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Round Robin

Posted by Shae on October 01, 2002

In Reply to: Round Robin posted by ESC on September 29, 2002

: : : Can anyone tell me where the term 'round robin' comes from ?

: : The Oxford English Dictionary gives, first, quotations illustrating an obsolete sense without defining that sense:
: : 1546 COVERDALE . . . Certayne fonde talkers . . . applye to this mooste holye sacramente, names of despitte and reproche, as to call it Jake in the boxe, and round roben, and such other not onely fond but also blasphemouse names.
: : 1555 RIDLEY . . . There were at Paules . . . fixed railing bils aginst the Sacrament, terming it Jack of ye boxe, the sacrament of the halter, round Robin, with lyke unseemly termes.

: : I don't know what sacrament these authors were talking about.

The 17th century French origin seems to fit our modern understanding best, but I was intrigued by these earlier references.

The sacrament may the Eucharist. In the Roman Catholic tradition, Communion bread is distributed from a chalice [boxe] to the faithful who, until fairly recently, knelt at the [h]altar rails to receive it. Its modern form is a circular wafer that usually has one of the symbols of Christ, such as the Agnus Dei, stamped on one face. A common Christ-symbol in the mid-late medieval period was a pelican plucking its breast feathers. I don't know if it was used on Communion bread then but, if crudely done, it might have looked like a robin. This is all speculation though.

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