Monday 12 November 2018


Here's a word that was new to me – 'jobation'.
  I came across it in Edmund Gosse's Father and Son, which I'm reading in an edition that is heavily footnoted – but not with notes that are likely to tell you anything you don't already know. Rousseau? 'Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), major philosopher and writer.' Mrs Gaskell? 'Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65), important novelist.' Who knew? But 'jobation'? The editor falls silent, forcing the reader – this one anyway – to reach for the dictionary.
  I'm glad I did. 'Jobation' is a fine and useful word which sadly seems to have fallen out of use. It means a lengthy and tedious reproof, lecture or harangue – the kind of thing Mrs Caudle delivered nightly to her errant husband in Mrs Caudle's Curtain Lectures. The origin is in the book of Job, in the lengthy and tedious reproofs dished out to the suffering Job by his various 'comforters'. Their lectures are then followed by a lengthy contribution from God himself, speaking from a whirlwind to remind Job that he is but a lowly worm by comparison with Him, the almighty, omnipotent and omnicapable God, who laid the foundations of the Earth and created, among many other fine things, the horse, who 'saith among the trumpets Ha, ha'. The jobation of all jobations, you might say.
 Young Edmund Gosse, a boy of nine, is on the receiving end of a 'jobation' from his father, for having the temerity to cry out when a fearsome-looking beetle crawls menacingly up his counterpane towards his face, while his father, beside the boy's bed, is fervently addressing God. Gosse writes:
'It is difficult for me to justify to myself the violent jobation which my Father gave me in consequence of my scream, except by attributing to him something of the human weakness of vanity. I cannot help thinking that he liked to hear himself speak to God in the presence of an admiring listener. He prayed with fervour and animation, in pure Johnsonian English, and I hope I am not undutiful if I add my impression that he was not displeased with the sound of his own devotions.'


  1. I cherish a footnote in then Penguin edition of Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, which reads, in total, "νυχθήμερα: nuchthemera".