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  #1  
Old 11-06-2000, 04:56 AM
bigrob bigrob is offline
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Why do so many British style pubs have the name ARMS in them, i.e.; The Builders Arms, The Fat Lady's Arms; The Kensington Arms?
This Question has been keeping me awake at night frequenting pubs looking for answers and turning me into an alcoholic.
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  #2  
Old 11-06-2000, 05:53 AM
ticker ticker is offline
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Originally the ARMS referred to heraldic coats of arms which would have been displayed on the pub's sign - often the arms belonged to some local notable. That form of name has become almost indicative of pub-ness. More recently some pubs have extended the practice to things which have no coats of arms as sort of an Inn joke (sorry).
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Old 11-06-2000, 11:52 AM
casdave casdave is offline
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I think there may also be a link to the old trade guilds which had their own heraldic emblems. Some of these guilds date back well into medieval times.
If a pubs clientele was engaged in a particular task beers would be brewed specifically for them, like in Sheffield which was famous for steel, the ale nearby was less potent so as to slake the thirst of the workers.
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Old 02-28-2013, 05:49 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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Originally Posted by bigrob View Post
Why do so many British style pubs have the name ARMS in them, i.e.; The Builders Arms, The Fat Lady's Arms; The Kensington Arms?
This Question has been keeping me awake at night frequenting pubs looking for answers and turning me into an alcoholic.
"Arms" in English pub names is a corruption of the word "Alms". "Alms" is charitable giving and for a pub to take that name usually means there were some alms houses built in that area to house the old and/or poor. So near where I live in Walthamstow there is the "Queen's Arms" and the alm houses provided by the queen at that time are near the church. There is the "Baker's Arms" at the junction of Hoe Street and the Lee Bridge Road and close by there is the alms houses estate provided by the baker's guild at that time. If it isn't the "Queen's Arms" or "King's Arms" then the first name wili likely be the name of a trade guild that provided the alms houses like near work I used to drink in the "Skinner's Arms".
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:11 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is online now
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Cite?
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  #6  
Old 02-28-2013, 07:21 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Old Joke:


1: Can you tell me where's The King's Arems?

2: Around the Quen's Ass!
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  #7  
Old 02-28-2013, 07:34 AM
APB APB is offline
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Originally Posted by RolandRB View Post
So near where I live in Walthamstow there is the "Queen's Arms" and the alm houses provided by the queen at that time are near the church.
There are two sets of almshouses in Walthamstow - the Monoux Almshouses and the Squires Almshouses. As their names indicate, they were founded by Sir George Monoux and Mary Squires respectively, not by some queen. (As a general rule, English queens did not just set up almshouses at random locations around the country.)

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"Arms" in English pub names is a corruption of the word "Alms"....There is the "Baker's Arms" at the junction of Hoe Street and the Lee Bridge Road and close by there is the alms houses estate provided by the baker's guild at that time.
It is true that, in that particular case, the pub was named after the nearby almshouses. But that can hardly be a case of some olde-worlde-linguistic-corruption-lost-in-the-mists-of-time, as the almshouses were founded only in the nineteenth century.
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  #8  
Old 02-28-2013, 09:24 AM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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Why do apartment buildings often have "arms" in their names, too?
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Old 02-28-2013, 09:25 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Why do apartment buildings often have "arms" in their names, too?
Because it sounds classy. Really.
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  #10  
Old 02-28-2013, 07:13 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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Originally Posted by Anne Neville View Post
Why do apartment buildings often have "arms" in their names, too?
Apartment buildings, condos, housing developments, etc., also often pretentious names including words like "Estates" (always in the plural), "Arms", "Manor", and the like. These are just suggestive names, to give the property an air of fabulous baronial mansions where fabulously wealthy landed, titled noblemen lived.
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  #11  
Old 02-28-2013, 10:40 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Arms refers to heraldic coats of arms, as ticker notes.

Pubs generally had sleeping rooms upstairs, which appears to have mutated into an Anglophilic way to refer to apartment buildings in the US. I've never heard Arms used in any other context, such as a subdivision.

See, for example, Arthur Minton. "Apartment-House Names" American Speech, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Oct., 1945), pp. 168-177. (Available through JSTOR).
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Old 03-01-2013, 02:51 AM
Olentzero Olentzero is offline
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like near work I used to drink in the "Skinner's Arms".
Do you... have the location of this particular pub? I feel the need to do some serious in-depth research.
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  #13  
Old 03-01-2013, 04:45 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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There is one called the Skinner's arms in the King's Cross/St Pancras area: http://goo.gl/maps/CVfME
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  #14  
Old 03-01-2013, 05:46 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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Originally Posted by RolandRB View Post
"Arms" in English pub names is a corruption of the word "Alms". "Alms" is charitable giving and for a pub to take that name usually means there were some alms houses built in that area to house the old and/or poor. So near where I live in Walthamstow there is the "Queen's Arms" and the alm houses provided by the queen at that time are near the church. There is the "Baker's Arms" at the junction of Hoe Street and the Lee Bridge Road and close by there is the alms houses estate provided by the baker's guild at that time. If it isn't the "Queen's Arms" or "King's Arms" then the first name wili likely be the name of a trade guild that provided the alms houses like near work I used to drink in the "Skinner's Arms".
I don't know where you're getting this from but it sounds like a typical piece of folk etymology to me. Could you provide an authoritative source for this claim?
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  #15  
Old 03-01-2013, 07:30 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Who was the first to bear arms?

A question as old as Shakespeare, at least.
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  #16  
Old 03-01-2013, 07:34 AM
casdave casdave is offline
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I too find the 'alms' link as an explanation highly unlikely.

If you look around many British cities you will often come across the same pub names, so 'Skinners Arms' in Leeds is, or was right next to a leather works.

I've seen 'Carpenters Arms', other trades named include. 'Glassblowers', 'Felmonger', 'Cooper', 'Goldsmiths', 'Smith','Plasterers', Bricklayers' and so on etc.

Many of these trades had controlling bodies known as Guilds, each guild had its own Coat of Arms.
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  #17  
Old 03-01-2013, 09:55 AM
APB APB is offline
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Another reason why alms=arms is clearly nonsense is that most charities that ran almshouses tended to take a dim view of any pubs in the vicinity. The usual fear was that the inhabitants would exploit their leisurely retirement by hanging out in the local pubs. The inhabitants were expected to be sober, if not literally then at least figuratively.

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There is one called the Skinner's arms in the King's Cross/St Pancras area: http://goo.gl/maps/CVfME
In which I happened to have a beer just the other afternoon. And the reason why it is called that is because the Skinners' Company of London owned the land. Which is probably the most common reason for such names - the arms are those of the family or institution that was the literal landlord.
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  #18  
Old 03-01-2013, 10:21 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Why do apartment buildings often have "arms" in their names, too?
I've never seen that. Doesn't sound classy to me, just sounds like... well, a pub. Is it an American thing?
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  #19  
Old 03-01-2013, 01:30 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Well, I'll have you know that my mother and father were living at an apartment building called "Randolph Arms" in Queens when I was born.

And my father's name is Randolph.

Waddya think of dem apples?
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  #20  
Old 03-01-2013, 01:50 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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I've never seen that. Doesn't sound classy to me, just sounds like... well, a pub. Is it an American thing?
I don't know about now, but it will be in the future.
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  #21  
Old 03-01-2013, 02:14 PM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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I don't know about now, but it will be in the future.
My parents lived in the Hanson Arms Apartments for a while after they got married, in the early 60's, in the DC area. There's a Kings Arms apartment building near me.
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  #22  
Old 03-01-2013, 03:50 PM
Anne Neville Anne Neville is offline
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I suppose it might be because it sounds like an English pub, and things that sound English sound classy to a lot of Americans. When I was a kid, my school bus went by a housing development that was named Coventry. The name was displayed in old-English typeface on the entrance to the development. I have since been told that the idea of a housing development named Coventry is rather amusing to people who have been to Coventry. It sounded English and classy then, at least to a fifth grader.
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Old 03-01-2013, 04:04 PM
naita naita is offline
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I suppose it might be because it sounds like an English pub, and things that sound English sound classy to a lot of Americans. When I was a kid, my school bus went by a housing development that was named Coventry. The name was displayed in old-English typeface on the entrance to the development. I have since been told that the idea of a housing development named Coventry is rather amusing to people who have been to Coventry. It sounded English and classy then, at least to a fifth grader.
Or to people more familiar with the idiom than the place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Send_to_Coventry
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  #24  
Old 03-01-2013, 04:12 PM
LawMonkey LawMonkey is offline
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Who was the first to bear arms?

A question as old as Shakespeare, at least.
I do believe you have given me the name for my pub, when I start one: The Armed Bear.
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  #25  
Old 03-01-2013, 04:19 PM
eburacum45 eburacum45 is offline
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I was born near the Baker's Arms, and I'd say that RolandRB'S 'folk etymology' is almost certainly correct - but only in this one case. The Baker's Arms pub is near the Baker's Almhouses, hence the name; but most pubs with 'arms' in the name come from the heraldic arms of the group concerned.

I wouldn't be surprised if the name of the Baker's Arms pub wasn't some sort of Victorian joke or play on words.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakers_Arms
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  #26  
Old 03-01-2013, 06:41 PM
Biffy the Elephant Shrew Biffy the Elephant Shrew is offline
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Who was the first to bear arms?
Wassaily Booslaeugh of Riesengeborg.

Last edited by Biffy the Elephant Shrew; 03-01-2013 at 06:42 PM..
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  #27  
Old 03-01-2013, 07:31 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Who was the first to bear arms?

A question as old as Shakespeare, at least.
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Originally Posted by LawMonkey View Post
I do believe you have given me the name for my pub, when I start one: The Armed Bear.
The usual answer given is Adam.


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Wassaily Booslaeugh of Riesengeborg.
Fuckin' A!
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  #28  
Old 03-02-2013, 12:35 PM
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I've never seen that. Doesn't sound classy to me, just sounds like... well, a pub. Is it an American thing?
You mean this doesn't look like classy digs?
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  #29  
Old 03-03-2013, 09:33 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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You mean this doesn't look like classy digs?
It has the whiff of elegance, I guess.
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  #30  
Old 03-11-2013, 03:10 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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Do you... have the location of this particular pub? I feel the need to do some serious in-depth research.
Skinner's Arms, 114 Judd Street, right near Kings Cross station. A very traditional pub. Green King ales last time I was there. Judd was the man who gave the money to have the alms houses built in this case. I don't know if the alms houses still exist.

An interesting case of "Arms" is the "Trinity Arms" in Brixton. There are three almshouses nearby.

I know that this idea that "Arms" equated to "Alms" has been rubished before but for old pub names ending with "Arms" there is a strong correlation with nearby alms houses. If it is just coincidence then it is a remarkable one. Maybe this is a good reason to do some "serious" research.
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Old 03-11-2013, 03:21 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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I don't know where you're getting this from but it sounds like a typical piece of folk etymology to me. Could you provide an authoritative source for this claim?
I don't think that what you are asking for exists in records. It is like trying to find the origins of slang words. No written records exist. It is something that just gets handed down though common usage.

For me, the most remarkable case of a pub name ending with "Arms" is the "Trinity Arms" in Brixton. There are three almshouses nearby all close together.

I don't know if Alms got corrupted to Arms but anybody having the money to build almshouses would have their own coat of arms so perhaps using "Arms" in the pub name is fully appropriate.

I think this might be a good reason to go out and do some serious in-depth research!
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:01 AM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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I don't think that what you are asking for exists in records. It is like trying to find the origins of slang words. No written records exist. It is something that just gets handed down though common usage.

For me, the most remarkable case of a pub name ending with "Arms" is the "Trinity Arms" in Brixton. There are three almshouses nearby all close together.

I don't know if Alms got corrupted to Arms but anybody having the money to build almshouses would have their own coat of arms so perhaps using "Arms" in the pub name is fully appropriate.

I think this might be a good reason to go out and do some serious in-depth research!
There are, however, a lot of alms houses, and a lot of pubs called the something arms. In a crowded city, it genuinely is coincidence that the two are sometimes nearby. Alms houses were strictly alcohol-free and would not have had any willing connection to pubs.

The words were also likely pronounced differently back in the day.
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Old 03-11-2013, 08:38 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Even now, there are many erotic areas in England where they wouldn't be pronounced alike.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:05 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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There might be "erotic areas" in England, but when it comes to pronunciation, obviously what I meant to say was "rhotic areas." Damn autocorrect.
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  #35  
Old 03-11-2013, 09:15 AM
Fish Cheer Fish Cheer is offline
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Many what?
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  #36  
Old 03-11-2013, 12:51 PM
John Bredin John Bredin is offline
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Damn You, Autocorrect!
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:43 PM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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There are, however, a lot of alms houses, and a lot of pubs called the something arms. In a crowded city, it genuinely is coincidence that the two are sometimes nearby. Alms houses were strictly alcohol-free and would not have had any willing connection to pubs.

The words were also likely pronounced differently back in the day.
Just for fun I did a check on existing almshouses and picked on the Waterman's almshouses in Penge and looked for a pub named "The Waterman's Arms" and sure enough there was a pub in Penge, now closed, of that name. For me, with all these examples, it is too much to be coincidence. Wouldn't these almshouses be the talk of the area when they were built? If so then perhaps pubs did not have names but acquired them from local talk about local features. Like I used to drink in the Roaring Donkey in Swindon. You could catch a taxi there and ask to be taken to the Roaring Donkey and you would be dropped off at that pub but the sign said "The Sunrise" or something like that. It actually is called the Roaring Donkey now but this is an example of a pub getting the name from some sort of local feature (there used to be a donkey that was tethered nearby that used to make a lot of noise when it wanted to go home).
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:57 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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Just for fun I did a check on existing almshouses and picked on the Waterman's almshouses in Penge and looked for a pub named "The Waterman's Arms" and sure enough there was a pub in Penge, now closed, of that name. For me, with all these examples, it is too much to be coincidence. Wouldn't these almshouses be the talk of the area when they were built? If so then perhaps pubs did not have names but acquired them from local talk about local features. Like I used to drink in the Roaring Donkey in Swindon. You could catch a taxi there and ask to be taken to the Roaring Donkey and you would be dropped off at that pub but the sign said "The Sunrise" or something like that. It actually is called the Roaring Donkey now but this is an example of a pub getting the name from some sort of local feature (there used to be a donkey that was tethered nearby that used to make a lot of noise when it wanted to go home).
Alms houses were often owned by guilds or other trade organisations, who might also, separately, have owned pubs where their arms were used as the sign. No need for scrabbling around for any other explanations.
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Old 03-11-2013, 04:59 PM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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There might be "erotic areas" in England, but when it comes to pronunciation, obviously what I meant to say was "rhotic areas." Damn autocorrect.
We don't know how people pronounced words back then so you could have a point.

I did another check and saw that there was a Tollemache Almshouses in Nantwich. I did a check on if there was a Tollemache Arms pub in Nantwich. There was not. But looking at the Wiki page for the Tollemache almshouses then it says they were also called the Wilbraham Almshouses. So is there a pub named The Wilbraham Arms in Nantwich? Yes there is.
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Old 03-11-2013, 05:13 PM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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Alms houses were often owned by guilds or other trade organisations, who might also, separately, have owned pubs where their arms were used as the sign. No need for scrabbling around for any other explanations.
As a counter example there is The Trinity Arms in Brixton with three almshouse complexes nearby and all close to each other.
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:20 PM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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As a counter example there is The Trinity Arms in Brixton with three almshouse complexes nearby and all close to each other.
That's reaaally stretching it. I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure you're just wrong on this one.
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Old 03-11-2013, 09:05 PM
UDS UDS is offline
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Alms houses were often owned by guilds or other trade organisations, who might also, separately, have owned pubs where their arms were used as the sign. No need for scrabbling around for any other explanations.
Yup. Or they might be endowed by, and named after, local landowners, and pubs are often also called after the same families.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:48 PM
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Interesting explanations. In Australia we must have inherited the terms. Lots of old country towns would have a Farmers Arms hotel. Builders arms a lot less common.

I don't know about the collection of "Alms houses", maybe the names were just because that's where the farmers went after a days work to take alms (ie, sink a few beers)
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:51 PM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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Yup. Or they might be endowed by, and named after, local landowners, and pubs are often also called after the same families.
They would have been alehouses once. Just somebody's house where they got good at brewing ale. When the ale was ready the alewife would put a green bush out on a pole to let people know. Perhaps these alehouses did not have names in those days but were referred to by location or by something notable nearby such as "the Baker's alms alehouse" which was to distinguish it from other alehouses as being the one near the Baker's Almshouses.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:57 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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It seems like pure speculation, and tenuous d speculation at that. To be taken seriously as etymology you have to have more than that.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:05 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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It seems like pure speculation, and tenuous d speculation at that. To be taken seriously as etymology you have to have more than that.
You are not going to find proof from history same as you will not be able to trace the origin of slang words.

I could offer a counter argument to "Arms". No moneyed or influential family would have wanted an alehouse to use their family name or their coat of arms in the old days. They would have been very offended and might have taken measures to stop this. Alehouses were not savoury places a long time ago. Much worse than Inns or Taverns and like I mentioned above, just a residence where somebody had got good at making ale and was selling it to the locals. So if "Arms" is used in a pub name then for the source of this word we have to look elsewhere than wealthy families with their coats of arms. For me, it being an indirect reference to a nearby almhouse seems more plausible.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:24 AM
UDS UDS is offline
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I'm sceptical. Can we find any other context in which "almshouse" is shortened to "alms", or one in which this usage corrupts to "arms"?

The OED does not suggest that "alms" ever meant "almshouse", in any context. Nor does it suggest that "arms", in any context, is a corruption of "alms".

Remember that the primary meaning of "alms" is "charitable relief given to the poor and needy", and it was in regular use in this sense until well into the nineteenth century. Alms-drink, in particular, was was drink given to another as an act of charity; often the dregs from the unfinished glasses of other drinkers. Pretty much the last thing any seller of beer would want to associate his product with is stuff given away for free to the destitute. The heraldic sense of "arms" looks like a far more plausible account of pub names than this.
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Old 03-12-2013, 12:32 AM
UDS UDS is offline
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I could offer a counter argument to "Arms". No moneyed or influential family would have wanted an alehouse to use their family name or their coat of arms in the old days. They would have been very offended and might have taken measures to stop this. Alehouses were not savoury places a long time ago.
I disagree. The local landed family would the the ultimate proprietor of most of the houses in any village, and they would want the village to have the usual amenities of a village, including a pub, a market-house, and alms-house, etc. In fact, it reflected badly on them if it did not. They would often endow the alms-house, as previously mentioned, and possibly also the market-house or an assembly-room, and the naming of the pub in their honour would be taken to show the proper feudal spirit. Plus, they could hardly disclaim any connection with the pub when, in all likelihood, they collected the rent from it.

Your objection also has to get around the fact that a pub called, e.g., the Granby Arms typically did have a sign displaying the arms of the Granby family. So, if the family did take measure to prevent their arms being used in this way, they were mostly not very effective measures.
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Old 03-12-2013, 01:16 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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I'm sceptical. Can we find any other context in which "almshouse" is shortened to "alms", or one in which this usage corrupts to "arms"?

The OED does not suggest that "alms" ever meant "almshouse", in any context. Nor does it suggest that "arms", in any context, is a corruption of "alms".

Remember that the primary meaning of "alms" is "charitable relief given to the poor and needy", and it was in regular use in this sense until well into the nineteenth century. Alms-drink, in particular, was was drink given to another as an act of charity; often the dregs from the unfinished glasses of other drinkers. Pretty much the last thing any seller of beer would want to associate his product with is stuff given away for free to the destitute. The heraldic sense of "arms" looks like a far more plausible account of pub names than this.
We don't know how words were pronounced a long time ago. "Alms" could have sounded like "Arms" and the meaning slid from alms to arms and then people thought it must mean a coat of arms and started using depictions of these coats of arms long after the time.

When I was very young growing up in the West Country then "alms" would have sounded like "arms" and from what I can tell, the West Country had the closest accent to Elizabethan English so perhaps this was true of the whole of middle and southern England at some stage. It might be worth doing an analysis for old pubs names ending in "arms" comparing north with south for the relative frequency.

I don't see why "alms" can't be a contraction of "almshouses" or "alms houses" since it is still giving to the poor. It is recognising the act rather than the material gift.

I don't think moneyed families would have wanted to be associated with alehouses. Inns and Taverns maybe but not alehouses which were for lower society. So I doubt they would want their coat of arms displayed outside such places. And if it is done now then it is done long after the family has ceased to exist.
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Old 03-12-2013, 01:20 AM
RolandRB RolandRB is offline
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Originally Posted by UDS View Post
I disagree. The local landed family would the the ultimate proprietor of most of the houses in any village, and they would want the village to have the usual amenities of a village, including a pub, a market-house, and alms-house, etc. In fact, it reflected badly on them if it did not. They would often endow the alms-house, as previously mentioned, and possibly also the market-house or an assembly-room, and the naming of the pub in their honour would be taken to show the proper feudal spirit. Plus, they could hardly disclaim any connection with the pub when, in all likelihood, they collected the rent from it.

Your objection also has to get around the fact that a pub called, e.g., the Granby Arms typically did have a sign displaying the arms of the Granby family. So, if the family did take measure to prevent their arms being used in this way, they were mostly not very effective measures.
I disagree. The local moneyed family would not have wanted to be associated or have their family name or coat of arms linked to an alehouse as these were for the lowest level of society. When the Granby family coat of arms appeared in pub signs then it could have been a long time after the family had died out so therefore they would not have been in a position to insist on its removal.
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