Chaucer: "And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille"
Two days ago, I quoted an email from my Aunt Pauline to my daughter, Sa-Rah, in which the word "quaille" was used:
I hatched about one hundred and fifty quaille for Velna . . . they sure are growing and she loves them . . . . these are birds.I remarked on this spelling:
Quaille, as Aunt Pauline explains -- in case Sa-Rah doesn't know -- are birds. When my aunt says that she 'hatched' the quaille, she means that she used a brooder, a box-like structure often heated by lights. That word "quaille"' must be an Ozark variant for "quail," possibly a holdover from "quaille" in Middle English.Trolling around the internet, I located this use of the word "quaille" in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, where it appears in his rendition of "The Clerk's Tale," specifically, in the "envoy" (i.e., concluding stanzas"), where the clerk advises wives not to be too submissive to their husbands, unlike the 'long-suffering' Griselda. See line 1206 of the passage below, which includes the word "quaille" in a conveniently interlinear arrangement providing both the Middle English and Modern English versions:
Ne dreed hem nat; doth hem no reverence, 1201Chaucer was writing in the late 14th century, over 600 years ago, but as I've noted before, Ozark dialect has retained old meanings and old words, so it may even have kept some older spellings . . . or my aunt might have picked up this spelling of "quaille" from her high school Chaucer many years ago.
Fear them not; do them no reverence, 1201
For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille, 1202
For though thy husband be armed in mail, 1202
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence 1203
The arrows of thy spiteful eloquence 1203
Shal perce his brest and eek his aventaille. 1204
Shall pierce his breast and also his neck-guard. 1204
In jalousie I rede eek thou hym bynde, 1205
In jealousy I advise also that thou bind him, 1205
And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille. 1206
And thou shalt make him cower as does a quail. 1206
The Oxford English Dictionary dates this use by Chaucer to 1386, though it cites "Thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille" as line 1150 (OED Compact Edition, Volume 2, page 2381D).
The word "quaille" looks like a borrowed word, and a check of online dictionaries confirms this. In The Free Dictionary by Farlex, we find this: "Middle English quaille, from Old French, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *coacula, of imitative origin." The Online Etymological Dictionary is more informative, telling us that the word entered English around 1300, via Old French, which also provided the spelling "quaille":
c.1300, quayle, from O.Fr. quaille, perhaps via M.L. quaccula (cf. Prov. calha, It. quaglia, O.Sp. coalla), from a Gmc. source (cf. O.H.G. quahtala "quail," Ger. Wachtel), imitative of the bird's cry.Interestingly, the word seems to have originated in the Germanic tongue despite coming into English by way of Latin and French.
And that's as far as I have time to investigate this unusual spelling, but if anyone knows other cases of the spelling "quaille" in English, whether Medieval or Modern, please let me know.