Pages Last Updated 2 7th April 2004
Catchpool, Catchpoole, Catchpowl, Catchpowle, Catchpol, Catchpoll.
The meaning of the name ...
A sheriff's officer, especially one who arrests
debtors. A Bailiff's assistant
Middle English cacchepol, from Norman French
cachepol, probably from Old French chacepol : chacier,
to chase; chase + poul, rooster (from Latin pullus,
For instance, do you know how a sheriff's deputy, especially one who makes arrests for failure to pay debts, came to be called a catchpole? In this case, the truth is stranger than any fiction.
We'll begin by admitting that the English catchpole was not coined by pairing catch plus pole; in fact, the word owes a debt of thanks to the French. It did start as a combination of two words, but they were cachier (Old North French for "to hunt or chase") plus pol (meaning "chicken"). The original cachepol, then, was a chicken-chaser.
If you've ever tried to catch a chicken who didn't want to be captured, you know how challenging that task can be. And since chasing down someone who owes you money can also be pretty difficult, catchpoll eventually became a byword for "debt police." But before that sense developed during the 12th century, the French cachepol had another meaning, too, one that may inspire sympathy for the chicken: "tax collector."
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