sample-count

< Previous | Next >

lawana

Senior Member
Spanish
Can anybody tell me the meaning of sample-count in this context? Is it just "sample" or does "count" modify it somehow? The narrator is describing the people in the street around her.

An ubiquitous "sample-count" from Berlin is measuring his wits with a young Norwegian merchant... (George Egerton, The Spell of the White Elf, 1890's)

Thanks!
 
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Can anybody tell me the meaning of sample-count in this context? Is it just "sample" or does "count" modify it somehow? The narrator is describing the people in the street around her.

    An ubiquitous "sample-count" from Berlin is measuring his wits with a young Norwegian merchant... (George Egerton, The Spell of the White Elf, 1890's)
    A mystery to me. The only contemporary (meaning 2010) definition would be a counting of samples of something, which doesn't fit the citation; the latter is obviously a description of a person.

    I've checked a number of dictionaries, including two from the 19th century, but I've found nothing. I can only conclude that it was some sort of 1890s slang term.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Have you given us the words from the novel itself, Lawana? I think we might need them, together with the sentences on either side, and as much extra context as you can give us.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Are you saying that it could be either a salesman or a diplomat???
    I quoted a definition from Volume VI of:
    A DICTIONARY HISTORICAL AND COMPARATIVE OF THE
    HETERODOX SPEECH OF ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY
    FOR MORE THAN THREE HUNDRED YEARS
    ... published in 1890.

    This suggests that the "sample-count" may therefore be a traveller or an ambassador. What kind of traveller? Probably, taking into account the "commercial" label, a commercial traveller - one travelling on business.
    Whether a salesman or a buyer I have no idea.
    From the same source:
    AMBASSADOR OF COMMERCE, subs.
    (familiar). A commercial traveller;

    (The link to this dictionary in my earlier post has been repaired.)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I wonder if it was assuming a figurative meaning for ambassador, just as we sometimes call a commercial traveller a representative.

    I'm still puzzled as to how those two words (sample and count) can have come to have this meaning. Can it be that commercial travellers are thought to spend their time counting samples?
     

    lawana

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Thanks for the link, Panjandrum. It's very useful.
    And thank you everyone for your great help!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oops.
    The online version of this dictionary has a blank line after the text I quoted.
    Looking again, to see if there were any clues about the origins of the term, I see that the definition continues.
    Here is the full text.
    SAMPLE-COUNT, sfo. (commercial).
    A traveller ; an AMBASSADOR OF COMMERCE (q.V.}.
    1894. EGERTON, Keynotes, 72. An ubiquitous SAMPLE-COUNT from Berlin is measuring his wits with a ... merchant.
    The definition of "ambassador of commerce" is given in an earlier post.

    I wonder if the term might be an anglicised pronounciation of a relevant term in another language.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top