The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

a quiver

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.


ego hoc feci mm–MMXXIV · cc 2000–2024 M.F.C.