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And Richard yelled “Pell-mell!”….


The following is from an article by Dave Kiffer in a newspaper from Ketchikan in Alaska. “And wasn’t it Richard III who used the phrase “pell-mell” to describe rapid advancement of troops or some such thing. Of course, Richard III’s too rapid advancement led him to spending a few centuries buried under a parking lot. Or so say people who have nothing better to do than run around DNA testing bones they find under parking lots. So it goes.” 

The statement that Richard III used the phrase ‘pell-mell’ brought me up sharply. He what? According to Merriam-Webster, the word dates from 1590, a good hundred years after Bosworth. According to the Free Dictionary it dates from 1570-80, from the Middle French pelemele, Old French pesle mesle, rhyming compound based on mesler, to mix. I have not investigated further.

Now I was taught at school that the London street Pall Mall was named after a game, called pell-mell/pall-mall, that was played with a long ‘alley’. Something along the lines of a bowling alley. That’s debatable, apparently, because Wiki says it was a game similar to croquet or golf. The above illustration makes the game seem like a cross between golf and basketball, while others definitely show an alley (the mall?) with a single large croquet hoop stuck in the ground. Anyway, the naming of the street Pall Mall definitely happened in the 17th century.

Wiki also quotes: In 1630, the area’s first court for playing pall-mall (a mallet-and-ball game similar to croquet and golf) was laid out north of the highway, in an area known as St. James’s Field (later Pall Mall Field). Archibald Lumsden received a grant in September 1635 “for sole furnishing of all the malls, bowls, scoops, and other necessaries for the game of Pall Mall within his grounds in St. James’s Fields and that such as resort there shall pay him such sums of money as are according to the ancient order of the game.”

Now, a little more delving takes the game back to 16th-century France. See  So we’re getting closer to Richard’s time. But did it really go back to then? How old was this game? And might Richard have used the phrase? Well, as I have never heard it being assigned to him, I think not. I can’t even picture him using it, because in my mind it’s the wrong era. So where did Mr Kiffer get the idea that Richard did?

Postscript. Well, thank you Esther (see comment below) for solving the problem. It seems we have Shakespeare to credit for the connection between Richard III and ‘pell-mell’. So, in a way, Richard did yell “Pell-mell!” – but only courtesy of the Bard.

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3 thoughts on “And Richard yelled “Pell-mell!”….

  1. Esther on said:

    He got the idea from Shakespeare, of course. “March on, join bravely, let us to ‘t pell-mell; If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell” (Richard III, Act V,
    Scene III.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. viscountessw on said:

    Well, there you go! I have never been able to bring myself to read or watch Shakespeare’s Richard.


  3. Hi Cb, it’s this common misunderstanding about what a professor’s job is that is a large part of the problem. We professors are probably partly at fault for the misunderstanding and certainly, I think many universities have emphasized the teaching role to the public…probably because they believe the public will respond more positively to the teaching contributions of professors. But it simply isn’t true that professors, like HS teachers, are paid to be in the classroom. That might be what many people would prefer our jobs to be but it is not what is written in most of our contracts. My contract (if I remember it right) is 40 teaching, 40 research and 20 service. That teaching includes both undergraduate and graduate teaching – most graduate teaching doesn’t happen in the classroom…it happens one-on-one or in small groups. And a good chunk of my undergraduate teaching time is also spent meeting with students outside of class who are struggling with the material. So, 6 hours a week in class sounds about right although maybe a bit on the high side. What I can say is that in teaching terms (Sept-April) I commit 20-40 hours per week to marking, meeting with students, prep time and in class instruction. There is no doubt that I could reduce the number of assignments (and so reduce marking), eliminate or reduce meeting with students and preparation time and give that time to more time in class but I think that would be to the detriment of the students.And the research component gets lost in this because I think it’s less tangible to the public. But most of the medical, environmental, mental health, economic, etc. research is done at universities. I’m not sure that most people understand that the majority of scientists work (i.e. teach and do research) at universities. And the research takes time. (AS an aside, Im a scientist so I have focused on science but some of the great pieces of fiction were and are being written by authors that support(ed) themselves with jobs in university English departments.)But the key point here is that, on the facts, you are misinformed – we are not paid simply to be in the classroom. If that’s what the majority of people want – universities to be high school +4 – then they should be actively lobbying to make that happen. But before you do that you should have a plan for getting science done elsewhere or a plan for living in a world where the amount of research that is done is greatly reduced.What I can guarantee you is that most of my colleagues are working 50-60 hours a week because they care passionately about their teaching and their research. If the balance strikes you as wrong, that’s a discussion that’s worth having. But there are consequences of shifting more of those 50-60 hours to the classroom. Best, Jeff HoulahanPS In Canada I would say that the primary reason for increased tuition is reduced public funding – I’ve never seen research on the issue of classroom time but I would be surprised if university professors are spending less time in the classroom today than they did 40-50 years ago.LikeLike


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