Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 211

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….

Monks and Friars

I’ve never heard of this before, defined by Grose as “terms used by printers: monks are sheets where the letters are blotted, or printed too black; friars, those letters where the ink has failed touching the type, which are therefore white or faint”. The origins of this phrase date back to Joseph Moxon in his 1683 book titled ‘Mechanick Exercises’. Although he’s referring to the white and black of the dress worn by monks and friars, it’s also rather appropriate, as this period of printing was not that long after private printers, following in the footsteps of Gutenberg and his presses, had taken over from monks in the preparation of religious books.