Bespeak-an archaic word

Li singh

Senior Member
hindi
Hi
I came across " I bespoke a seat in the theatre". Here I want to know if "bespeak" is an archaic or still in use.
Thanks
 
  • Li singh

    Senior Member
    hindi
    A teacher wrote this sentense. First I did not know the meaning of the sentense as I did not know "bespoke". When I looked up in the dictionary I found it( to request something in advance) Don't native speakers use it?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    No, we don't use it, Li singh.

    As you suggested, and as teddy confirmed in post 3, the verb "bespeak" is archaic.



    Cross-posted
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Hey, I use "bespeak" from time to time, though I use it to mean "suggests" or "gives evidence of" and not in what I agree is definitely the archaic meaning "to reserve/order."

    I admit the word has a more literary tone or register. Contextually, I think even people who might not be familiar with it will understand it, but I also admit that it should be used sparingly.
     

    Proudy

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The only contemporary use for "bespoke" that I hear today is in reference to a custom tailored suit.
    1. He wore a bespoke suit, definitely not something off the rack.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    The only contemporary use for "bespoke" that I hear today is in reference to a custom tailored suit.
    1. He wore a bespoke suit, definitely not something off the rack.
    I think "bespoke" as an adjective is quite widely used, in all sorts of situations where you could get something designed and made especially for you, instead of a standard offering. One of my suppliers at work recently said they could make me a bespoke infra-red drying oven.

    However, the verb is archaic. From my reading habits, I get the impression it was old-fashioned before the end of the nineteenth century, but I don't have anything to hand to support that assertion. Google Ngram Viewer just shows a steady decline, with a higher modern usage than I would have expected, perhaps with bibliolept's meaning (Ngram doesn't say how the word is used, of course).
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I think "bespoke" as an adjective is quite widely used, in all sorts of situations where you could get something designed and made especially for you, instead of a standard offering. One of my suppliers at work recently said they could make me a bespoke infra-red drying oven.
    Yes, that's is likely the most common use currently — most often in BE, I would say.

    However, the verb is archaic. From my reading habits, I get the impression it was old-fashioned before the end of the nineteenth century, but I don't have anything to hand to support that assertion. Google Ngram Viewer just shows a steady decline, with a higher modern usage than I would have expected, perhaps with bibliolept's meaning (Ngram doesn't say how the word is used, of course).
    I do feel I run into it from time to time, though it may be approaching the level of an affectation. Not for me, of course, but for everyone else. :p
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Hey, I use "bespeak" from time to time, though I use it to mean "suggests" or "gives evidence of" and not in what I agree is definitely the archaic meaning "to reserve/order."
    Yes, I definitely see it used that way from time to time and wouldn't consider that use archaic. But it's not an informal, casual word.

    His manner of speech bespeaks the quality of his education.

    In the U.S. We definitely don't use bespoke much. "Custom" would be our word.

    Edited for typo: bepeaks -> bespeaks
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The "be-" prefix has an interesting history. In this case and originally, it added "near(adv.)" to the word as in before -> near the fore (front); beyond -> near the yonder (distance.) It then became "about" (adv. moving slightly from the locative) as become (to come about) and bespeak to speak about. Bespeak in its meaning of "that which is spoken about" (See #11), then became "to arrange for, engage beforehand; to ‘order’ - a bespoke suit is one you have spoken about.

    As English is designed to confuse students, all the meanings of "be-" existed, and still exist, together, with others.
     
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    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Yes, I definitely see it used that way from time to time and wouldn't consider that use archaic.But it's not an informal, casual word.
    To be honest, I'd be rather confused if I came across a sentence like that:(.

    Perhaps "bespeaks" is slightly less current in BE?

    In the U.S. We definitely don't use bespoke much. "Custom" would be our word.
    Yep.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Well, I did have a typo but I'm guessing that wasn't the source of your problem.

    That phrasing is definitely used in the U.S. I'm guessing it's one of those things that you maybe used to say but stopped, whereas we've kept it going.

    But that's just a guess.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    My language confession is I believe I only encountered "bespoke" for the first time a couple of years ago. I would have had no idea what it meant before that and I'm no spring chicken.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Well remembered She'lock! :thumbsup: :)

    Shakespeare uses it six times in total, as follows:
    The Comedy of Errors (twice: Dromio of Syracuse and Adriana), Hamlet (once by Polonius), The Merchant of Venice (once by Shylock), The Taming of the Shrew (once by the Haberdasher) and Twelfth Night (once by Antonio).

    The results page link on the website below won't post, but just enter "bespeak" in the Text Search box (top right on the webpage) and click on the search button under it (or hit enter). You'll then see the quotations using it.
    Open Source Shakespeare: search Shakespeare's works, read the texts
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Here are some random samples from the American COCA corpus -

    - Frequent selection for diplomatic duties bespeaks Pak's intelligence and writing skills...
    - ...an image of martyrdom in which the saint's elegant stance bespeaks a violated autonomy.
    - Everything about the place bespeaks its age, from the weathered, brick-red Dutch Gambrel barn to...
    - Still, if her manner sometimes bespeaks woman-behind-the-man syndrome...

    None of these uses match the way Shakespeare used the word.
     
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    Rival

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    When I was a child, someone saw fit to introduce me to "The Bespoke Overcoat".
    I doubt I've heard the word since.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I still hear "bespoke" used in relation to "bespoke furniture" (or anything really made to a customer's specific requirements) and I used to work with a company that offered "bespoke training courses".
    bespoke training courses - Google Search

    In BE, "bespeak" is definitely associated with the ring of a long-gone era such as Shakespeare's. It has a poetic sound to it, rather than the tone of everyday speech. I know Shakespeare used a different meaning (3. below) to the examples given by Kentix in post #20 (1. below), but to my ear anyway, the sentences quoted are given almost a poetic quality simply by use of the word.

    It sounds like the type of word someone would use when writing love poetry. :)

    bespeak
    verb
    [with object]
    1. Be evidence of; indicate.
    ‘the attractive tree-lined road bespoke money’

    2. Order or reserve (something) in advance.
    ‘the defendant's insurers took steps to bespeak his medical records’

    3. archaic: Speak to. [My note - Merriam Webster also has "to address"]
    ‘He bespoke them now and then, I signaled that I understood, and we let it go at that.’

    Origin
    Old English bisprecan ‘speak up, speak out’ (see be-, speak), later ‘discuss, decide on’, hence ‘order’ ( bespeak (sense 2), late 16th century).
    bespeak | Definition of bespeak in English by Oxford Dictionaries
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    - Frequent selection for diplomatic duties bespeaks Pak's intelligence and writing skills...
    - ...an image of martyrdom in which the saint's elegant stance bespeaks a violated autonomy.
    - Everything about the place bespeaks its age, from the weathered, brick-red Dutch Gambrel barn to...
    - Still, if her manner sometimes bespeaks woman-behind-the-man syndrome...
    One occasionally comes across speak to for this sense in BrE ... see speak to / bespeak of.
     
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