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Monday, December 3, 2012

The Compleat Angler

 

Here I was, quietly shopping at my favourite Vinnies store for a few more books, when I got pulled into a bloody spelling bee! Another customer hadn't bought anything except into an argument with the counter staff about the name of the adjoining shop, The Compleat Angler, which he thought was spelt 'compleatly' wrong, and he wanted me to adjudicate. I had to tell him that compleat' was simply an archaic form of 'complete' going back to a time when spelling had not yet been standardised.

On closer inspection, The Compleat Angler is as much a whimsical spelling as it is a literary allusion to The Compleat Angler, or the Contemplative Man’s Recreation; Being a Discourse of Fish and Fishing, not unworthy the perusal of most Anglers, written by an Isaak Walton in 1653 who naturally used the older spelling of complete which modern editions have retained.

And because Isaak Walton’s book title has remained so well-known, one unexpected result has been that the word in that spelling and in that old sense has been taken as a model in modern times. For example, when Messrs W and A Gilbey published a book on wine in 1953, they couldn’t resist calling it The Compleat Imbiber.

So the short answer is that compleat and complete were originally different spellings of the same word, but under the influence of Isaak Walton’s book title the older spelling has taken on a distinct meaning of ‘quintessential’ as well as ‘skilled' or 'accomplished’.

The things you learn when you shop at Vinnies!


Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and beer gut and think they look sexy.