Hansom

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A hansom cab - briefly, a hansom - is a formal, bureaucratic name for a taxi. The original design for a 'safety cab' (it was very stable) was by a native of York: Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-1882), the architect of Birmingham Town Hall.


There is a homophone handsome, meaning 'good-looking', alternatively 'generous', in current English, with other meanings in older versions of the language.

  • Originally, 'easy to handle', and 'handy' or 'to hand';
  • linguistically, it was applied to a skilled use of language: 'appropriate', 'elegant' or 'clever';
  • in terms of appearance, it meant 'of moderate size', 'fairly large' - what might now be said to be 'a decent size';
  • financially, it meant 'large' (of a sum of money), and by association with the idea of 'admirable in behaviour', came to the modern meaning of 'generous'. A "handsome gift" is one that will more than satisfy the recipient.
  • In military terms, it meant 'manly', 'courageous' or 'suitably admirable';

- and all of these led to the modern meaning of 'good-looking', 'having a fine form', 'with dignified good looks, and of an appropriate size'.

    • Beware of the adverb handsomely. While this is used in ordinary English to mean 'fittingly', with a predominant sense of 'appropriately to decent, honourable and generous character' (it might be said that "an apology was handsomely given"), there is a trap in nautical usage, where it means 'slowly', 'carefully' or 'with proper care and gentleness'. "Handsomely does it!" is used to warn sailors against rushing the job on which they are engaged.