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 the meaning of caput.

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normanhurst
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PostSubject: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 00:12

Greetings peoples, and others.

I have been reading a book set in 1322, in one part the main character and his chums steal the abbots best wine while he was away... on sobering up realise what they've done and the serious consequences should they be found out, sent to trial and become felons, or made to wear the wolfs head.  

I'd never heard this expression before so did a little research into what the wolfs head was...
Becoming a felon was a most dreadful fate as you were an outcast, made into an outlaw, a pariah where you became fair game for any citizen to inflict whatever punishment they wanted to inflict with impunity, even death.

In my search it goes into some Latin, of which I know nothing but it seems that the word 'caput' means head, and I assume you lose it... is this where the modern meaning of the word caput comes from, indicating you've had it, finished with engines, your up the creek without a paddle.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 08:11

Welcome back Norman ... good question.

In English law the terms caput lupinum (literally meaning to have a "wolf's head" or a "wolfish head") and caput gerat lupinum ("may he wear a wolfish head") are used to indicate that the person is declared an outlaw, that is one who is outside of the law, has no rights to anything, and so could be legally mistreated or hunted down by anyone - just like a lone wolf. In addition to being outside the law and liable to mob justice etc, it was also illegal for anyone else to give help, food, or shelter to the outlaw, and so they really were on their own. By the way I think normally only men could be "outlawed", women were declared "waived" but it was effectively the same punishment.

But the word kaput, or kaputt, meaning "destroyed, broken, no longer functioning", I think is a much more modern adoption into English and comes from the German kaputt, meaning "destroyed".

PS :  I was wondering if kaput entered English useage during WW1 ... but it's first recorded use was in 1895. The German seems to derive from the French être capot, meaning "to be deceived or hoodwinked" (un capot is a hood or bonnet), but also meaning to have lost all the tricks in a card game, thus meaning "to be utterly defeated".

Sir Walter Scott uses the phrase "pique, repique, and capot", in several of his novels using "capot" to mean to utterly defeat an opponent either specifically in the card game of pique by winning all the tricks, or more generally, such as when he refers to someone as being "capotted" to mean they have lost all, or at least everything they hold dear, and so they are "destroyed" ... eg in 'The Bride of Lammermoor' (1819):

'I CAN win this girl from him, I WILL win her."
"Win her! 'sblood, you SHALL win her, point, quint, and quatorze, my
king of trumps; you shall pique, repique, and capot him."


Last edited by Meles meles on Tue 17 Mar 2015, 12:39; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : annoying typos)
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 08:37

Yes, really interesting stuff - welcome back, Norman. I'd never heard of caput lupinum before. It was apparently enshrined in "old" English law. Wonder when the idea stopped being lawful?
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 09:00

thank you Meles... its starting to feel good being back.

interesting information, some of which i had managed to unearth myself but i wasn't sure.
so having been declared a felon and outside the law... was the culprit marked in any way, made to ware the skin of a wolf, or be branded with a wolfs head. how would people know your status.

i believe Roman standard bearers wore different armour to the other ranks and often clad themselves in wolfs skins with a wolfs head over their helmet... do you think there could be any connection. was it thought the sign of the wolf gave special protection.

i didn't know kaputt came from the German for destroyed...
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 09:55

I don't think an outlaw would have been marked out in any way either by mutilation or branding etc. because if they were being held by the authorities they would have been simply executed there and then. Outlawing was punishment for those condemned  in absentia, so typically those that had either failed to answer the summons to trial, had absconded from gaol, or had otherwise run off before anyone could get hold of them. Being outside the law of course meant than all property and possessions would be immediately seized, and you would have to flee your home district where you were known ... and even if living incognito in another area there was always the danger of being recognised and having to make off sharpish yet again to try and somehow scratch a living from nothing ... usually by robbery of course.

Bear in mind that towns were generally so small that everyone knew everyone else, agricultural labourers were tied to their village by law, being forbidden to quit without their lord's leave, and if you were a rich landowner I'm sure official word would have got around all your estates and those of your neighbouring land-owners, very quickly. Some medieval punishments, while not in themselves making you outlaw, were specifically designed to mark you out. Mutilations such as loss of a hand or foot, or less drastically the loss of one's ears, and branding, often on the forehead, made it clear to all who encountered you that you had once been condemned as a criminal.

Kaputt as used in modern German to mean broken still seems, from what I can see (and I'm certainly no expert here), to derive from from the French as a card-playing term. But my German is, nicht sehr gut, so I can't follow all the etymology of the German usage. That said however, kaputt in German meaning something failed or broken, seems to have been used as long ago as the 1640s while its use in German as a card-playing term can only be attested back to the 1690s. Its use in French as a card playing term is recorded much earlier than either German useage. Its use in English, to mean broken, seems to date from the late 19th century, probably introduced by German-jewish immigrants, but only became popularized during WW1, as a deliberately mocking German word.

The French "faire capot", literally to throw a hood over something, and so to hoodwink someone, and hence also to win all at cards, also in French nautical jargon meant "to overset in a squall when under sail." ... which you'll doubtless understand better than I ... but doesn't it mean having too much sail set for the wind and so again risking all going kaput? A capot was also the French slang term for a sailor's hooded greatcoat ... and in the feminine form, une capote, it is modern French slang for a condom!

But all that's drifting somewhat away from the phrase, "caput gerat lupinum".
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 11:07

The relationship between man and wolf is intriguing, characterised by ambiguity, regard and loathing, admiration as well as distrust and fear, and I can think of few beasts which appear so often in the English language as metaphor and simile or so universally embedded in myth.

The child raised by wolves is such a widespread tale that it surely cannot be entirely invented or the western versions, in Ireland and Scotland for example as well as all the later, feral child ones, derived only from the Roman one? Wolves are recognised as particularly assiduous and caring parents, could that be relevant?
And werewolves, where does that one originate?
I see that the OUD credits Thackery with first recorded use of 'wolf' as sexual predator.

As ever, Norm, your questions are far from dumb!
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 11:37

The relationship between wolf and man is certainly very ancient. Weren't wolves the first animals to be domesticated? ... and not so much as in 'tamed' but as in that both species accepted the other to live and hunt together for mutual benefit.

All domestic breeds of dog are still basically wolves and they can interbreed easily enough. Yet wolves were feared and distrusted, while dogs became a symbol for loyalty. Is there perhaps in the outlaw an aspect of recognising the wolf within the dog, the wolf in dog's clothing if you like  ...... and the criminal, the man whose evil wild side comes to the fore, in contrast to the rest of us loyal law-abiding doggies who manage to keep our wild natures under control? The other point about being declared "a wolf" was that one was cast out of society, out of the pack ... perhaps recognising that both men and wolves are social pack animals who need to be accepted amongst our fellows for survival. And the human "lone wolf" is often far more dangerous than the criminally-minded person who still lives amongst us and on whom we can all together keep a watchful eye.

I feel there's a lot of instinctively, almost subconsciously, ingrained symbolism in the whole wolf/dog/man/outlaw relationship.


(Lordy - what a load of pretensious twaddle I come out with at times). Rolling Eyes


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 12:16; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : it's still twaddle even with the grammar altered!)
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 11:48

Can't resist - it being Mother's Day and all that....

                                                                         
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Nielsen
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 12:33

@ferval wrote:
Can't resist - it being Mother's Day and all that....


Ferval,
Re yours, "...  it being Mother's Day and all that...."
So it may be at your place of residence, but not everywhere - here - for instance this day is celebrated - by shopkeepers at least - on the second Sunday of May.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 12:47

Nielsen - the 2nd Sunday in May does seem globally to be the preferred date, although here in France it's usually the last Sunday of May (sometimes first Sunday of June if the May date clashes with Pentecôte). Worldwide today (the fourth Sunday in Lent) is only Mother's Day in the UK, Ireland ... and Nigeria.

And of course the celebration on the fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday, Rose Sunday or mi-carême), later known in the English church as 'Mothering Sunday', was originally a celebration - not of mothers and motherhood - but of Mother Church itself. On this day one went 'home' to attend mass at one's mother church, that is the diocesean cathedral or abbey, as opposed to the parish church, 'chapel of ease' or other local sub-church that one usually attended. Accordingly, because of the unusually large number of celebrants at mass, the sermon was traditionally based on the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Which is all somewhat removed from the modern rite of buying either a saccharin-sweet, or risibly-risqué, card for mummy!

  silent


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 15 Mar 2015, 13:31; edited 5 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 13:03

Thank you, MM, so I just read this on wiki, but I just couldn't resist taking a dig at this forum primarily - but not solely - being British oriented ...
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 16:01

a lot of mulling over to be done there Meles... maybe even with a glass or two.

i take your point about dishing out the sentence there and then and didn't think of it being past in absentia.
 
as you point out that agricultural workers were tied to their village and the local lord of the manor, and forbidden to leave... I've heard that if you can escape for a year and a day, once the hue and cry has died down your off the hook... any truth in that?

for what kind of a crime would you be marked out for then...

as for your German kaputt, it was an expression often used in my seafaring days when sailing on small Dutch coasters with a crew from the Cape Verde islands speaking only broken English.

an incident springs to mind when anchored in the river waiting to enter the locks into Antwerp. we'd waited hours for our turn, and when it came through on the radio to proceed inwards, it was action stations amongst my crew of six by now very tired young sailors. i ran for'ard to start the windlass ready to weigh anchor expecting a deck hand to follow in readiness to stow the anchor chain as it fell into the chain locker.
with the captain hanging out the wheelhouse window and gesticulating with his flailing arms in the darkness and shouting out orders at me to get the 'effing' anchor up... i could do nothing without the aid of the young lad, a dead ringer for a very youthful looking Michael Jackson.
after what seemed an age stood manning the windlass doing nothing except cringe at the barrage of abuse directed at me to get my crew whipped into shape i saw the lad in the shadows cast by the lights from a petrochemical installation on the far side of the river... the lad was hobbling away from me to the stern of the ship where the mess room was.  
i ran back to get him but at the top of the companion ladder came face to face with the young cook, another lad from the Cape Verde islands, a political agitator of dubious anti everything beliefs. i quickly asked him where is Miguel, and he burst out laughing. i asked again with a degree of urgency where is Miguel... and he replied laughingly... Miguel..., he kaputt! i asked again in a manner not unlike a threat... where is Miguel...,  this time he answered in the same manner but adding with his hand something resembling an aeroplane turning a somersault and splatting on the ground... i tell you..., Miguel, he kaputt.

i found Miguel laying in a heap on the mess room floor moaning for his mother.
the poor lad had followed me, but had jumped from the rear deck onto the to top of the hatch... which was open, and he had fallen 20 feet into the cargo hold... he had climbed a bent and buckled hatch ladder god knows how as we later learnt from the hospital he had a broken leg, a broken hip, shoulder and arm. he was indeed kaputt.

i never found out if the cook who never lifted a finger to help knew anything about it... did he fall or was he pushed
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 16:31

Bit like the Captain in Lieutenant Hornblower, MM.
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 17:26

a lot of mulling over to be done there Meles... maybe even with a glass or two.

i take your point about dishing out the sentence there and then and didn't think of it being past in absentia.
 
as you point out that agricultural workers were tied to their village and the local lord of the manor, and forbidden to leave... I've heard that if you can escape for a year and a day, once the hue and cry has died down your off the hook... any truth in that?

for what kind of a crime would you be marked out for then...

as for your German kaputt, it was an expression often used in my seafaring days when sailing on small Dutch coasters with a crew from the Cape Verde islands speaking only broken English.

an incident springs to mind when anchored in the river waiting to enter the locks into Antwerp. we'd waited hours for our turn, and when it came through on the radio to proceed inwards, it was action stations amongst my crew of six by now very tired young sailors. i ran for'ard to start the windlass ready to weigh anchor expecting a deck hand to follow in readiness to stow the anchor chain as it fell into the chain locker.
with the captain hanging out the wheelhouse window and gesticulating with his flailing arms in the darkness and shouting out orders at me to get the 'effing' anchor up... i could do nothing without the aid of the young lad, a dead ringer for a very youthful looking Michael Jackson.
after what seemed an age stood manning the windlass doing nothing except cringe at the barrage of abuse directed at me to get my crew whipped into shape i saw the lad in the shadows cast by the lights from a petrochemical installation on the far side of the river... the lad was hobbling away from me to the stern of the ship where the mess room was.  
i ran back to get him but at the top of the companion ladder came face to face with the young cook, another lad from the Cape Verde islands, a political agitator of dubious anti everything beliefs. i quickly asked him where is Miguel, and he burst out laughing. i asked again with a degree of urgency where is Miguel... and he replied laughingly... Miguel..., he kaputt! i asked again in a manner not unlike a threat... where is Miguel...,  this time he answered in the same manner but adding with his hand something resembling an aeroplane turning a somersault and splatting on the ground... i tell you..., Miguel, he kaputt.

i found Miguel laying in a heap on the mess room floor moaning for his mother.
the poor lad had followed me, but had jumped from the rear deck onto the to top of the hatch... which was open, and he had fallen 20 feet into the cargo hold... he had climbed a bent and buckled hatch ladder god knows how as we later learnt from the hospital he had a broken leg, a broken hip, shoulder and arm. he was indeed kaputt.

i never found out if the cook who never lifted a finger to help knew anything about it... did he fall or was he pushed
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 17:29

oops... it wasnt working when i tried to post it before... how does one delete a message?
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 18:02

Going back to your original query, as I understand it in 1322 one could not be summarily declared an outlaw just for drinking some of the abbot's wine. This is over 100 years after Magna Carta and so due process and habeus corpus were already established principals of law, and the penalties for theft were laid down in terms of the value of the goods stolen. Assuming the abbot had reasonable grounds to assume they were the guilty parties, I'm guessing that the procedure was that he would then have gone through the authorities, the local magistrate I suppose, to summon them to court. Only then if they failed to appear and ran off could they be declared outlaw.

Now, although it would be theft, I don't think drinking a bellyfull of stolen wine would have been punishable by much more than a hefty fine and maybe a period in the stocks ... but failing to appear when summonsed to answer the charge would in itself have been serious contempt of court, punishable by being declared outlaw. Being declared outlaw was tantamount to a death sentence, when a sentence of death itself was usually reserved only for murder, treason, heresy, witchcraft and counterfeiting the coinage. Just getting drunk on someone else's wine wouldn't, I'd have thought, have warranted being made outlaw. 

What I can't find is any sort of table listing the penalties that would be incurred by stealing goods of various values in the early 14th century ... when a horse might cost 40s, a sheep 2s and a labourer might be paid 3d a day (but that separate and in addition to all his cashless 'income' by virtue of his villein's rights to land, grazing, firewood etc).
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 20:42

Not strictly relevant, but have a look for/at the Code of Hywel Dda - interestingly different from English law.
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Sun 15 Mar 2015, 21:07

@normanhurst wrote:
 
..... agricultural workers were tied to their village and the local lord of the manor, and forbidden to leave... I've heard that if you can escape for a year and a day, once the hue and cry has died down your off the hook... any truth in that?

Just been reading through various medieval statues (as you do) ... the Statutes of Westminster 1275 and 1285 etc ... and these confirm that under common law, if a serf lived on free soil - such as in a chartered town (ie one that had a royal charter which allowed it to be in part self-governing) or a royal demesne (ie land, or a property such as a castle, owned directly by the king) - for a year and a day, they would become free. However they would of course then lose all rights to land and property in their old manor, and this was usually a prohibitive price to pay unless the landlord was especially tyrannical or conditions in the village were unusually difficult. All other manorial land was not "free" so if you'd been quietly working away on another lord's land for several years, legally your original master could still claim you back.
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Mon 16 Mar 2015, 08:27

I found this Wiki page interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outlaw

I thought it was all a medieval idea, but a Tudor nobleman was outlawed, according to the Wiki article, as late as 1597.

Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby, was outlawed in 1597 by a coroner's court for the murder of Henry Long. He went to France and joined the French army; two years later he was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth and returned to England.

I thought noblemen were usually "outlawed" by being attainted - a ruling which meant they effectively became non-persons.


PS And apparently Napoleon was "outlawed"!
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Mon 16 Mar 2015, 08:36

According to Maitland the expression "to be cried wolf's head" as a legally accepted euphemism for being declared an outlaw was because of the fact that both were - in law - subject to the same terms of capture in post-conquest England. A live wolf captured outside of forest territories carried a reward if presented to an appointee of the king's forestry - contrary to popular belief the wolf was one of the five protected animal species in royal forests - and if it resisted capture to the extent that it had to be killed a much reduced reward was made based on the presentation of just its head. Outlaws were to be treated exactly the same; if not captured alive and made to undergo the justice system after being returned to the king's remit (normally resulting in a very public execution designed as a deterrent to others) their heads would suffice. Both entitled the capturer to a financial reward but as with the wolf a much smaller one for the head alone.

"Outlaw" - as in the wild west movies - was not a legal status conferred by a court but deemed a a self-declared status made by an individual when he (rarely she) removed themselves from obeying the law of the land through their own actions. The court merely acknowledged it. It was considered a temporary status, to be concluded with the individual being brought back within legal restrictions and dealt with accordingly.

And it is also worth noting that not all outlaws were to suffer for their status. Some were even officially rewarded for having established themselves as worthy of the status, as Terry Jones devoted an entire and rather amusing chapter to in his and Alan Ereira's "Terry Jones' Medieval Lives (2004)".
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Tue 17 Mar 2015, 09:58

Thanks to everyone for all the information, I've now spent more time reading that than my book. It certainly raises more questions than answers that I hope will lead me into more unknown history.
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PostSubject: Re: the meaning of caput.   Tue 17 Mar 2015, 14:46

Caput followed by a number indicates the order of passing of laws.
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