Friday 21 October 2011

Authentic Authors

A couple of weeks ago I was in a pub. There is nothing unusual about that. The pub had two beers available on tap, and on the taps were those little armorial plates that tell you the name and the ABV and other such urgent information. What struck me, though, was that one of the beers described itself as original, and the other described itself as authentic.

I, of course, made a fuss. I told the barman that I made a point of only drinking beers that were both. I tried to haggle a reduction, failed and got drunk anyway. However, even in my beers, it occurred to me that I didn't really know what authentic meant. Did it mean real, extant? In which case it would hardly need to be pointed out. Did it mean not fake? Who fakes beer?

So, I fled to a dictionary, and of course authentic, etymologically, means something that is by an author, and therefore has authority. So authentic is, or was, roughly a synonym for authoritative and referred to books.

It should be remembered here that in the medieval period there were writers and there were auctors. Auctors were the only ones who had auctorite and whose words were therefore auctentyke, from which we get authentic.

I have to therefore concede that T-shirts could be authentic or knock-off copies. I would also note very, very strongly, that as I am an author The Etymologicon (which comes out in only a few days time now) will definitely be authentic, although it unfortunately contains no beer.

Pre-order it here. Please.

Me in the pub


  1. I wonder if it is only the males in the Monastery that brew the beer or, in this PC world of ours, the female inhabitants are allowed to? In which case it would be Trappistine and all the labels would have to be changed........

  2. Oh dear. A blog post about authenticity and etymology, finished with the meaningless tautology 'pre-order'.

    Please define post-order (no, not postal order).

  3. StourbridgeRantBoy:
    I met a chap last night who had studied to be a monk at St Bennet's College, Oxford. Apparently, their dance nights were called 'Monastery of Sound'.
    I'm thoroughly with you. 'Pre-recorded' has always been a pet peeve of mine. However, I just want to make it clear that, if you order The Etymologicon now, it won't arrive until November the 4th.