Adam’s new words or senses

Note: pages in our 18c Leverhulme study section were originally published on the website in 2010. Links have since been checked and updated.

Words or usages in Adam’s work at present unrecorded in OED: Adam Table 1

Word Quotation Comments
dung, v. ‘Who Digs and Dungs to see if it [i.e. a tree] would bear’ (p. 22) OED1/2 does not record the intransitive use of dung (contrast intr. use of dig); the transitive use is illustrated with quotations dated 1000, 1380, 1440, 1548, 1648, and 1770-74. Adam’s usage deserves recording.
fantastically, adv. ‘[Olivia laments, of Antony (in love with Cleopatra)] hath some charming Rival got my Place; Oh sees my Lord no deeper than a Face! […] Sure he must be fantastickly diseas’d’ (p. 125) None of the OED1/2 definitions (5 senses altogether) quite fits, the closest being 1: ‘Through the exercise of the fancy or imagination’ (quotations dated 1526, 1691-8), or (better) 2: ‘In a phantasmal or unreal manner’ (quotations dated 1543, 1577). Adam’s sense is rather ‘as by a fantasy’; but at the very least this is a post-dating.
heart, n. ‘My flaming Anger is half drown’d in Tears, / When thou Heart wounding spectacle appears’ (p. 106) OED lists ‘heart-wounding’ as combinatorial form but has no quotation for it.
implicit, adj. ‘Implicit Nature speaks her Lord / Both powerful, wise, and good’ (beginning of poem, ‘On Redemption’, p. 8) None of the OED2 definitions works here (in an entry mainly derived from OED1, with some extra quotations added in Burchfield’s Supplement). Adam’s sense seems to be ‘Nature in herself, manifest but not articulated or made explicit’. This sense is possibly the same as that some of the quotations printed in OED, including those suggested to be erroneous: ‘1727 Philip Quarll 29 Pray be implicite, what King have we now? 1752 FIELDING Amelia Wks. 1775 X. 49, I am very implicit you see; but we are all among friends’ – the point being that Adam’s use of implicit implies a guileless innocent openness, an obviousness and manifestness that does not need to be verbalized. Cf. pp. 117 and 131, where the same phrase is used, also p. 179: ‘He fill’d with Blood implicit Nature’s Veins’. Alternatively, Adam could be using the adjective in an adverbial sense. This use is not recorded in OED either – but it is not a likely interpretation given the repetition of the phrase ‘implicit nature’.
possess, v. ‘Thou sweet anticipating Grace, Thou makes us ere our Time possess’ (p. 19) OED3 (draft revision December 2008) only recognizes the possibility of such intransitive use under sense 2: ‘trans. a. Of a person or body of people: to hold or occupy (a place or territory); to reside or be stationed in; to inhabit (with or without ownership). Also intr. Obs.OED3 (draft entry September 2009) supplies one intransitive example (‘a1616 SHAKESPEARE Cymbeline (1623) I. v. 48 Let instructions enter Where Folly now possesses’), but Adam’s usage is better defined by sense 1 (‘To own, to have or gain ownership of; to have (wealth or material objects) as one’s own; to hold as property’), for which the OED has no intransitive examples.
proselyte, n. ‘To what Religion art thou Prosylite?’; ‘No home-born Slave, nor foreign Prosylite / With thy Gates, but must to this submit’; ‘In Number let the Saints increase, / And let the Prosylites of Grace / Count it their Ornament’ (pp. 87, 95, 104, 165) OED3 (draft June 2009) distinguishes two senses of the noun: 1, ‘spec. A Gentile who has converted to Judaism’, and 2: ‘A person who has changed from one opinion, religion, party, etc., to another; a convert’. Quotations under 2 include secular or humorous ones, yet Adam’s first two examples indicate the same precise technical understanding of the word, i.e. specifically and exclusively designating a convert from a non-Christian to Christian (or possibly Presbyterian) religion, as do the quotations under OED sense 1 relating to the Jewish faith. In the light of this specific character, her third example, ‘Prosylites of Grace’, takes on greater intensity of meaning.
rule of life, n. ‘One Rule of Life was given to us both’ (p. 26); ‘must the spotless Rules of Life / Both humane and divine […] Be overlookt by humane Kind?’ (p. 27); ‘And shall a Pagan thee Eclipse, / Who hast the Rules of Life?’ (p. 29) OED1/2 does not treat ‘rule of life’ as a term for definition, but the phrase occurs 15 times in OED itself, plus five times in the plural (searching in full text), including in the text of definitions (i.e. written by the lexicographers themselves). It would seem to deserve lemma status, perhaps in the entry for rule (cf. sense 2: ‘The code of discipline or body of regulations observed by a religious order or congregation; hence occas., the order or congregation itself’.)
sphered, ppl. adj. ‘The ten sphere’d Heaven out he issu’d next’ (p. 5) OED2‘s entry (carried over from OED1) for this form defines it to mean ‘Converted into a sphere; formed like a sphere or circle’, and supplies four quotations, from Shakespeare, Keats, M. Arnold, and Tyndall. It does not record the sense ‘furnished with a sphere (or spheres)’, Adam’s meaning here. The entry for the verb sphere lists a number of senses, but again none of them equivalent to ‘furnish with sphere(s)’; the nearest is sense 3, ‘To place in a sphere or among the spheres; to set in the heavens’, with no quotation between Milton (PL, 1667) and Shelley. But that is not what Adam means. It is hard to believe this is a singular usage.
stage, n. ‘Joseph, whose youthfull Slumbers did presage / He would be great before he left the Stage’ (p. 71; cf. pp. 70, 59) This figurative sense of stage = ‘life’ (i.e. platform on which the drama that is a person’s life takes place) does not seem to be recorded in OED; the appropriate place would be s.v. stage OED1/2 sense 5a, ‘The platform in a theatre upon which spectacles, plays, etc. are exhibited’. The image was commonplace both before and after Adam (cf. As You Like It, ‘All the world’s a stage’; Bacon, ‘If he have not a friend, he may quit the stage’, in the last period of his Essay ‘Of Friendship’; Wollstonecraft, ‘All the world is a stage and few are there in who do not play the part they have learnt by rote’, quoted Todd 1989: 4 from Letters Written in Sweden)
swoon, v. ‘No sword could wound, / No pain could swoon, / No Death make these expire’ (pp. 40-1) This transitive use of the verb – i.e., meaning ‘make to swoon’ – is unrecorded in OED.
turn, n. ‘Strange Turn of Events! Could so great an Act / Arraign it’s Author for so foul a Fact?’ (p. 74) The best definition for turn in this sense appears to be s.v. OED2 (taken from OED1) sense 18: ‘spec. a. A change in affairs, conditions, or circumstances; vicissitude; revolution; esp. a change for better or worse, or the like, at a crisis; hence, sometimes, the time at which such a change takes place’; one is cross-referred to sense 10, under which 10b is apposite: ‘in phr. at every turn: usually fig. at every change of circumstance (cf. 18); hence, on every occasion, constantly, continually’. Searching in OED3 (30 January 2009) for turn of events in full text yields 12 results, all but one (s.v. Napoleonist, a 1919 quotation), occurring in definition text – so all late-nineteenth-century or after! The phrase clearly merits an entry, s.v. sense 18.

Searching in ECCO (‘full text’) for ‘turn of events’ yields well over 100 results, many of which are for turn as verb plus event. However, George Stanhope, A Paraphrase and Comment upon the Epistles and Gospels (1705-9), vol. 3, p. 104, uses the same phrase: ‘by a Turn of Events, peculiar to Him, whose Prerogative it is to bring Good out of Evil’, thus antedating Adam’s usage.


Last updated on 30 July 2019