Daily Archives: June 27, 2010

trollop

Imagine, if you will, a lady of a certain repute, or, at the very least, a certain disposition towards love and pecuniary matters, such that the one were contingent on the other, or the other on the one; she might troll for a dollop of desire, if but a dollar may find its way to her, or, should some troll tickle a collop of her belly, she may yet tolerate it, if he would pay a toll. At every amorous portal will she sing tra-la-la if there but be a piper to pay her for the tune. How may we name such a Polly of amory?

If you’re thinking Trollope, you have it: I have been emulating (I will allow others to judge the success) the style of Anthony Trollope, a prolific novelist of the nineteenth century. He was certainly versed in the ways of the sexes and the ways of money; here is a quote from Doctor Thorne:

One of her instructors in fashion had given her to understand that curls were not the thing. “They’ll always pass muster,” Miss Dunstable had replied, “when they are done up with bank notes.”

Does such a lass seem like a bit of a trull? Trolling for banknotes, as it were? Well, it may be from troll (verb, originally meaning “wander about”) or trull (“prostitute”, derived from the aforementioned troll) that we get trollop (“prostitute, slattern”). Now, this trollop is not related to our novelist’s name, Trollope (though I cannot say whether there may have been some influence in form); the family name is a toponym from a place in northern England – a place that was originally named, in Old Norse, “valley of the trolls” (this troll also not related to the troll that gives us trollop). But it does seem that Trollope’s own interest in actually earning money with his writing, his scorn of those who disdained lucre, and his workday approach to the craft – not waiting for the muse but actually writing to a daily quota – made him a literary trollop in the eyes of some critics.

Trollop does, of course, have aesthetic appeal quite apart from its novel literary sense. As Jim Taylor says, “It feels like a fascinating word, with those contemptuous plosives. And that very upright double-l in the middle. Could the symmetric o’s be breasts?” Jim has been delicate enough not to mention the sheer iconicity of an ollo ensemble.

But aside from the visuals, with which you are free to play further, there is, as Jim says, the plosives, and, more, the overall feel of the word. It belongs to a set of words with similar sound: dollop, collop, polyp, gallop, fillip; a little more removed, rollick, colic, killick, and bullet, billet, ballot, pullet, prelate… They all start and end with stops, and have a little flip of /l/ in the middle. It gives them, to me, a sort of taste of cold cuts or similar bits of meat you flip onto your tongue, or perhaps of music trills, or little flips or flops of things (whipped cream, perhaps). Brief but longer than abrupt, and with a light touch in the middle. Now, consider: how are trollope and slattern different, and how similar?

And how are a woman who loves for money and a man who writes for money different? And is every pecuniary motivation so poorly looked on? The answer to the latter question is hinted at by Trollope in Doctor Thorne: “There is no road to wealth so easy and respectable as that of matrimony.” Ah, so constancy excuses venality. Now, is a writer of novels who does it for money constant – to his craft – or promiscuous – writing so many different books? Was Trollope a trollop? And does it matter, really? Trollope in his autobiography reminds us of the main thing: “Of all the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable.”

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