Friday, October 12, 2012


Meaning: beardless

Usefulness: 2 ( Could be used as faint praise; "You look particularly imberb today" would be interpreted almost entirely on tone.)

Logofascination: 1 (this is a French word which is listed in Cotgrave, but neither Rabelais nor Urquhart use it. The OED has a citation for imberbic from 1623, but imberb doesn't get one until Aldous Huxley in 1923, for which see below. Where did it go for 300 years?)

In the wild: Antic Hay, by Aldous Huxley, who has the bad manners to have more citations than Sir Thomas in the OED (1490 to 1405), but is soundly beaten on first evidence citations, where Sir Thomas' 360 dwarf his 62. The quote: "A face of such childish contour and so imberb that he looked like a little boy playing at grown-ups."

Degrees: 2

Connections: imberb - beardless

Which is used in: G&P, Third Book, XXXI: How the physician Rondibilis counselleth Panurge. It seems that Panurge could do without marriage if only he weren't so 'stirred up to venery'. Rondibilis recommends five methods for reducing such stirrings, the first of which is wine 'immoderately taken':
Hence it is that Bacchus, the god of bibbers, tipplers, and drunkards, is most commonly painted beardless and clad in a woman's habit, as a person altogether effeminate, or like a libbed* eunuch. Wine, nevertheless, taken moderately, worketh quite contrary effects, as is implied by the old proverb, which saith that Venus takes cold when not accompanied with Ceres and Bacchus. 
*Cotgrave: "bereaved or maimed of his stones"

Bonus Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, Scene 1 - Beatrice on the imberb.

Lord, I could not endure a husband with a
beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woollen.
You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel
and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a
beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no
beard is less than a man: and he that is more than
a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a
man, I am not for him: therefore, I will even take
sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his
apes into hell.

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