I'm re-reading Wise Man's Fear. The University chancellor is chastising a colleague.

You're as bad as the boy, Jasom, and with less excuse. You've shown you can't conduct yourself in a professional manner, so stint thy clep and consider yourself lucky I don't call for an official censure." (page 96)

I understand this to mean something along the lines of "shut up," but I can't quite grok the phrase itself.

Google doesn't offer any helpful definitions of "clep" and the definitions of "stint" don't appear to fit the context. Can anyone pin down when and where these words are used in this way?

  • 2
    'Stint thy clappe!' seems pretty common in Middle English for 'Shut up!'
    – Angelos
    Apr 3 '17 at 3:42
  • 4
    I'd guess that clep is dialect for clap. The OED has a definition for clap: Noisy talk, chatter; Obs. or dial. And indeed, per @Nothing at all's comment, Chaucer used "Stint thy clappe" for "shut up". Apr 3 '17 at 3:48
  • 3
    ref Dutch klep (litt. flap): used informally for mouth.
    – oerkelens
    Apr 3 '17 at 6:17
  • The noun clep/clappe is possibly related to clepe, a Middle English verb meaning call or invoke. Apr 3 '17 at 17:21
  • @oerkelens Similarly in Scandinavia where ‘flap to/flap shut’ (Da. klappe i etc.) means ‘shut up’ as well. Apr 3 '17 at 18:39

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word stint means "to be sparing or frugal", which also fits in this context. The word clep was already explained by Peter Shor: "noisy talk, chatter". Based on that, a different way to express the whole phrase could be:

"Be sparing with chatter!"

It sounds really odd, but it fits in this context and gets the main idea across.

  • 4
    It also means to cease or stop entirely, which makes more sense here. Apr 3 '17 at 18:35

In contemporary vernacular, 'hold your tongue' is equivalent to "Stint thy clep!". 'Clep' is a form of the obsolete noun 'clepe':

Forms: Also clep.
1. A call, cry, shout. rare.

OED, clepe, n.

And 'stint' is straightforward — it's not a rare form of a rare word, although it is archaic or dialectal in this transitive sense:

6. a. To discontinue (an action); to hold in check, restrain (one's own actions or organs of action). Now arch. and dial.

OED, stint, v.

As to "when and where these words are used in this way", OED's last attestion of 'stint' in sense 6a is

1881 S. Evans Evans's Leicestershire Words (new ed.) (at cited word) Yo' stent yer nize!

So, "where" is Leicestershire at least, and "stent yer nize!" is also the equivalent of 'hold your tongue' ("nize" = 'noise'). The "when" is 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries (latterly).

For 'clep', OED is not so helpful, but an easy-to-find attestation is the below from The Tint Quey, 1796, by Richard Gall (emphasis in the following quote is mine).

Meg's passion like a rock took low:
"Whisht! haud y'er clep, an' speik nae langer,
"Ye ne'er-do-weel, to raise my anger —

Note that an errata printed on the page before the title page of The Tint Quey reads "In pages 1st and 13th, for 'Tint Quey' read 'Tint Cow'." My surmise is that the cow in question was older, or had a calf, but observe that 'quey' ("A heifer, a young cow, 'of any age up to three years or until she has had a calf'", quey n., The Scottish National Dictionary) appears on other pages of the poem than the first and thirteenth.

After finding the above attestation in the 1796 publication of The Tint Quey, ascribed in pencil on the title page to R. Gall, and said to be "In the Scottish Dialect", I took a cue from that and checked The Scottish National Dictionary for 'clep' and 'stint'. In SND the phrase "haud y'er clep" from Gall's poem (a later, 1819 edition) is used as attestation of a form of clype n.1, and is translated as "hold your tongue".

SND also give this definition of stent n.3, v.3 (sense II.2.):

2. tr. To confine, restrict, limit, check, curb (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Rxb. 1971); to scrimp, stint. Ppl.adj. stentit, delimited, definite.

Although 'stint' is not given as a variant form of stent n.3, v.3, and does not appear in the attestions for sense 2, that appears to be an oversight; 'stint' does appear in the attestations for another sense, and 'stent-stint' are mutually common variant spellings.

This attestation is given for sense II.2. of stent n.3, v.3:

Gsw. 1856 Deil's Hallowe'en 35:
Canna ye stent your gab a wee?

The particular collocation you encountered is almost certainly the creation of Patrick Rothfuss, playing on archaic uses and Scottish dialectal words and senses for dramatic effect.


'Clappe' might have more akin to the 'clapper of a bell'. If that makes more sense? The tone is spoke with acerbity as an admonishment. Similarly spoken in no less clear terms as that depicted in Chaucer's 'the Miller's Tale' - if but a little mispelled.

"'Stint Thy Clappe', Lat be thy lewed dronken harlotrye. It is a sinne and eek a greet folye. To apeiren any man, or him diffame, And eek to bringen wyves in swich fame."

"Hold your Tongue". Leave off your filthy talk. It being both great in sin and folly. To victimize a man with slander. And bring dishonor on his wife.

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