Uh-kweyn-tuhns: Noun: (1) a person known to one, but usually not a close friend (2) the state of being casually familiar with someone or something (3) personal knowledge as a result of study, experience, etc. (4) (used with a plural verb) the persons with whom one is acquainted.
Related terms: acquaintanceship; nonacquaintance; nonacquaintanceship; preacquaintance; reacquaintance.
Fight on the Beaches (not fight them on the beaches or anywhere, note) speech not solidly grounded in good old Anglo Saxon. Acointer itself comes from Vulgar Latin (which really means the common usage or vernacular, as opposed to Classical Latin, not just some coarse Roman sort effing and blinding like a centurion all the way down to the Colosseum), the root being accognoscere, know well, which springs from ac- (or ad-, actually), towards, plus cogniscere, which is com-, with or together, and gnoscere, know. Giving us the meaning of gaining a personal knowledge of, and a pretty thorough one at that. Which isn’t at all like our modern “on nodding terms” usage of acquaintance, though we do use it in the “know well” sense on occasions, as in phrases such as, “he is well acquainted with the theatres and bars of old Paris,” meaning that the fellow concerned is actually something of a cognoscente (we’ll come back to that word later) of such places, not that he waves a wan hand vaguely and mumbles a slightly embarrassed “wotcher, mate” as he hurries on by as rapidly as decency allows. As a maliciously satisfying by-product, that particular phrase additionally allows us to insinuate that the Jack the Lad concerned is also something of a raincoated lush who is rather overfamiliar with all the ins and outs of the Can-Can, if you catch our drift …
We never did quite clear up the explanation of quaint to any degree of satisfaction, so we’ll put that right straight away. Once again, as it was bound to do, this one springs from the same cognoscere root and then turned up in Old French (again) round about 1200, which was just after Richard I, the Lionheart, had been busy getting the crossbow bolt through his neck, a wound that would turn gangrenous and kill him. He was one of the great English Kings, of course, though he couldn’t speak a word of the lingo (apart from “where’s the cash” perhaps) and only ever spent six months in England, nearly ruining the country with his wanton crusading, during which he had twenty seven hundred Muslims beheaded in cold blood so as to make Acre get a move on with its surrendering, which pretty much did the trick. (Apart from that, though, thoroughly decent bloke). Anyhow, there he was besieging again, this time at the castle of Châlus-Chabrol in order to get his hands on yet more cash, strutting around the walls without bothering to put his chainmail on, when a crossbowman decides to have a potshot at him and scores a bullseye. As the stricken king lay dying, he called the archer to his tent (he turned up too, which is more than we’d’ve done in that situation) and forgave him, even giving him a hundred shillings into the bargain. Didn’t do him much good. The minute Richard was dead, the wretch was taken outside, flayed alive and hanged. So the French coined the word cointe, which is admirably apposite in Richard’s case, seeing it meant arrogant, proud, elegant, gracious and clever. Not sure about that last one, mind. In English (c.1300), it would mean elaborate or skilfully made, not quite the quaint that we know so well now, though they started to spell it that way from the early fourteenth century.
Ignoramus is Latin for “we do not know” and does, in fact, have a law connection. Way back when, in the sixteenth century actually, it was used in court, as reported by Sir Thomas Smith in De Republica Anglorum (1565), who didn’t win many prizes for spelling but did say that when a Grand Jury was considering an indictment, “if they finde it true they do nothing but write on the backeside of it, ‘billa vera’, as ye would say, ‘scriptum verum’: or ‘accusatio iusta’, or ‘reus est qui accusatur’: Then he who is there named is called indicted.” On the other hand, if they thought the whole thing was a stitch-up, they simply wrote “ignoramus” on the back (we do not know) and handed that to the judge. It’s just surprising more of them weren’t banged up for contempt, we’d’ve said. Lots of terms, it would seem, for saying send the blighter down, but only the one for let’s let him off: ignoramus.
And so, it seems, we’ve come all the way from acquaintance via friends on Facebook to end up with an ignoramus. How is that even possible …
Chums: By Staff of Chums (Scan of original) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Britishers: By HM Government (museumsyndicate.com photo 17377.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jane Avril Dancing (Can-Can): By Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Witan: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Scabies: By Kalumet (de.wikipedia) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Richard the Lionheart: Merry-Joseph Blondel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Samson and the Philistines: Carl Heinrich Bloch [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Benjamin Franklin: Joseph-Siffrein Duplessis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
James I: John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons