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#213846 - 01/06/14 07:26 PM 19th Century mystery word - a real puzzler. Joined: Jan 2014
Posts: 1 Jeremy67
Joined: Jan 2014
I was leafing through a pictorial history of a London England suburb called Kilburn. I came across a poster for a Fair or Fête being run by the Temperance Society in the year 1884 to promote a life free of the demon drink!
On the poster for this event which had lots of outdoor bands playing and side-shows including Punch and Judy, there was an item described as PLOTOPAHLEA but no explanation as to what that could possibly refer to.
I can't find reference to the word in any dictionary or searching online. Ploto is a Greek word meaning floating event. I've run this by American Fairground Archive websites and even asked the Victoria and Albert Museum in London who haven't yet replied. They have archives of puppetry and Punch and Judy. It may have nothing to do with that but was alongside that on the poster advertising the outdoor event.
Other functions were akin to strength tests by offering punters to climb a greasy pole to try to reach a Leg of Mutton at the top.
So far the only thing I can think of by thinking laterally on this is that in the 1880s Cameras and Photography was in its infancy and few people knew about it. By 1900 people could buy a camera to use if they wanted to take up that kind of pass-time. But if perhaps there was a side-show offering to take photographs maybe the person transcribing the poster from a written piece of paper could have been confused about what the word was, since plotopahlea has the same number of letters as photography and some letters are similar shape. eg
P L O T O P A H L E A
P H O T O G R A P H Y so it's possible this was an early kind of typo. or mistake by a typesetter making the poster to pin up in the town.
I'd be over-the-moon if someone knew that this was a real word.
Anyone who would like to see a screenshot of the poster is welcome to contact me through this forum and I would send it in. As it's from a book I think I could only legally do that if I cropped it and showed a portion of the picture.
#214206 - 02/15/14 08:00 PM PLOTOPAHLEA not explained [Re: Jeremy67] Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,916 wofahulicodoc
Joined: Aug 2001
Just killing some time on a snowy afternoon and came upon your posting.
Below is a ink to what looks like a patent medicine for cough-and-cold relief. The Testimonial is by one Plotopahlea (!). Not terribly useful and for all I know it derived from your posting, but if so you've at least succeeded in reviving the word. FWIW it's dated 6/I/2014, the same date as your enrollment in Wordsmith.org and posting the original query here.
Pure speculation, from outside the box: it evokes the feeling of Cyrillic alphabet transliterated: P-->R, H-->N, etc.
I recall also a GAMES magazine article a couple of years back about photo-detection that identified an old picture - another avenue of inquiry you might try if your interest was piqued hard enough.
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