Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Egads. The toils of ignorance are never done. Apparently it was not enough to discover that those Tower of London guardians/tour guides were called the Yeoman Warders. It has now been pointed out to me that I failed to sufficiently explain what yeomen are. There's a perfectly good explanation for this, however--I don't know the answer.

Not quite good enough, though, is it? Well, up to the moment that I was actually questioned on this, I thought I did know. They're strong, stalwart types, a little like Robin Hood's Merry Men, salt of the earth, good archers, wearing tunic and tights...Yeah, I'm starting to make less and less sense to me too. Let's cut to the chase.

Well, the chase is not so easily cut to as all that, it seems. Did you want the short answer or the complete one? The fast and serviceable one is that a yeoman is a.) a freeholder who cultivates his own land, b.) an assistant or subordinate to an official, or c.)an attendant or lesser official in a royal or noble household. Oh, and there's d.) a naval petty officer.

But where does the word come from? Well, no one really knows. Some think it's related to Old English iunge man or 'young man', others to Old English geaman or 'villager'.

But this guy has a different theory. Personally, I like it. It seems to account for the unusual prefix in a less "ingenious" way.

What's the headshot about, you ask? Why, that's Owain Yeoman from "The Mentalist", of course. And no, he didn't pay me anything for the publicity.

At least not yet.


  1. Seana

    I knew the naval one.

    Yeoman of the Sheets is the guy in charge of all the ropes.

  2. Wonder why he isn't called Yeoman of the Ropes. It is a rather dashing job title though. In fact, it would make a good title for a romance novel.

    I think I probably should have known the naval designation too. My mom was in the navy and I think it might have been part of her rank. I seem to recall reading in her papers somewhere she was a yeoman storekeeper. I'll have to call her and ask her about that.

  3. Seana

    There's also a Yeoman of the Signals which is a bit more obvious.

  4. Sounds like it would be a bit lighter work than yeoman of the ropes.

  5. Yeoman of the sheets, not ropes. You never say rope on a sailing boat for reasons I dont really understand.

    There are sheets, painters, travellers, outhauls, downhauls, lines, stays and of course halyards, but apparently no ropes.

  6. That's quite interesting. I wonder if it's one of those superstitious dread kind of things, like women going down in mines, or saying the name of a certain famous Shakespearean play in a theatre. And when I say superstitious I don't mean to be condescending, I mean it's in a realm of the unexplored that I'm generally been happy enough to adhere to the rules of.

    The ropes really are just managing the sheets, though, so maybe it's just that.

  7. A taboo against whistling is very common too.

    I like all the superstitions - it means you're taking the sea seriously.

  8. I think that must be true in mines too, although of course I take a bit of umbrage there.

    Whistling can be a bit problematic at the best of times. Even good whistlers have been known to go astray.