Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Word, uh, Thursday: shrieval

I apologize for publishing a New Word Wednesday post on Thursday, but the last couple days were spent shipping my elder son off to boarding school.*

Mea culpa.

If you have a history of confessing your sins, you might think you've taken some shrieval actions — but you'd be wrong. Shrieval is as related to shrive as shrivel is, which is to say, not at all.

It doesn't help any that the dictionary lists shrieve as an archaic variant of shrive, either.

If you think I've led you astray or somehow defrauded you by starting this word exploration from the wrong map, there's no need to call the sheriff on me. That would be a shrieval intervention none of us would appreciate.

Statue of Robin Hood near Nottingham Castle
Statue of Robin Hood near Nottingham Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Shrieval is an adjective that comes from the Middle English word shirreve, "sheriff." Today, shrieval is a mostly obsolete and primarily British word designating things having to do with a sheriff. A sheriff's badge, for example, might be referred to as a "shrieval shield."

In the stories of Robin Hood, Nottingham is a shrievalty — a related word which, like viceroyalty, can refer to both a jurisdiction and a term of office.

Unlike the vast majority of sheriffs today, Nottingham's infamous sheriff was a nasty bit of work who had a lot of sins to answer for.

He could have used some time in a confessional for some shrieval shriving to save his shriveled soul.

* That's just the easy, short version of what happened. He was accepted into a residential STEM school for the gifted and talented. Emotionally, we sent him off to college two years early.