- December 27, 2020 at 10:05 am #20768Sam WillisKeymaster
Hello everyone – I’ve come across an interesting excerpt from a an 18th collection of criminal biographies I’m working on. It is the description of a criminal called Dick Bauf who was a housebreaker.
‘The next, then, therefore, was to get acquainted with a gang of Grumeis, who take their name from the similitude of their practice to that of the young boys who climb up to the tops of the masts at sea, with great activity, and are call’d cats, or grumeis, by the sailors.The thieves that bear this name, are house-breakers, who make use of a ladder of ropes, with hooks in one end of it, by which they easily ascend to the chamber windows, having fastened their ladders with a long pole. These robbers were very common in Dick Bauf’s time, and did a world of mischief, both in town and country, doing all with so much expedition, that they more frequently escap’d than other house-breakers, yet commonly with as large booties of gold, silver, linnen, and every thing that came to hand, as any body at all. When they had done their work, their method was to pull a string, which was fastened to the end of the hooks, and so raise them, upon which the ladder fell without leaving any marks behind it.’
Has anyone come across this time Grumeis before? How do you pronounce it?The author rather skirts over the link between the name and sailors ‘Grumeis, who take their name from the similitude of their practice to that of the young boys who climb up to the tops of the masts at sea’
I’d appreciate any thoughts!December 27, 2020 at 10:34 am #20769Nicholas BlakeParticipant
It looks like a variant of gromet, defined by Admiral Smyth as a boy of the Cinque Ports ships employed in harbour, and now applied to ship’s apprentices. The OED gives a quotation from 1763 that says that gromet was formerly a rate for young landmen of about eighteen to be bred up to the sea.
Admiral Smyth says it’s from Teutonic grom, a youth; so I would guess probably pronounced groom-eys. The OED says it’s from Anglo-Norman gromet from Old French gromet or groumet, which would suggest the same pronunciation. It corresponds to the Spanish gromete.
It now has another transferred use: it means a young surfer or skateboarder in Australian.
N.May 30, 2021 at 7:32 pm #21793Mark PParticipant
I can confirm that the term ‘grommet’ or ‘gromet’ was current in the Navy in the early 17th century, and occurs in various documents discussing sailors and ships’ crews, and referred to boys amongst the crew.
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