British Culture & Expressions

What’s up with the all-purpose term “monger”?

The word "monger" is ancient, dating back to early Old English. It has roots in the Latin mongo (a dealer or trader). It refers to a “merchant, trader, dealer, or trafficker of a specified commodity.” 

What is a combining form?

In modern sources, ‑monger is hardly ever found alone; it is what linguists call a combining form: it combines with some other component to form a new noun. But the class of words it can combine with is strangely restricted. Fishmonger ‘ a fresh seafood wholesaler or retailer’. Cheesemonger ‘ a specialist seller of cheese’. Costermonger ‘ a seller of fresh fruit and vegetables’.

Fishmonger

The fishmongers guild ‘association of merchants’, one of the earliest guilds, was established in the City of London by a Royal Charter granted by Edward I shortly after he became king in 1272. Partnership with foreigners was forbidden and the sale of fish was tightly controlled to ensure freshness and restrain profit, which was limited to one penny in the shilling.

Costermonger and the costard apple.

Costermonger is a 16th-century word for a fruit seller (from “costard,” an old word for an apple).  A costard was originally a native English apple, a large medieval variety that is no longer popular. The first mention of Costard apples in history was in 1292, in English King Edward the First’s official records. Costards are thought to be originally English, but they may have come first from France. They were grown especially in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in England.

Whoremonger and the Bible

The word whoremonger in the Bible is one who “mongers” with “whores”—that is, one who involves himself with prostitutes. Broadly speaking, a whoremonger is anyone who engages in sexual intercourse outside of marriage. A person who has dealings with prostitutes, especially a sexually promiscuous man.

Example:

White Men Who Shoot Up People Are Not Terrorists, and 4 Other … Trump looked about as comfortable as a whoremonger in an eight-pewed Baptist church while saying things like: “We ask God to help see you …

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