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Tripping Up Over The Diary


In his latest desperate but futile attempt to defend the now debunked diary, the unreconstructed True Believer once known as San Fran alias Markus Aurelius Nuttikas, now going by the name of Lombro2, the very same individual who once seriously suggested scouring the River Mersey with a metal detector to find the knife that "James Maybrick" said he'd thrown into it in 1888 (later amended to a search of the Thames!) and the actual Muppet who famously thought he'd found an example of "one off" from 1882 which was actually from 1975, has come up with his latest nutty idea that there is something in the diary which indicates that it was written in the nineteenth century by James Maybrick.

He first previewed his loony, convoluted and incoherent idea on this very website in the Comments section of Ask Orsam....about the diary. After running away with his tail between his legs, having cocked it up (because of course he did), it seems that he then privately started pestering Tom Mitchell who appears to have ignored him, so that, in his bid for attention for his daft theory, he started a new thread on Casebook.

It really should have ended there, with his madness being left ignored by all. But, of course, the Chief Diary Defender, for whom no language argument that the diary was written in the nineteenth century is too batshit crazy, kept the thread alive by saying that Lombro had raised "Another question for Anne Graham", ignoring the fact that Anne Graham was said by Mike to be merely the scribe who had nothing to do with the diary contents, but keeping alive the possibility that Lombro had said something sensible about the diary for the first time in his life which needed an answer by the forger. Needless to say, once prompted by his mistress, Tom Mitchell chipped in. Wanting to have it both ways, making clear it wasn't his horse in the race, he nevertheless said that he still thought that Lombro's madness was worth discussing....because of course he did....and concluded madly that "trip over" is an intriguing gem. No one is more desperate than Tom for a lifeline to cling on to that the debunked diary was written in 1888.

So what was Lombro's nutty theory?


Well it relates to one of the poems in respect of the murder of Catherine Eddowes. After anachronistically suggesting that Inspector Abberline of the Metropolitan Police would have been involved in the City of London's investigation of that murder, the diarist wrote:

"He believes I will trip over

but I have no fear

For I could not possibly

redeem it here"

What the diarist is talking about here is pretty much impossible to fathom. From the use of the word "redeem", it seems to be something about the two pawn tickets which were found at the murder scene but those obviously belonged to Eddowes and couldn't be redeemed by the killer. According to Robert Smith, in attempting to make sense of this, "The diarist indicates he took a third pawn ticket away with him, which he could not and would not, redeem in Liverpool, or the police would trip him up". But the diarist does not actually indicate that he took a third pawn ticket away with him, that is just Smith, who thinks that the diary was genuinely written by the killer, doing his best to try to attribute some kind of sensible meaning to the poem. What the killer had literally just said in the poem prior to this was that he had left a clue (which Abberline was keeping back), the very opposite of having taken something away. In any case, how could Abberline have known that there was a pawn ticket missing? Certainly no missing pawn ticket was reported or mentioned at the inquest, nor is there any mention of one in police files. Furthermore, why would James Maybrick have wanted to get his hands on one of the low value items on any pawn ticket owned by Catherine Eddowes which seems to be the suggestion of the poem? It also doesn't make sense that the diarist would specifically say that he couldn't redeem the pawn ticket "here", i.e. in Liverpool according to Smith, when he was constantly travelling to London and could have redeemed it there if he so wanted. Or, if it wasn't safe to redeem it in Liverpool, it wasn't safe to redeem it in London, or anywhere else, so that the word "here" is redundant. The killer wouldn't have been able to redeem it anywhere. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it could only have come from the warped mind of Michael Barrett. Just a few lines earlier the diarist had written that "Sweet sugar and tea could have paid my small fee" which seems to show Mike having been confused about who charged a fee in a transaction between punter and prostitute.

Anyway, we don't particularly need to worry about the exact meaning for the purpose of this article. It's fair to say that the diarist here appears to be using the expression "trip over" (which could also have been expressed as "trip up") in a metaphorical way to mean make a mistake which would lead to his capture, rather than that Abberline thought he would physically trip over and fall to the floor.

One thing is certain. There is nothing creative or original about the line "He believes I will trip over" which is just bog standard English. Certainly, if used to mean that the person would physically trip over and fall, there are plenty of contemporary examples of something similar. Hence, from the Daily Telegraph of 12 December 2020:

"I always wear flat shoes in case I trip over."

And from the Daily Mirror of 10 February 2024:

"Frustrated residents...are too scared to venture out after dark in case they trip over."

These are not creatively written sentences. They are nothing more than normal English. All the diarist has done is use an existing expression metaphorically, in the same way that "trip up" was very commonly being used metaphorically in 1992, as today (and during the nineteenth century, one might add).

So what is it about this use of "trip over" which indicates that it is more likely to have been written by James Maybrick in 1888 than Michael Barrett in 1992? After all, as a metaphor for falling, there are a number of options. When writing his poem, the diarist could have written "fall down", "trip up", "slip up", "slip over", "stumble" or "trip over" or even just "trip" or "slip", which would all have conveyed a similar meaning. And don't forget it's poetry in the diary not normal text, something which I'll be coming back to.

The answer is that there is nothing special about the use of "trip over" to indicate that it was written by James Maybrick.

Although what follows is quite long and convoluted due to the nature of Lombro's theory, I can tell you where he went wrong very quickly so that you don't even need to read the rest of this.

Lombro, who truly believes that the diary was written in 1888 by James Maybrick, has therefore simply assumed that "trip over" is a Victorian expression which was later replaced by the more modern "trip up". He hasn't bothered to research this, let alone provide any evidence for it, but his belief has driven his conclusion, so that he has arrived, by a totally circular method, at the answer he wanted. But that answer is wrong.

In fact, there is nothing especially Victorian about "trip over" and thus no reason for James Maybrick, or any other individual in the nineteenth century, to have used "trip over", to indicate making a mistake, in preference to "trip up". This means that Michael Barrett could have written that line just as much as James Maybrick.

It really is that simple although Lombro has complicated it by throwing in the irrelevant fact that "trip over" is being used in the diary intransitively, which he refers to as without an object. This could only be relevant if there was something uniquely Victorian about this, but there isn't. Although Lombro thinks it's a creative use language (which it isn't), it doesn't matter because there is no reason to think that James Maybrick was more creative than Michael Barrett.

So what point is Lombro making? The answer is that there is no point. It is all madness.


Our True Believer friend introduced his theory in a typical lunatic way on this website in strange cryptic fashion. On 10 January 2024, he posted in the Comments section of Ask Orsam....about the diary saying:

"If neither Maybrick nor Barrett could, on their own, add an abstract like “instance” to an idiom like “one off”, then why is there another old idiom used in the diary, that is always used with an abstract, but is used without one. The abstract is implied. It’s in the poetry, if you want to find it. Today it’s been replaced with a modern idiom almost always used without the abstract."

Although this made no sense to me at the time, knowing what we do now, we can see that he was trying to claim that "trip over" was "an old idiom" which is "always used with an abstract" other than in the diary. To this day, he has substantiated neither of these claims.

He followed up on 11 January 2024 by saying:

"my example did exist without question in print in 1888. And it’s used with an inferred abstract which had to have been original with the author."

We now know that he meant "trip over" but he is yet to provide an example of "trip over" in print in 1888 in any form, or at any time during the nineteenth century, with inferred abstract or not, transitive or intransitive, used in the sense of making a mistake. His claim that "it’s used with an inferred abstract which had to have been original with the author", by which poorly expressed gobbledigook he means that no one else had ever previously used "trip over" in such a way, is not only utterly unsupported by any evidence but, frankly, means that Mike Barrett is just as likely to have written the diary as James Maybrick, considering that, if no one had ever done it before, it's not particularly normal English, so that the stupid Mike could easily have done it.

When Lombro says "original with the author", incidentally, I can only assume he means to say that it was original when the diary emerged in 1992 so that, in the above sentence, when I wrote, "if no one had ever done it before", that must mean, "if no one had ever done it before the diary emerged" . If on the other hand, Lombro means original before 1888, so that it would have been original in 1888 but was common between 1889 and 1992, that would point towards Mike Barrett and away from Maybrick. In truth, I doubt anyone has ever written about something being "used with an inferred abstract which had to have been original with the author" ever before, but that doesn't mean such a sentence was written by a Victorian idiot. A contemporary idiot is just as likely to have written it.

After I challenged him as to what he was talking about, he posted on 12 January 2024:

"You basically said neither Maybrick or Barrett could have originated one off instance. Yet the diary has a Victorian idiom, now largely replaced, and it has an inferred abstraction, same as saying that hitting Florie was a “one off“ without the “instance”. So was it Barrett or an old Victorian?"

Once again, his argument here (as it is now known to be) is that "trip over" was "a Victorian idiom" which has been replaced in modern times by "trip up". The suggestion, therefore, was that this is something that is only likely to have been written by an "an old Victorian", not by Barrett. But, for some bizarre reason, he still wasn't telling me what the supposed Victorian idiom in question was, so I couldn't make head nor tail of it.

Despite refusing to tell me what he was talking about, on 13 January 2024 he bizarrely asked me: "So can we get to my new example of a glaring metaphorical idiom which is in the poetry?" I told him that I wasn't stopping him from mentioning it.

Nevertheless, it wasn't until 18 January 2024 that he gave me some kind of indication of what he was jabbering on about with his incomprehensible talk of "a glaring metaphorical idiom" (???) in the diary. On that day, referring to a mistake he'd made about who first discovered Garscadden's articles from 1903-4, he wrote:

"Sometimes I TRIP OVER the details, if you catch my meaning."

Having worked out that he must be talking about the Eddowes related poem, I replied:

"It's baffling why you continually speak in riddles. No, I don't catch your meaning. So, "trip over" is found 3 times in the diary. So what?"

I had to wait almost two weeks, until 1 February 2024, for his response, which was:

"You finally got TRIPPED UP I guess. Notice how nicely that modern expression works without something after it to complete the metaphor for mistake, unlike the older than Victorian expression Trip Over, the one only someone like Maybrick I believe would think of using for “making a mistake” instead of Tripped Up, and without “a detail” after it (trip over)."

So we can see his first big mistake. He thought that "trip up" was a "modern expression" whereas "trip over" was an "older than Victorian expression" so that, out of Barrett and Maybrick, only Maybrick would have used this expression to describe making a mistake, because he is the person out of the two most likely to have used a Victorian expression. At least that's what a normal person would mean in saying, "only someone like Maybrick I believe would think of using for "making a mistake" instead of Tripped Up, and without "a detail" after it (trip over)." After all, what do we know about Maybrick that would distinguish him from any other Victorian?

But Lombro is not a normal person and I have a feeling that he was here trying to make the barmy argument that Maybrick was so creative and inventive with the English language that he was able to invent expressions such as "one off instance", "bumbling buffoon", "spreads mayhem", "top myself" and that his use of "trip over" in the poem was another example of him inventing original language expressions in this way, so that the notion of "only someone like Maybrick" is part of a circular argument whereby, because he believes Maybrick is the diary author, it means that Maybrick must be the author of the line "He believes I will trip over" and thus the author of the diary! Like I say, fully circular.

Frankly, as I will be discussing further, I don't think Lombro's point about there being no "detail" after the expression adds anything at all to the argument. If "trip over", in any form, is a Victorian expression to mean making a a mistake, and "trip up" is the modern equivalent of that expression then, fair enough, this means it could be said to be suspicious, or at least odd, that the forger, writing in circa 1992, has used the Victorian expression rather than the modern expression. However, not only has Lombro not provided any source evidence that "trip over" was a Victorian expression, and I mean none at all, but he was definitely quite wrong to say that "trip up" is a purely modern expression. As I told in him response on 2 February:

Except that "trip up" is not, as you seem to think, a modern expression. A few minutes searching finds plenty of nineteenth century uses. For example, from the Sheffield Independent of 12 May 1832: "Any motive but this, will actuate them in their infernal projects, to trip up the administration of Earl GREY", and the Hull Packet of 29 May 1832: "If they do pass it, nothing will remain for them but to trip up ministers on some secondary plea". Then going forward to the Newcastle Courant of 23 March 1889: "he had no doubt that many attempts would be made to trip up the scheme he had enunciated". Then, just to be crystal clear, some examples of "tripped up": "How so very clever a man ever came to commit so excessively stupid a blunder as to allow himself to be tripped up over the defence of coaling stations, we cannot understand" (Pall Mall Gazette, 6 January 1887) and then in the midst of the Ripper murders, "The only point of interest in connection with it [the Kilmainham Treaty] now-a-days is the light which it throws upon the question of how Mr Chamberlain tripped up Mr Forster" (Leeds Mercury, 3 November 1888).

If we pause there. Take the 1887 quote from the Pall Mall Gazette:

"How so very clever a man ever came to commit so excessively stupid a blunder as to allow himself to be tripped up over the defence of coaling stations, we cannot understand." 

That could easily have been written within the known rules of the English language as:

"We cannot understand how so very clever a man came to commit so excessively stupid a blunder over the defence of coaling stations as to allow himself to be tripped up."

It wouldn't change anything about the meaning, and this formulation of the sentence could just as easily have been written in 1992 than 1887, and, indeed, could be written this way today. There's nothing Victorian about it simply because there is no "detail", to use Lombro's word, after "tripped up".

We may also note the following Victorian use of the expression "trip up" or "trip me up":

“From that moment it seems it was an understood thing with the Whig party, that if the time ever came that they could trip me up, they were above all things to do so (Morning Post, 13 August 1838).

“The noble lord and I belong to the same political party….we hold the same political opinions, and notwithstanding that the noble lord came after me, to trip me up, and to force me out of the contest…” (Morning Chronicle, 30 July 1847, quoting Mr Sergeant Shee).

"We were handsomely "tripped up" in a discussion the other day, with a pretty young Miss of our borough, on the proposed change in ladies dresses."  (Reynolds's Newspaper, 3 August 1851 citing the Carlisle Democrat).

“Don’t let any very sensible, unceasingly wide-awake, and fearfully disagreeable person trip me up here by saying “an ill founded reverence cannot be harmless.”” (Caledonian Mercury 30 May 1862).

“The gentleman who essayed to trip me up some weeks ago concerning my remarks on this matter made out a remarkably weak case, and he seems to rest on his oars after the effort he made” (North Wales Chronicle, 8 July 1882).

“You honour me, madame, by admitting me to your confidence” – was what she said – “Trip me up, you cat, if you can!” was what she thought”  (Heart and Science by Wilkie Collins published the Manchester Times and other newspapers, 2 September 1882).

“The “Gas World” catches at a straw in trying to trip me up about Dundee.” (Letter to editor published in Aberdeen Journal 18 January 1887),

“They conversed in whispers till I moved into the next room, where the Jew landlady – anxious to trip me up and then report me – said to me smilingly, under her breath- “If you want anything to drink, Mr Holborn, I will be happy to oblige you.”” (Recollections of a London Detective by Detective-Sergeant William Holborn, Ipswich Journal, 8 July 1887).


“He’d have me drain Hamilton’s cup/And so he tries his best to trip me up/And as his wits than mine are quicker far/He gives me now and then a “nasty jar”” (from a poem published in the Portsmouth Telegraph, 30 June 1888).

Where are all the Victorian examples of someone trying to trip someone over, metaphorically speaking, so that they make a mistake? Perhaps they don't exist.

Going to back to my exchange with Lombro, in my comment of 2 February, I also asked him what point he was making, to which he replied on 4 February:

"The point is Barrett would more likely have used “Trip up”. I see no 19th century examples in your samples of the common modern usage as in “I tripped up” with no object. I tripped up—no object. We’re comparing trip up versus trip over used without an object after it. Trip over without an object is fairly unique, maybe original. Question is who is the equivalent of Paul McCartney’s brother to come up with that? A Maybrick? Or Bongo Starr?"

This guy's obsession with the absence of an object, by which he means a verb used intransitively, is nuts. The only relevant question is whether "trip over" is a Victorian expression which someone writing in 1992, therefore, wouldn't have used. The way Lombro expresses it is just loading the dice. It's not a valid argument to say that because we can't find those exact words used in that exact same way anywhere else then the author of the diary must be Maybrick. It doesn't even make sense for starters because there's no reason for it to favour Maybrick than Barrett in those circumstances, even if Barrett's nickname was "Bongo". But even if "trip over" was a Victorian expression, it still wouldn't be a valid argument. If, for example, my own argument was that "one off instance" was common in the nineteenth century but, because there were no nineteenth century examples of "one off instance" being used by someone who had hit their wife, whereas there were a number examples of men hitting their wives in the twentieth century and calling it a "one off instance", the diary couldn't have been written in 1888, that would be silly. Similarly, if there were plenty of nineteenth examples of expressions such as "one off event" and "one off occasion" but no example of the exact expression "one off instance" so that the diary must be fake, that argument would be wrong.

Lombro says that he sees no 19th century examples of "I tripped up" with no object, by which he means intransitively (and used metaphorically), yet provides not a single 19th century example of "I tripped over" (used metaphorically) with no object. In such circumstances, how is even possible to argue that this means Maybrick wrote the diary? How does the use of "trip over" in the diary point towards Maybrick more than Barrett?

In telling us that "Trip over without an object is fairly unique, maybe original" he is talking about it being unique and original in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries so that he is making a very strange argument, namely that the diary author was so creative and inventive that he invented expressions such as "trip over" and "one off instance", even though the supposed invention in the former case was merely using "trip over" without an object, which is a very strange invention. In reality, of course, it's not an invention at all bearing in mind that other phrasal verbs could be, and were, used this way.

After I posted a long rebuttal to his nonsense in the comments, Lombro claimed he didn't read it and replied:

"Too much to read. Suffice to say, easier to find “I tripped up (period)” in published print in the 19th Century if it existed than “I tripped over (period)” in an unpublished doggerel diary.

But good spotting that Victorians and pre-Vics used “I tripped him up (period)”. I didn’t notice that but it just proves that Maybrick could have used that."

My reply was:

"Yes, Maybrick could indeed have used "trip up", just as he could have used "trip over". Equally, Barrett could have used "trip up", just as he could have used "trip over". Same for anyone else.

So what does the inclusion of "trip over" in the diary tell us about its authorship? Absolutely nothing, is the answer.

You've just been wasting my time.

And when I bother to take the time to explain in detail why you've been wasting my time, you tell me "Too much to read". Ha! You really are a classic diary defender. I've kept this one short and sweet so maybe even you will get the message."

At this point Lombro, in time honoured diary defender fashion, ran away.


After running away from this website once I destroyed his argument, and then failing to interest Tom Mitchell with his nonsense in private, Lombro, still craving attention, created a new thread on Casebook entitled "Trip Over for Trip Up" in which he tried to link "trip over" in some way with "one off instance" by saying:

"In all the discussion about "one off" used in conjunction with an abstract, we all missed the use of another idiom, one which has largely been replaced with another one that can be used with or without an object or an abstraction, but the Diary uses the earlier idiom which is always used with an object or abstraction and uses it uniquely without one. Am I tripping over myself here? Or did I trip up again?"

First of all, what discussion about "one off"? It's one of those things that diary defenders simply do not talk about.

Secondly, it's worth picking up the point about "trip over" being another idiom. Well it could be described as such, if used in the same way as "trip up" to mean making a mistake, but it's actually a phrasal verb, which is why one can refer to it being used transitively or intransitively. By contrast, "one off" is not a phrasal verb and thus can't be used transitively or intransitively. So there's a difference between the two right there. But let's say that "trip over" is an idiom. In which case, there's no comparison with the issue involving "one off instance" because any use of that expression in 1888 was impossible, which proves that the diary is not genuine. Had he diarist written "trip up" instead of "trip over" that would have meant nothing because, as Lombro now knows, "trip up" was an expression available to a Victorian writer. For diary defenders, to the extent that they adopt Lombo's' argument, it means that, if Maybrick had written "trip up", the diary would still have been by Maybrick. As he wrote "trip over", they want to say that the diary must have been written by Maybrick. They cannot lose, in other words. "Trip over" = Maybrick. "Trip up" = Maybrick. It shows what nonsense this discussion is.


The fact that there no "object" or "abstraction" after "trip over" in the diary is a red herring. This is for two reasons.

The first reason is that we are talking about a poem, or doggerel to use Lombro's word. Language in a poem is different from normal written and spoken language. I like to think that this statement is uncontroversial and that there is no point in me posting multiple examples from both Victorian and modern poetry to show that the language of a poem is going to be different from normal language.

But let me give just one example modern poetry from the 2005 book entitled "New Classic Poems" which contains, as its title suggests, modern poems.

This is from "Game Bird" by Rick Ellis

In normal written or spoken English one doesn't say "The Owl sat" (or any person or animal sat) but you can and do in poetry. I appreciate that it could be read as "The Owl sat pure and restless" but you also wouldn't say that it normal written or spoken English. It's poetry.

The second reason that the lack of "object" or "abstraction" is a red herring is because there's nothing intrinsically Victorian about using verbs (or phrasal verbs) intransitively. I don't think even Lombro is arguing this. Intransitive use of verbs or phrasal verbs is neither Victorian nor modern, but universal. Lombro hasn't shown what is different about "trip over" to any other verb or phrasal verb in this respect. Not only has he failed to provide a single example of what he claims is a Victorian idiomatic use of "trip over", with or without an "object" or "abstraction", but it's actually an integral part of his argument that it had never been used by any other Victorian in the same way before the supposedly creative and imaginative Maybrick did so in 1888.

But there is a massive problem with this argument. If the truth is that "trip over" is rarely used, with "trip up" generally preferred, whether by Victorians or in the modern period, how is one going to find a needle in a haystack "trip over" used in the same way as the diary which, as I mention above, is only likely to ever be used in poetry? It's just going to be very rare for that reason, not because it wasn't possible to write "trip over", rather because there was no occasion for it. It doesn't offend the rules of the English language. It doesn't require any imagination or creativity at all. More importantly, there was nothing impossible about it in the way that it is impossible for someone in 1888 to have written "one off instance".

Yet, Lombro's key argument is found in this sentence:

"Can a seemingly unprecedented, intransitive usage prove something? I think it proves creativity of language."

But even if the use of "trip over" evidences creativity of language merely by its use as an intransitive (phrasal) verb (which is, of course, a ridiculous argument, there being nothing creative in any size, shape or form about the line, "He believes I will trip over"), that could be said to apply far more to Michael Barrett, a professional freelance journalist who had apparently taken a creative writing course, and who wanted to write a novel, than the cotton merchant James Maybrick who is not known to have been creative at all.

We must ignore this red herring.

No, I happen to agree with the way Tom Mitchell puts it:

"Why would a modern-day (1990s) hoaxer refer to Sir Jim tripping over himself rather than tripping up himself?"

Or rather, that would be the right question if it can be demonstrated that "tripping over" is a purely Victorian expression, not likely to be used by someone in 1992.

As to that, what evidence has Lombro provided that "tripping over" is a Victorian expression for making a mistake?

Well fuck me. None.

How is this even possible?

No hold on, he did attempt one example, didn't he? He wrote:

"But “trip up” as in “making a mistake” oneself appears to have supplanted “trip over” in the 20th Century. Although both existed in the 19th Century, “trip over” dominated. Google Books gives three examples of “tripped over their solution” around 1889 but none of “tripped up (on) their/the solution”."

This was extraordinary for two reasons.

After all these years, Lombro still hasn't learnt that multiple examples of search results in Google Books could be giving you the exact same result repeated in multiple publications. And indeed this was the case here. What he'd found was a single example of the use of the expression "tripped over their solution" used in 1887 by Keely which had been repeated in two other publications but, from this single example, and because he'd been unable to find any equivalent 19th century examples of "tripped up on their solution", he had concluded that "trip over" can therefore be said to be a Victorian expression to mean making a mistake while "trip up" was not. Madness.

But that wasn't even the worst of it. As RJ Palmer pointed out to him (and as Lambro later admitted), Keely wasn't using the expression "tripped over" to mean that he made a mistake about a solution but rather in the sense of stumbling across a solution or, in other words, the very opposite to the way it's used in the diary.

So where does that leave us? I'll tell you where it leaves us, with not a single example having been provided by Lombro of "trip over" having been used in any form during the nineteenth century to mean making a mistake. No, not one. This is despite him claiming that this expression "dominated" in the Victorian period! It's incredible. Yet, while admitting that he hadn't been able to find any Victorian examples of "trip over", he claimed with astonishing cheek that, "it was still more common back then for making a mistake than "trip up" and was therefore the best choice. Or the cleverest." But where is the evidence of it? Are we supposed to accept Lombro's say so?

Well what about examples of "tripping over himself" from the modern period? Because if Lombro is correct we shouldn't be finding any, should we?


A reminder of Tom Mitchell's formulation:

"Why would a modern-day (1990s) hoaxer refer to Sir Jim tripping over himself rather than tripping up himself?"

So let's just see what we can quickly find on the internet.

This is from an 1989 publication entitled "Electrical Musical Instruments" in which, in answer to a question about what kind of mistakes he might make, the interviewee says: "I will trip over myself when I start working contrapuntally. I'll write it, but not fluently or regularly because it slows me..."

This next one is from the transcript of a deposition of one Marsha Scott on 11 June 1997 before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs:

As we can see, she said that if she had to say something each time, she would trip over herself, or in other words, make a mistake, albeit only in the sense of stumbling over her words.

From the Times of 11 June 1998:

"Lawrie Quinn...tripped over himself in his enthusiasm to hail the progress on BSE made yesterday..."

This next one is a pretty important example from a translation by Daniel Hahn of the 2007 book, The Book of Chameleons, by Jose Eduardo Agualusa:

"Of course the trouble with weaving too many lies is that it becomes ever easier to trip and get caught out - as does Felix himself..."

The meaning here is unambiguous. It's about someone who gets tripped up by telling too many lies and then getting caught out, the exact same meaning as the diarist appears to be using. Of course, it might be a mistranslation of the original but David Hahn is a well known translator who has been described as "prestigious":

Even if Hahn should have translated the line as "it becomes ever easier to be tripped up and get caught out" we can see that he chose not to, and he was writing in 2008 not 1888. If he picked the wrong expression, why could not Mike Barrett? If it was the correct expression, then it's confirmed as a modern expression.

Here's an example from Hansard from 2010:

"She taught me to slow down and not to panic, stammer or trip over myself". That, I think, is another one about muddling up words by too speaking quickly but of similar effect to the diary because it is a metaphorical comparison of falling over to describe making a mistake with words.

This one is from a 2010 book "The Authentic Career" by Maggie Craddock:

"It's just that I get so worked up when the spotlight is on me that I seem to trip over myself". The key here again is that it is metaphorical usage as she doesn't mean that she will literally fall over.

This is what United States Congressman Ruben Gallego said about President Trump in an interview published on 22 August 2017:

"The president then proceeded to basically trip over himself to neither condemn the neo-Nazis and white supremacists until finally being pushed".

This would appear to be saying that the president tripped himself up by a tactical error.

The below is from a Linkedin post of 1 November 2019 by George Putong entitled "Developing yourself":

The author began to trip over himself. Used, I think, in the sense of getting confused or muddled but still similar to the usage in the diary.

This is from a 2020 book by Mizumi Amakawa entitled Fushi no Kami:

"I was going to pull the carpet from under the feet of this sad priest who didn't believe people and make him trip over".

This isn't a literal carpet and we can see that the aim was to prove the priest wrong. No object here, incidentally.

The next one is from a 2020 book Rusted Heroes by Andrew Post:

Someone was trying to get that author to trip over a lie. It's not quite the same but close.

In an an online post called "The Transgender Issue" by Shon Faye on 5 Sept 2021 we find the author talking about tripping over himself or herself:

Now from The Blanche Murningham Mysteries by Nancy Nau Sullivan (2023):

Here is a situation where the plan is for someone to be kept drunk, not to think straight and therefore, it appears, to make a mistake and trip over himself.

This next one is from a discussion page on Wikipedia dated 9 March 2023 where someone wants to make sure he doesn't trip over himself and make things a lot worse:

A Linkedin post from 2023 in which a telemarketer writes about stumbling and tripping over himself during his third cold call of the day:

This is from a website

Does William Elsley mean that he literally trips over himself or that he trips up in a metaphorical sense? Impossible to know from the context.

Finally, a particularly interesting one being from a website which contains an article entitled "10 Interview Questions That Trip Up Interviewees" and at number 8, under the question "Why are you leaving your present job", spurning the use of "Trip Up" from the title, says:

"This is a real tricky one that most trip over."

This is the clearest possible modern example of "trip over" being used in (optional) substitution of "trip up".

I could have produced many more examples but I think that's enough to demonstrate that some people in the modern age do use "trip over" in a metaphorical way to indicate making a mistake.

It is, in other words, a matter of choice of metaphor. No doubt some people used "trip over" instead of "trip up" during the nineteenth century, as a matter of personal choice, especially when talking about tripping over their words, but it remains totally unproven that "trip over" is a particularly or uniquely Victorian expression, especially when not a single Victorian example has so far been produced in the context of making a mistake. It remains unproven that no one in fact used it intransitively prior to the diary's emergence and it's certainly nonsense that no one could have used it in that way.

Even if it were true that there was something antiquated about the expression "trip over", so what? Lots of people in the modern world use old-fashioned expressions. Mike's father was, I think, born in the 1920s and he could have picked up expressions from his own father which were passed down during normal conversation.

In any event, it would hardly be surprising if Mike, who every diary defender tells us was a clown called Bongo, as daft as a brush, had meant to say "trip up" but wrote "trip over" by mistake, simply choosing the wrong form of existing phrasal verb to use intransitively as a metaphor. There can be no doubt that the expression "trip over" to mean literally fall over was very much in use in 1992, and there can equally be no doubt that it would have been common to use it metaphorically in the sense of tripping over one's words (for which "trip up" doesn't quite work). There would certainly have been nothing surprising about Mike having written "He believes I will trip up" in 1992 because that expression is not uncommon. So, to the extent that there is something unusual about using "trip over" intransitively rather than "trip up" to mean being caught out, it might simply be that Mike used the wrong metaphorical wording by mistake because he was so stupid.

But considering that I've demonstrated that there is actual modern use of the expression "trip over", to mean making a mistake, we don't need to go that far, do we?


If you want to know what Lombro was really up to with this ludicrously moronic theory, it can be found in this sentence from one of his Casebook posts:

"So, if one can't ascribe a seemingly-anachronistic phrase like "one off instance" to James Maybrick, who came from a more literate age, why do I now have to ascribe a "weirdly" anachronistic-for-today phrase to Michael Barrett?"

Frustrated by his inability to locate a single example of "one off" from the nineteenth century, yet still perversely obsessed by the idea that the diary is genuine, his ambition with this "trip over" nonsense, which he's cooked up from nothing, is purely to undermine, using ridiculous, devious and illegitimate methods, the clear fact that "one off instance" is an impossible expression for Maybrick to have used in 1888.

He wants to create a false equivalence whereby if Mike Barrett could be said to have used an atavistic expression (which he refers to an "anachronistic for today phrase") it is in some way the same as Maybrick using the impossible "one off instance". But there is no comparison because one would be entirely possible while the other is, by definition, impossible. Maybrick could not have used the expression "one off instance" while Mike Barrett or one of his associates could easily have written "trip over" and, in my opinion, certainly did.


8 April 2024

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May 04

If the Maybrick crowd are trying to implicate a man in a 130 year old murder case through tedious and incomprehensible and incompetent linguistic studies, they've already lost the battle. They'll never convict Sir Jim, but they run the great risk of putting their audience to sleep.

Lord Orsam
May 05
Replying to

They can't seem to make up their minds if "one off instance" is referring to the age of a horse, to an nasty instance or to a unique and unrepeated event, even though the meaning in the diary is crystal clear. As soon as they start to argue that it means something other than a unique and unrepeated event, you know they've thrown in the towel and accepted that it wasn't used that way at any time in the nineteenth century.


Apr 28

I'm interested in Markus's recent response:

"Barrett Believers say that Maybrick was not original enough to come up with original phrases that became popular."

How did Maybrick's "original phrases" (bumbling buffoon, etc.) become popular if his secret diary was hidden and unread for the next 100 years?

Doesn't that pose a bit of a problem for his theory?

Lord Orsam
Apr 28
Replying to

He's too dim to see that if "trip over" is another original phrase ahead of its time (and he dates the origins of an intransitive use of "trip up" to 1950, albeit without any evidence) it's yet more evidence that the diary was written after the Second World War. If he's right, we can just add it to the list of anachronisms in the diary such as "one off instance", "bumbling buffoon", "top myself" and "spreads mayhem".

But, of course, he's not right, and "trip over", whether transitive or intransitive, isn't anachronistic for a nineteenth century diary. It also demonstrates neither originality nor creativity. The line in poetry, "He believes I will trip over", could have been written by anyon…


Apr 28
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very well done, Lord O. This Lombro or what ever his screen name will be in the near future, has a penchant for nutty, off-the-wall, and counter-productive rants.

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