When reading, I don’t always look up the words I don’t know the meaning of – usually because context is enough, but often just because of laziness. This habitual sloth set me on a false scent with the following passage:
Nobody, probably not even Kathy, need ever be aware of his spiritual child Katherine Volkov; unless some tittuping archivist picked up a scent on a scholarly ramble and thought to enliven scholarship with muck.
– Patrick White, The Vivisector, (484).
‘Tittuping’ is the word in question, and I assumed a meaning of uppity or impertinent or trespassing. Fear of error hounded me, nagged at my conscience for twenty minutes or more until at last I turned to the dictionary:
tittuping, ppl. a. That tittups*; bouncing, cantering, prancing; transf., rollicking, lively; also, unsteady, rickety.
1796 Campaigns 1793-4 II. vii. 44 My pen glances off into titupping strains. 1809 Theo. Jones Hist. Breckn. II. 542 The poem concludes in such galloping tittuping rhymes as almost compel the reader to forget the merits the author certainly possesses. 1824 Scott St. Ronan’s xiii, The ‘Dear me’s’ and ‘O laa’s’ titupping misses, and the oaths of the pantalooned or buckskinned beaux. 1833 New Monthly Mag. XXXVIII. 300 The appropriateness of the harmony itself sinks before the tittuping of an arpeggio bass. 1868 Morn. Star 30 Jan., For such poetic cantering, such tit-tupping of Pegasus in a rhythmic Rotten Row. 1895 Mrs. B. M. Croker Village Tales (1896) 76 They kept up a steady tittuping canter, raising a cloud of dust.
I mention this only because the equine/hunting overtones make the sentence from White that much richer than it might otherwise have been – the scholar a huntsman pursuing a quarry rather than a nosy rambler peeping through hedges.
‘Tittuping’ is also (just by the way) a participle favored by arts reviewers in UK dailies; see, e.g. The Guardian:
She has a wonderful habit, while trying to hide the escaped prisoner, of hitching up her skirt and tittuping across the stage in high heels.and Telegraph:
Fragmented and episodic, it starts arrestingly with ghostly shushing sounds and moving searchlights picking out a lone dancer in black tittuping nervily on the balls of her feet.
Such usage defies comment.
* tittup, Chiefly dial. [app. echoic, from the sound of the horse’s feet.]
- A horse’s canter; a hand-gallop; also, a curvet.
1703 E. Ward Lond. Spy vi. (1706) 145 Citizens in Crowds..all upon the Tittup, as if he who Rid not a Gallop was to Forfeit his Horse […] 1882 Lanc. Gloss., Titherup, a hand-gallop. From the sound. Also called tit-up.
- An impudent or forward woman or girl; a hussy, a minx. [Cf. tit] dial.
1762 D. Garrick Farmer’s Return fr. Lond. 9 Some Tittups I saw, and they maade me to stare! [1901 F. E. Taylor Folk-Speech S. Lanc. (E.D.D.), Titty-ups, also..titty-haups, a pert, forward girl.]
- As adv. With a tittup; at a canter.
A. 1764 R. Lloyd Poet. Wks. (1774) II. 82 Perhaps my muse..Which, slouching in the doggrel lay, Goes tittup all her easy way.
- on the tittup (dial.), in a state of excitement; mentally upset.
1906 Westm. Gaz. 6 Oct. 2/2 He couldn’t find it [the wedding ring]… Everything was at a standstill, and we was all on the titup.
- tittup, sb.2 Obs. rare-1. [f. vbl. phr. tit up, pull up, tit v.1] The trigger of a cross-bow.
1536 Bellenden Boece’s Cron. Scot. xi. x. (1541) 163/2 Als sone as ony man maid him to throw this apill out of the hand of the image, the wrying of the samyn drew all the tituppis of the crosbowis [ed. 1585 quarrels of the crossebowes] vp at anis, & schot at hym yt threw ye apill. [orig. quam primum quispiam pomum manu tractando loco etiam paulum moueret: expeditæ ballistarum chorde&hook., catapultas in tractantem ingenti vi emitterent.]
- tittup, v. Also titup. [Goes with tittup sb.1] intr. To walk or go with an up-and-down movement; to walk in an affected manner; to mince or prance in one’s gait; of a horse or other animal, to canter, gallop easily; also, to prance; hence of a rider, or one driving a vehicle; of a boat, to toss with abrupt jerky movements. Also fig.
1785 in European Mag. (1786) IX. 176 Then tittup’d along with a light mincing step, Little Yoffer Van-Sploom-a well known demi-rep. 1844 J. T. Hewlett Parsons & W. xxxix, A hare that came tit-upping by me. 1852 R. S. Surtees Sponge’s Sp. Tour li, [He] saw the horsemen tittup-ing across a grass field. 1862 Thackeray Philip viii, A magnificent horse dancing and tittuping. 1878 Stevenson Inland Voy. 234 The Abstract Bagman tittups past in his spring gig. 1881 E. Warren Laughing Eyes (1890) 26 The little dingy [a boat] titupped over the swell. 1904 A. Griffiths 50 Yrs. Publ. Serv. 71, I can see him now tittupping over the heather on his fat grey pony.1910 E. M. Forster Howard’s End xiv. 121 No one felt uneasy as he titupped along the pavements. 1968 B. Healey Murder without Crime vii. 126 Like benevolent Mr. Pickwick he tittuped along beside us. 1972 N. Freeling Long Silence i. 51 ‘We’re not very happy about art,’ Van der Valk tittupped on.