mock (intranstive to transitive use)

LMorland

Senior Member
American English
Good evening!

We're currently having a discussion on the word mock in the French-English Forum [see http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=666463 -- the entire discussion is in English] and a Frenchman wondered whether (based on the apparent antiquity of the form mock at found via Google) the word started out as a intransitive verb (mock at) and then moved to its current (transitive) state, where you mock someone (or some aspect of him or her) directly.

If you click on the link above, my question will be clearer, with Googled examples.

Thanks in advance!
 
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Interesting. Mock is heard intransitively in the phrase (popularized, if you can call it that, by, I think, British comic Kenneth Williams -- or was it Frankie Howerd?): "Don't mock!"

    But since it is chiefly transitive, I don't see the point of "mock at".
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Like the excellent MM, I see "mock" as a transitive verb; and I don't recognise "mock at"...

    Loob
     

    LMorland

    Senior Member
    American English
    Like the excellent MM, I see "mock" as a transitive verb; and I don't recognise "mock at"...
    Dear Loob and MM,

    Thanks for your responses, but were you able to take the time to click on my link above? For it's a fact that mock used to be transitive; is so used in the King James Translation of the Bible as well as more recent examples (I posted a nice quotation from Tender is the Night).

    I'm wondering how the verb (apparently) moved from an intransitive to transitive state.

    Thank you.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Mock (transitive) is the normal form in my experience.
    Mock at (intransitive) is not unknown, but has an archaic, literary, or perhaps biblical feel to it.

    Fortunately, my OED is at my fingertips :)
    The first usage example given (1439) is transitive.
    The intransitive usage comes some time later, in 1440.

    With the current meaning, the transitive usage appears in 1450, intransitive in 1475.

    Both continue through to the present.
     
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