Saturday, 17 November 2012

Did Coleridge coin the word "substrate"?

I can see a whole phalanx of posts with variants of this title stretching out to the crack of doom. But nobody's interested (I'm barely interested myself) so I'll make this my last.  James Engell, W. Jackson Bate and the OED agree: 'OED cites C (in an annotation on Jeremy Taylor) as the first to use the word "substrate" as a noun for "substratum".'  Engell and Bate think he got it by Englishing Kant's das Substratum when writing chapter 8 of the Biographia. But the word was in fairly widespread use before him. It had long been used as an adjective (Theophilus Gale talks of 'substrate matter' in 1677; and Richard Baxter -- whom Coleridge read and annotated in furious detail -- talked of 'the substrate act' in 1675. But it was also used as a standalone noun:
7. Pimento, Jamaica Pepper, Allspice. —  This tree rises to the height of thirty feet, and is found almost every where in the woods of Jamaica ... It grows luxuriantly, and bears well, in every richer mould, on a gravelly substrate, and rarely fails expectation, planted any where. [Edward Long, The History of Jamaica: Or, General Survey of the Antient and Modern State of That Island (3 vols; 1774), 3:703]
The earliest I can find for this use of 'Substrate' as a noun for soil is 1671.

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