What does "Grantner" mean?

The first reference to the “Grantners” that I found was in the Deutsches Wörterbuch of Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm. These are the Brothers Grimm of fairy tale fame.

The Deutsches Wörterbuch (German Dictionary), the DWB, is the largest and the most comprehensive dictionary of the German language in existence. The DWB was begun by the Brothers Grimm in 1838 and the initial volumes were published in 1854, Unfinished at the time of their deaths, the dictionary was finally completed by a succession of scholars and institutions in 1961. The first completed DWB spans 32 volumes. For those who are interested, an online version of the Deutsches Wörterbuch can be viewed here.

There are 3 entries for “Grantner” in the DWB. They are in Old German (High German) and very hard to translate. The entries, in reverse order, are as follows:

1) Grantner means "Grand" ?

1) GRANTNER, m., 'trog', s. 2grand.

This entry isn’t too bad. “trog” translates as “trough.” The second option, “grand” sounds a lot better.

2) Grantner means "Forward Part of Ship" ?

2) GRANTNER, m., vereinzelte seitenform zu gransen, m. (s. d.), 'vorderteil eines schiffes': vnd als er (ein betrunkener) an dem grantner vor ein wenig entschlaffen war, fiel er in das wasser hinaus (ac in prora paulum obdormiscens) H. Bebel facetien (1568)

The last part of this entry seems to indicate that the source is Heinrich Bebel’s Facetiae.

Heinrich Bebel’s Facetiae was the next most popular Renaissance joke book collection after Poggio’s, and one of the largest: 441 facetiae (short, witty anecdotes) in three books, the first two printed in 1508 and the third in 1512. Unfortunately the work has never been translated into English from the original Latin. Like Poggio’s, it is a mixture of comic anecdotes of various kinds: fables, satire on the sexual appetite of women, the stupidity of priests and countrymen. Many are obscene, and some make jokes about religion, which may be surprising, coming from a devoutly Christian humanist author.

I downloaded a PDF version of the books in Latin, I think all 3 volumes, but I could not find a reference to “grantner” using the search function.

Using an on-line German to English translator, I could get nothing from the first DWB option other that it involves thunderstorms (vereinzelte). The second option seems to imply that grantner means the ‘Fore part of a ship’. It is followed by an example, presumably from Bebel, that translates into something like: “and when he (a drunken) was at the grantner asleep before a little, he fell out into the water.” The Latin parenthetical phrase is “and slept a little in the prow”. So … I guess “grantner” was “the fore part of a ship.”

But, I’ve saved the best for last:

3) Grantner means WHAT?

3) GRANTNER, This entry, in Old German, is quite lengthy and very difficult to translate. It all seems to relate to “grantner” as “vagabond” and implies the usage may date back to Augsburg in 1343. If you want to see the actual entry, click here.

The entry also indicates that a source is the Liber Vagatorum written about 1510. The Liber Vagatorium is The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars, and was edited by Martin Luther in the year 1528. He also wrote a preface to the book. An English translation of the book is available online through Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/46287/46287-h/46287-h.htm.

Now ... Here is the fun part, directly from the Book of Vagabonds and Beggars:

The 7th chapter is about the Grantners. These are the beggars who say in the farm-houses:—“Oh, dear friend, look at me, I am afflicted with the falling sickness of St. Valentine, or St. Kurinus, or St. Vitus, or St. Antonius, and have offered myself to the Holy Saint with 6 pounds of wax, with an altar cloth, with a silver salver (et cetera), and must bring these together from pious people’s offerings and help; therefore I beg you to contribute a heller, a spindleful of flax, a ribbon, or some linen yarn for the altar, that God and the Holy Saint may protect you from misery and disease and the falling sickness.” __ Note: A false trick.

Some fall down before the churches, or in other places with a piece of soap in their mouths, whereby the foam rises as big as a fist, and they prick their nostrils with a straw, causing them to bleed, as though they had the falling-sickness. __ Note: this is utter knavery.

These are villanous vagrants that infest all countries. There are many who speak thus:—“Listen to me, dear friends, I am a butcher’s son, a tradesman. And it happened some time since that a vagrant came to my father’s house and begged for St. Valentine’s sake; and my father gave me a penny to give to him. I said, ‘father, it is knavery.’ My father told me to give it to him, but I gave it him not. And since that hour I have been afflicted with the falling-sickness, and I have made a vow to St. Valentine of 3 pounds of wax and a High Mass, and I beg and pray pious folks to help me, because I have made this vow; otherwise I should have substance enough for myself. Therefore I ask of you an offering and help that the dear holy St. Valentine may guard and protect you evermore.” __ Note: what he says is all lies.

He has been more than 20 years collecting for his 3 pounds of wax and the Mass, and has been gambling, bibbling, and rioting with it. And there are many that use other and more subtle words than those given in this book. Some have a written testimony that it is all true.

Conclusion: If any of the Grantners cometh before thine house, and simply beggeth for God’s sake, and speaketh not many, nor flowery words, to them thou shalt give, for there are many men who have been afflicted with the sickness by the Saints; but as to those Grantners who use many words, speak of great wonders, tell you that they have made vows, and can altogether skilfully use their tongues—these are signs that they have followed this business for a long time, and, I doubt not, they are false and not to be trusted. As to him who believes them, they take a nut off his tree. Take care of such, and give them nothing.

Wow! Maybe I'll change the spelling of my last name to Grandtner too.


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