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The Fey Knights

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 04, 2006

In Reply to: The Fey Knights posted by Lewis on June 02, 2006

: : : : : : In Reply to: Feign Knights posted by David FG on January 04, 2005

: : : : : : I too was wondering about this a couple of years ago. We used 'Fay knights' in the South London area when I was a kid (I accept that 'Feign Knights' is probably far more likely as an origin, whatever that means!)but friends from North London have no idea what I'm on about!
: : : : : : Interestingly though about a year ago I was watching an early episode of Fools & Horses and Del did something to Rodney and immediately held up crossed fingers and claimed 'Fay Nites!'.
: : : : : : Great relief, I hadn't imagined it after all!
: : : : : : If anyone has any idea of the origin please let me know, it sounds like old English to me but who knows?!!

: : : : : Really WAG (wild *ss guess) here, but after reading the previous discussion:
: : : : : //
: : : : : I was wondering if "feign I" could be related to something like "playing dead - ignore me"? But what would I know -- we used to say "king's X" when I was a kid.

: : : : I think it should be 'fain...I' as in forfend, fain would I - 'fain' used as in compelled - perhaps it is a contraction for "fain, not I" or "you are prohibited from choosing me".

: : : : that is my WAG, but it does have some root.

: : : : L

: : : In New York, 50+ years ago, it was "fins." No clue as to origin.

: : There's a pretty good discussion in the Archives under Feign knights. The issues of original spelling and original meaning do not seem resolvable, barring some persuasive voice from the grave. As to fain, it can indeed mean compelled or obliged, but more often, as an adjectice, means rejoiced, glad, well-pleased, disposed, inclined, eager. It is also used adverbially with similar meanings. But the original word may not be fain, making this part of the discussion entirely nugatory. SS

: I was only stabbing through the arrass with 'fain'. Not an easy one to resolve.

: FIN is easy - is it not yer actual French for 'done'?
: over.
: finis.

: L
"Fainights" and other truce terms were discussed on this board in July 2005 or thereabouts under the heading "Crosskeys". The basic source text for British schoolchildren's truce terms is Peter and Iona Opie's great book Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, published in 1959. The Opies found a huge variety of "truce terms" in use in the 1950s, including a whole group - vains, fains, fainites, fanlights, fainsies, fennits, fans, fainies, vainlights and vainyards - based on the medieval English phrase "fain I" meaning "I decline", from old French "se feindre" meaning "to make excuses, hang back, back away from a fight". This derivation was first put forward by J R R Tolkien (whose day job was course was Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford) who noted in this context a line in Chaucer "lordes heestes mowe nat be y-feyned" meaning "lords' orders cannot be answered with a 'fain I' [but must be obeyed]". (VSD)