Scott should be buried in a place called Dryburgh Abbey. It is impossible to conceive any collocation of letters so expressive of that peculiar kind of sweetness and light which Carlyle was born to shed as Ecclefechan and Craigenputtock. The list might be almost indefinitely extended. Rydal Mount has about it some of the serene austerity which befits a habitation for Wordsworth. Gad's Hill (probably through its Falstaffian associations) sug. gests a riotous humor which made it the appropriate residence of Dickens. Mount Vernon has all the calmness and dignity that we are accustomed to attribute to Washington. Trollope has a rough and ready suggestion about it which ill befits the character of the novelist (though it better suits the asperities of his mother). But when the novelist purchased a villa near Florence the Italians seem to have been conscious of this deficiency and called his residence the Villino Trol-lo-pé, which admirably suits the suave and harmless character of the man.
Unlike the Italian, the Anglo-Saxon spoils the names that he touches. An amusing article might be written to show, by the degeneration of their names, that the English and the Americans are themselves degenerating. Sevenoaks, for example, bodies forth to the mental eye a splendid doughty figure, but his descendant Snooks cannot help being something of a snob and a good deal of a sneak. Cholmondeley must have been a good and great man, and the modern Chumley is a sad disgrace to the family. How ignoble does Marchbanks sound beside the imposing Marjoribanks from which it descends! And when we in America had in our midst so noble a name as Enroughty, we had to perform a tremendous feat of cacophonic acrobatism by converting it into Darby. On the other hand, a man might almost as well not have been born as to be saddled with a ridiculous or an unmeaning name. One can sympathize with Mr. Ludocovischi Katz von Kottek, who petitioned a San Francisco court to change his name to L. Kats, because "the meaning of the words Katz von Kottek is .cat of cats,' and the name of L. Katz von Kottek is the occasion of great annoyance to Petitioner.” We are glad that the Hartford (Connecticut) County Superior Court granted the petition of Henry Ratz of Thomasville, praying that his name be changed to Henry Raites. The petitioner showed that his name was the cause of a great deal of annoyance to himself and members of his family. Facetious neighbors spoke of him and his wife as the old rats, and the children as little rats, and some of them even committed the enormity of calling the latter mice. And it is a matter of real rejoicing that Herr Julius Jackass had his name changed in New York to Julius Courage.
The French law recognizes no name not borne by a saint or an historical personage. This may seem arbitrary, and would prevent the sensible practice that is now growing up in America of giving family names in lieu of Christian names. Thus, Cadwalader Biddle has a more distinctive individuality than John or James Biddle, and individuality in names is to be encouraged, not only for utilitarian but for æsthetic reasons. Nevertheless, the French law is a great boon if it saves a child from being handicapped by the absurd names that are rife in England and America. It would prevent such poor jests as that of a Mr. Death, who named one of his sons Jolly and the other Sudden, or that of Victoria Woodhull's father, who named one of her sisters Tennie C. and the other Uti K. And it would prevent the unpleasant results of the sentimentalities of ladies like Mrs. Rose, who named her eldest daughter Wild, and was astonished at the change produced by Wild's marriage with Mr. Bull.
The curiosities indeed of English and American baptismal names might easily fill a volume. In the United States census of 1870 a record was obtained of the father of a family who had named his five children Imprimis, Finis, Appendix, Addendum, and Erratum, the latter being the unkindest cut of all. Three sisters still live who were born during political excitement and baptized by the names of Anti-Nebraska, Free Kansas, and Texana. Preserved Bullock was the name of a lady buried at Salem, Massachusetts, and Preserved Fish was once a well-to-do New Jersey merchant. A farmer living at Huntingdon in the time of Charles the First was named January May. His surname was May, and in all probability he was born in the month of January. Sou’Wester was conferred on a boy in memory of an uncle so baptized because of his birth during a southwesterly gale. But a still greater meteorological curiosity in the way of names is Easterly Rains. A boy called Washington was christened General George ; a boy called Newton, Sir Isaac. Marquis, Duke, Earl, Lord, and Squire are common names in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In the North of England the Bible has decided the nomenclature of most of the children. “A clerical friend of mine," says a writer in Harper's Magazine, “christened twins Cain and Abel only the other day, much against his own wishes. Another parson on the Derbyshire border was gravely informed at the proper moment that the name of baptism was Ramoth. Gilead. "Boy or girl, eh he asked, in a somewhat agitated voice. The parents had opened the Bible hap-hazard according to the village tradition, and selected the first name the eye fell on.” “Sirs" was the answer given to a bewildered curate after the usual demand to name the child. He objected, but was informed it was a scriptural name, and the verse “Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?" was triumphantly appealed to. This reminds one of the Puritan who styled his dog Moreover, after the dog in the Gospel, “Moreover, the dog came and licked his sores."
But above all other men the Puritans distinguished themselves by their fantastic choice of names. They resolved to throw off all semblance of the world or acquaintance with worldly things. With the usual result of fanaticism, they made themselves ridiculous. Such names as Swear-not-at-all Ireton, Glory-be-to-God Pennyman, Hew-Agag-in-pieces-before-the-Lord Robinson, and Obadiah-bind-their-kings-in-chains-and-their-nobles-in-irons Needham, were calculated to excite the derision of the Cavaliers. The man whose name is often associated with the Rump Parliament had three brothers, of whom