Orsam Books

Send In The Clowns

In my article, 'Pillar of Sand', and the accompanying 'One Off Article', I tried to anticipate potential responses to head them off in advance but I couldn't possibly have foreseen the clownish and uninformed posts of certain members of the Censorship Forum.

1. Iconoclast 

First off we have Iconoclast, providing an example of buffoonery that is beyond compare.  In the 'Hoax' thread he tells us that he has two university degrees and a postgraduate diploma and has held down 'responsible roles' working with'some of the most educated people in the UK'.  Consequently, he says, he doesn't feel stupid or immature (#222).  Yet, his responses to my articles are consistent with a level of education one or more steps below primary level, perhaps the type of thing they teach at clown school.

In the first place, he posted on 28 July in the 'Hoax' thread (#96) that he hadn't read the whole of my response to 'Society's Pillar' (and I've no idea if he has now) but it was enough for him to misrepresent my opinion in his very next post saying, 'even a brief read of Lord Orsam's fine rebuttal to Society's Pillar shows that he believes the hoaxer did a fair amount of research' (#97).  I never actually said this in my article, nor do I believe it, but it allowed Iconoclast to push his twisted non sequitur that if the hoaxer did a fair amount of research then he must have known what Maybrick's handwriting looked like and if he knew what Maybrick's handwriting looked like then he would have tried to copy it and, because the forger hasn't tried to copy the handwriting, hey presto, the Diary must be genuine!!!  Genius.

Well we don't need to spend time on that amusing line of argument because I want to discuss 'one off instance' in this article.  

Unbelievably, Iconoclast doesn't appear to have read my article published on 28 July 2018 entitled 'One Off Article' despite me including two direct links to it in 'Pillar of Sand' and expressly referring to it in the conclusion.  One Forum member had also included a link to it in a post in the 'Hoax' thread (#95) to which Iconoclast actually replied (#96).  Equally unbelievably, Iconoclast's first reaction to 'Pillar of Sand' was to reprieve his nonsense that the lack of a hyphen in the Diary's 'one off instance' indicates that Maybrick might have been referring to him hitting his wife as an 'off-instance', to which he unnecessarily added the words 'a one', to effectively say 'it was a one [i.e. a single] off-instance' despite there being no such thing as an off-instance, with or without hyphen, in the English language, least of all a one off-instance.  This was something he had argued (tongue in cheek I had imagined) in the Forum shortly before my resignation but I thought he had sensibly abandoned it because no mention of it whatsoever was made in his article 'Society's Pillar'.  It is of course the purest nonsense to suggest that the Diary author was referring to a non-existent 'off-instance' and it is a sign of Iconoclast's sheer desperation that he returned to it immediately after my response to his article.

The argument, however, was dropped like a ton of non-existent one-off bricks when someone privately drew his attention to the famous Muppet thread on JTR Forums (#225).  That's right, the one started off by the Muppet on 19 December 2016 who thought he'd found, through Google Books snippet view, a person being described as a 'one-off' in an 1882 issue of the British Bee Journal which turned out (as I already knew) to be from a 1975 issue! But the Muppet wasn't finished there.  He then thought he'd made an amazing discovery by locating the expression 'one off standpoint' from a 1904 article by Garscadden which, he thought, despite only having seen a snippet view on Google Books, and not having read the entire article (in fact, series of articles), proved that Maybrick could easily have said 'one off instance' in 1888.

As it happens, I was fully aware of the Garscadden articles in December 2016 having located them many months earlier at the British Library.  In my first post on the subject in the Forum on 15 December 2016 (Incontrovertible thread, #2152) I noted that I had found references to making 'one off' in a manufacturing context from as early as 1903.  This was a reference to T.D. Garscadden's series of articles in the Model Engineer and Electrician which began in 1903 and continued to 1904.  Furthermore, on 21 December 2016, after the Muppet's JTR Forums post, I expressly made the point that 'one off standpoint' was not an expression that was part of the English language (#2253).This was in Iconoclast's own thread.  And Iconoclast posted in that thread on the very next day (#2258). In #2259, Iconoclast actually said to me '...it is hard to argue with your case David Orsam (for now)'.'  After one of the Muppets in JTR Forums falsely claimed that the effect of my argument was that 'one off standpoint cannot exist in 1904' I returned to the subject of Garscadden in #2303 with a very long and detailed examination of his series of articles and the context in which he spoke of 'one off standpoint'. I even posted diagrams from Garscadden's article in #2344

Well perhaps Iconoclast never read these posts, despite them being in his own thread, but I repeated everything I said in them in my 'One Off Article' which accompanies my 'Pillar of Sand'.  And then, having repeated everything I said about Garscadden's 'one off standpoint', I went on for paragraphs more about this issue, explaining why it has no connection with 'one off instance'  How is it possible that Iconoclast never saw this article?  He clearly didn't because he thought he had somehow found the magic answer to the 'one off instance' problem.

Despite Iconoclast angrily complaining about people adding a hyphen to the Diary's 'one off instance' to transform it to 'one-off instance', Iconoclast himself adds a hyphen to Garscadden's '"one off" instance' to make it 'one-off instance'.  He doesn't seem to be aware of the irony of this situation.  Then Iconoclast said (#271):

'I think we can safely suggest that the 1904 use was not the first use of the concept (of a "one-off" situation rather than a "one-off" process) so there does not appear to be any issue at all with James Maybrick associating the principle of the "one-off" with a situation (instance, event, standpoint, et cetera) which is what he has been so vilified for doing.'

He seemed rather pleased with himself, even commenting 'Lord Orsam must be seriously pissed off tonight' (#268).  Er, no, other than pissing myself laughing at the lack of awareness and basic daftness being displayed by Iconoclast.

It was certainly a nice try, attempting to conflate 'instance', 'event' and 'standpoint' and then to describe them all as a 'situation' as if they are interchangeable. But, of course, they are not.  'Standpoint' isn't, in any way, an alternative word for 'instance', 'event' or 'occasion'.  It bears a completely different meaning.  Just look them up in a dictionary!  A standpoint is, according to the OED, a fixed point of standing, the position at which a person stands to view an object, scene or the like; a point of view.   That's not an instance, or an event or an occasion, which is why it makes no sense to say: 'I apologized, a one off standpoint, I said, which I regretted...'.  You can't swap them. 

So what exactly did Garscadden mean?

Well, he was writing entirely about the process of creating a pattern from which one would only make a single casting (or perhaps two or three but not many).  The reason for this is that a pattern from which multiple castings are made needs to be made in a certain way to make it durable, which is more expensive compared to a pattern from which only one casting is made.  When you only need to make one casting from the pattern you can make that pattern more cheaply because you won't need to use it again.  So there were two ways of making patterns.  You could do it the standard way (i.e. where you make multiple castings from the pattern) or you could do it the one off way, to use Garscadden's idiosyncratic expression (one which no-one else in the pattern making world seems to have adopted).  So when you are looking at doing it the one off way, you are, according to Garscadden, looking at making the pattern from a one off standpoint.

There is nothing to indicate that what is being done is unique here.  It just doesn't exist within the phrase as Garscadden deployed it.  Garscadden's use of 'one off' is evidently transitional because he also refers to 'two off', speaking of a pattern maker's 'requirements of only one or two off at a time' indicating that he is only referring to a quantity, not to anything unique or special. Importantly, Garscadden never in any of his many articles referred to 'a one off'.  That's because he wasn't thinking of 'one off' as an item or a job, let alone a unique item or job.  He was only talking about making a pattern from which there would be one casting.  So, within a very narrow and technical field of pattern making, he was referring to the process of making a pattern as a 'one off' process.  Pattern makers would have understood him because they were very familiar with including on their pattern registers the number of castings made from their patterns as set out in Horner's 1885 book.   Thus, as shown in my article, their registers would include the information: 'Pattern number A840.  Number off, Two' or 'Pattern number A841.  Number off, One'.   Alternatively, they would chalk onto the pattern '1 off, 4 off, 12 off as the case may be'.  This comes directly from Horner's 1885 book.  So a pattern maker knew that '1 off' or 'one off' was a single casting from a pattern just as they knew that '12 off' or 'twelve off' was 12 castings from the pattern.   That's why Garscadden in 1903 and 1904 was able to address his fellow pattern makers with instructions about how to make a pattern from a one off standpoint.  It literally and demonstrably had nothing to do with the later twentieth century expressions 'one off instance', 'one off occasion', 'one off event' etc., firstly because there is no element of a meaning of 'unique' and 'unrepeatable' in what Garscadden was saying and secondly because there is no metaphorical element in Garscadden's usage, as I explained in great detail in my 'One Off Article'.   He was only talking about a quantity and the reason for this was simply that the more castings were to be made then the more durable and expensive the pattern needed to be.  There was nothing special or remarkable, as such, about doing one casting and nothing special or remarkable about the pattern for doing one casting. So Garscadden's use of the phrases 'one off standpoint' and 'one off way' in 1903-4 (which, incidentally, was a full 15 years after the Diary was supposed to have been written!) gets Iconoclast and the Diary fanatics absolutely nowhere.

Before moving on from this particular individual, let me respond to this:

'Orsam checked in an online database of published works.  That was it.' 

This is simply not true.  I've reviewed countless hard copy books and journal articles about pattern making and manufacturing from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In fact, I've physically reviewed just about everything I could get my hands on until the supply has been virtually exhausted.  There were many more books and journals consulted than I've referred to in my article (and I've referred to quite a lot). This is not to mention that, while researching other topics relating to the 1880s and 1890s over the past three years, I've kept my eyes very much open for any examples of 'one off'.  During that research, I have turned the pages of many hundreds of nineteenth century documents held at the National Archives and many, many, more pages of hard copy newspapers and journals at the British Library.  I've never seen even a hint of the expression 'one off' being used by anyone during that century. I've also searched in many databases, not just one and not just those online.  In addition, I once purchased and watched over eleven hours of a DVD box set documentary about the American Civil War because Albert Johnson (of the Maybrick watch fame) said he thought he'd seen a document from the 1860s on screen bearing the expression 'one off' while watching an episode from that documentary series.  690 minutes later I discovered that he was wrong.  But boy I did learn a lot about the American Civil War.

Whether Iconoclast recognizes the irony of chiding researchers in his 'Society's Pillar' for being lazy and making false statements while he does exactly the same thing I know not, but one thing I do know is that it is both ironic and hypocritical.  He needs to start thinking before he posts and to start reading things properly.


2. Graham

Next up into the ring we have a poster called 'Graham'.  He obviously didn't bother to follow the link posted on the Forum and read my 'One Off Article' either.  For he posted in #260 in the Hoax thread:  

'I do wonder if Orsam sought to consult old technical and mechanical drawings before he made his pronouncement....I bet he didn't.  Because that, I believe, is where the very earliest written examples of 'one off' will be found.'

Had anyone taken that bet, they could have made themselves a load of cash!  Because, of course, as anyone who actually read my article will know, I did consult old mechanical drawings and even reproduced three of them taken from an 1892 book on mechanical engineering.  But you don't just find written examples of 'one off' in them, you find written examples of 'two off', 'three off' and 'four off' written as '1 off', '2 off', '3 off' and '4 off'.  There is, therefore, nothing special or unique about those examples and '1 off' carries exactly the same meaning as all the other numbers off, namely they are quantities and nothing else.   The critical issue is when those notations of quantities evolved so that 'one off' out of all the numbers came to mean something unique and unrepeatable.  And THAT did not happen until the twentieth century.  Which, of course, is why James Maybrick could not possibly have written 'one off instance' in his Diary.  It wasn't an expression that was available to him within the English language at the time.

Graham's intervention is quite remarkable though.  For way back in the Incontrovertible thread, on 28 August 2016 (#1619), he posted to tell us that, as a former engineer, he had seen 'one off' on old engineering diagrams prior to 1925 and that, therefore, 'Shirley Harrison was correct'.  Unlike him, I actually read posts which are written about a subject that I'm interested in and posting about.  That way, I actually acquire information and don't end up missing something obvious and important.  So I read his post at the time and I actually replied to him in #1620 asking for evidence and then further in #1621 asking if he was saying that the old diagrams showing 'one off' confirmed Shirley Harrison's claim that the phrase 'one off' 'was used when a new building material was ordered as a 'special' - but he never responded.  However, it was partly as a result of the information in his post that I wrote on 15 December 2016 in the Incontrovertible thread (#2152) that:

'Although I have never seen documentary confirmation, I do not dispute that engineers in the nineteenth century would use the notations of "one off" "two off" "three off" "four off" "fifty off" "100 off" etc to refer to quantities of items involved in manufacturing.'

As can be seen from my 'One Off Article', I have now found documentary confirmation from the 1880s and 1890s of the use of the notations in the way that I had inferred they would be used.  They are reproduced in my article.  But while they confirm that Graham was correct in what he said about diagrams containing these notations, they do not confirm that Shirley Harrison was correct.  For while it seems possible that 'one off' could have been written on a building diagram in the 1860s, it would not have borne the meaning of a special, as she claimed.

It's also important to bear in mind that my research shows that the expression 'one off instance' as we know it today did NOT evolve from these engineering diagrams.  The expression 'one off' was not used by mechanical engineers in the early 1900s, only by pattern makers, it seems.  And this was because, as I have mentioned above, pattern makers used the notation '1 off', '2 off' etc. in their pattern registers or chalked onto their patterns.  THIS is how it evolved into the English language; through the books, articles and speeches of pattern makers and then onto wider manufacturers who started to speak of 'one off jobs' to mean unique items to be made or built.  It's possible that the idea of a number being 'off' started with mechanical engineers and was then borrowed by pattern makers but there is a very clear path by which it was popularized by pattern makers to mean more than a simple quantity and used as an expression and then borrowed by other manufacturing fields before finding its way into the general English language. But, of course, this was nowhere near happening in 1888. 

3. c.d.

A poster called 'c.d.' repeatedly shows that he or she doesn't understand how language evolves nor how it actually works in the real world.  He or she says (at #182) in the 'Hoax' thread:

'I can't for the life of me see how the expression "one-off" is some sort of smoking gun. I am not aware of millions of grammar police roaming the world recording conversations they might overhear and recording the first instance of an expression being used. And even if a perusal of books and journals doesn't uncover it, has every book and journal in the world been looked at? At best, the lack of the term showing up in usage can only make the diary suspect as to its authenticity but it is not a smoking gun.'

It simply isn't possible for anyone to respond to my research about 'one off instance' without mentioning the different phases of evolution, especially the metaphorical use in what I have termed phase 3.  You can challenge that if you wish but you can't ignore it.  This poster simply ignores it; if he or she is even aware of it.  But ignoring it is to put one's head in the sand.  If you don't accept what I am saying you must confront the point about metaphorical usage.  It's the key to the development of the expression. If you haven't carefully read my article 'One Off Article' then you have no business commenting on the subject in the first place. 

One doesn't need to read every book or journal in the world, or listen to every conversation, because it's possible to see clearly how the expression 'one off' evolved from a mere quantity, to a unique item through to a unique person or event.  In doing so, we can see that the evolution to a unique person or event did not happen until during or after the period of the Second World War.  That's just a fact.

I mean, scientists and astronomers can identify the existence of a planet or a star not from seeing that planet or star but from noting the gravitational effects it has on bodies around it.   In the same way, we don't have to review every document in existence.  We can see from all the documents that have been reviewed how the English language has developed in respect of 'one off'. 

The use of 'one off instance' in the Diary is not a smoking gun.  It's far more than that.  It's the firing of the gun itself.  It actually proves that the Diary wasn't written in 1888.

If c.d. wants to dispute that fact, he or she needs to get to grips with the results of my research and, in particular, the evolution of 'one off instance' from a quantity to a metaphorical type expression.  In that context, he or she needs to explain how anyone in 1888 could possibly have described a not to be repeated event as a 'one off' or a 'one off instance'.

4. Caz

This poster has belief in a bizarre theory about the Diary. At least with Iconoclast, his claim that the Diary, being old, must have been written by Maybrick, makes sense, but Caz's bizarre theory is that it was a 'hoax' (as opposed to a forgery, apparently) created in the nineteenth century, not too long after Maybrick's death, yet for some unknown and unknowable reason, despite the work that obviously went into it, was placed beneath the floorboards of Battlecrease never to be seen by a living soul until it was was recovered by electricians on 9 March 1992.  The full wet dream is that it was found in a biscuit tin together with a watch bearing Maybrick-as-JTR engravings, also inexplicably faked by some old hoaxer.  The whole complicated scenario is destroyed by the existence of 'one off instance' in the Diary and, thankfully, we don't need to worry about whether it can possibly be true because we now know the Diary to be a modern forgery.

In the 'Hoax' thread, Caz showed the extent of her attention to the detail in the case by posting in that thread a repeat of the claim by Robert Smith that he had found an example of 'one off job' from 1905 taken from Volume 50 of Foundry (#247).  Unfortunately, as I pointed out in my response to Smith's book ('Robert Smith and the Maybrick Diary: The False Facts') back in September 2017, Smith had made a major error, relying on what was on Wikipedia, whereas Volume 50 of Foundry, which contains the article he was referring to, was actually published in 1922. 

This wasn't the only clownish behaviour on the part of Caz.  In #154 of the 'Hoax' thread, in response to the quoted claim of Harry D that, 'Mr Orsam has gone to great lengths to show that "one off instance" was not a phrase used in the 19th century', she tried to bat away the problem caused by 'one off instance' , not by responding in any way to that issue, but by referring to a completely different alleged anachronism: that of 'to top myself'.   In her view, presumably, as Dr Kate Flint was allegedly wrong about to 'top myself' being a twentieth century expression, then Dr Kate Flint along with me (who has never claimed that 'top myself' couldn't have been written in 1888) and everyone else is wrong about 'one off instance'.  Great logic!

But 'top myself' and 'one off instance' are very different expressions.  There is no doubt that the word 'top' was in existence in 1888 to mean 'hang'.  A person who was topped was hanged.  In other words, 'top' and 'hang' were and are synonyms.  For that reason, I would suggest that it was always possible and open for someone to be a little bit creative and instead of saying 'I will hang myself' they could have said 'I will top myself'.  It's no more than fairly simple word substitution. The fact that one person did this in 1877 (and it was printed in a newspaper) doesn't actually mean that the expression became part of the English language, and it would still seem to be the case that it's highly unlikely that a Diary author in 1888 would have used that expression, although clearly not impossible. But in the case of 'one off instance' it's completely different. It would have been impossible for a Diary author in 1888 to have used that expression because, during the nineteenth century, 'one off' did not mean either 'unique' or 'unrepeatable'.  It didn't bear that meaning until well into the twentieth century. 

Let me develop this point because it's rather important.  Let's take the 1922 example wrongly identified as coming from 1905 by Robert Smith.  What Ben Shaw and James Edgar said in their article of 1922 was this: 

'If such a casting was wanted in a hurry - a one-off job - there would be no question of molding it on  a machine.' 

What the authors appear to be saying here is that a one-off job was no more than a job wanted in a hurry.  In other literature of the period it had an alternative name: a hurry-up job.  It was also known as a rush job or an urgent job.  Shaw and James seem to be saying that a hurry-up job was the equivalent of a one-off job. That doesn't seem to carry the meaning of a unique job.

There were other names for what we now think of as a 'one off job' as I showed in my 'One Off Article'.  One of these was special job.  For a 'special' was basically synonymous with a one-off (as that expression later came to mean).  But just think about that for a moment.  If someone in the early 1900s thought of a one-off job as a special job then that would translate 'one off instance' into 'special instance'.  So the Diary author would be saying, 'I apologized, a special instance, I said...' which would convey a very different meaning from a unique or unrepeatable instance, which is what the Diary author is obviously trying to convey.

In fact, while a 'one off job', as used in the early 1900s, must have contained, buried somewhere within it, the concept of uniqueness, it was not overt and it was not necessarily the way it was thought of at the time.  For one doesn't really find the concept of uniqueness connected with a one-off job in the early pattern making literature. 

Other words connected with a one-off job, in addition to 'special', 'hurry', 'urgent' and 'rush' during the early 1900s, as can be seen in my 'One Off Article', were 'experimental', 'temporary', 'makeshift', 'small', 'jobbing', 'occasional', 'casual' and 'cheap'.  All the evidence suggests that a 'one off job' did NOT translate into people's minds during the period up to the 1920s as an exclusively unique job.  Therefore, I would argue that it literally wasn't possible for someone, even during the first twenty years of the twentieth century, to make that switch from 'one off job' to 'one off instance' because 'one off' didn't have a precise meaning that would be understood by anyone to mean something unique or unrepeatable.

There was a possible link made with one-off job to a 'non-repeat job' in the early 1900s, which obviously bears the concept of unrepeatable, but that was just one of the many meanings associated with 'one off' at the time.  A one-off job from the early 1900s doesn't appear to have necessarily meant something unique or unrepeatable hence it cannot be said that this is what 'one off' meant at the time.

I don't know precisely when the change came because I haven't researched it.  But when people outside of patternmaking started speaking of one-offs or one-off jobs (which only appears to have happened during about the 1920s) then clearly 'one-off' had taken on the meaning of something unique.  It's only then that it would have been possible for someone to create or use the metaphorical phrase 'one off instance' to mean a unique or unrepeatable instance.  It's just another reason why it wasn't possible for Maybrick to have written this expression. 


5. Harry

The poster called 'Harry', not to be confused with Harry D, has come up with brilliant new idea.  He's visited my website and taken a quote from my article 'The False Facts' in which I said (underlining added):

'The problem is that there is not a single recorded use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century, let alone a recorded use to mean something other than a manufactured product in the way it is used in the Diary'.

Without giving the source of the quote (just saying he found it 'on the internet') he's then bowlderized that sentence so that it has somehow become (in #273 of the hoax thread):

'The problem is that there is not a single recorded use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century' 

He gives no indication that he has removed anything from the original sentence which, admittedly, wasn't perfectly punctuated, but the final words of it ('in the way it is used in the Diary') are rather important because I was saying that there is not a single recorded use of the expression one off in the nineteenth century in the way it is used in the Diary, i.e. to mean 'one off instance' or similar.  I wasn't saying that the words 'one off' never appeared next to each other in any written form during the nineteenth century. 

But let's ignore this little bit of subtle editing.  Harry's brilliant question (which I am putting into my own words) is this: Doesn't the existence of the phrase,'to deal one off the bottom of the deck' in the nineteenth century demonstrate the falsity of the claim that there is not a single written use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century?  

Well the answer, as any sane person who can speak English will surely tell him, is no, it most certainly does not.

Harry is clearly another person who has not read my 'One Off Article'.  I actually began the main section of the article by referring to a sentence which contains reference to taking 'one off the top'.  Just because the word 'one' is followed by 'off' doesn't mean that we are dealing with the expression 'one off'.  We are not. It's not an expression being used here.  It's just the English word 'one' followed by the English word 'off' in a sentence.  If, using Harry's example, you say, 'He dealt a card off the bottom of the deck', you are not thereby using the expression 'card off'.  Just as to say 'to deal one off the bottom of the deck' is not to use the expression 'one off'.  If there is an expression involved here, it's the full expression 'to deal one off the bottom of the deck'; that's the expression, not just the words 'one off'.

I gave other nineteenth century examples in my article such as a cricketing example: 'The batsman scored one off the over'.  This also has absolutely no connection to the expression 'one off' in any shape or form.  It could equally be 'The batsman scored six off the over'. That's not the expression 'six off'.  

But truly, it only requires a few seconds of intelligent thought to get to this conclusion and anyone should be able to work it out for themselves.   

But you've gotta love Harry's statement: 'Argue as much as you will, as I use the term, it was available.'.  No Harry, it wasn't!  You haven't used 'a term'.  You have used two words in the English language and put them next to each other (or the person saying it in the nineteenth century did) in which there is literally no trace of anything which means unique or unrepeatable.  On the other hand, to say something is 'a one-off' or is 'a one-off job', THAT is a term.  It has a meaning on its own being more than simply the words 'one' and 'off' combined, which would have no meaning at all were it not for the fact that mechanical engineers and pattern makers did combine them to create, not an expression or a term, but a quantity.

To find something equivalent to what is in the Diary, 'one-off' (or 'one off', without a hyphen) needs to be more than a quantity because Maybrick was not talking about giving his wife one blow (out of a possible many blows).  He was talking about never giving his wife another blow ever again.  He could have hit her one time or five times on that supposed occasion in October 1888 but it would still have been a one-off instance.  I appreciate that one needs to have the ability to speak English to understand this concept but it's really not that hard, even for clowns.


READ MY ARTICLE 'ONE OFF ARTICLE'.  AND READ IT PROPERLY. The link is here. You just have to click it.

As I've shown in that article, it was only in the field of pattern making (during the early twentieth century) that 'one off' came to mean more than a single quantity so that the expression began to be used in sentences as opposed to simply being notations on a plan or schedule or entries in a register or chalked marks on patterns.  Pattern makers in the early twentieth century started to speak of making one casting off a pattern, and thus creating a single item, as a one off, or one off job.  Consequently, for anyone who wants to check the position, I have identified the types of books or articles that one needs to consult if one wants to find early examples of that expression in writing.  I have personally consulted just about every single book or journal that I could lay my hands on from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries relating to pattern making (or casting or moulding, which involves the same processes) and have not found any references to a pattern or casting as a one-off prior to 1903, with the first reference I have found to a 'one-off job' being 1912. 

It's important to understand that these references are only in highly technical books or papers relating to the world of pattern making.  They are never used in the early twentieth century in any other context.  Mechanical engineers of the period, who did include 'one off' or '1 off' (as well as any other number such as 'two off' and 'three off') in their plans to indicate the quantity of parts required did not adopt the use of 'one off' to indicate a unique item during this period.  While I haven't carefully researched the period after the 1920s, as far as I can tell it wasn't until this decade that anyone outside of the world of pattern making started to refer to manufactured items as one-offs or one-off jobs.  And this expression had definitely not entered the wider English language by this stage to mean anything other than a manufactured item.  In fact, it had barely entered the wider English language at all by the 1930s.  It simply didn't register.

My own personal theory, although I have no evidence, is that it was probably newsreels or radio shows during the Second World War which mentioned some form of manufactured one-off item, possibly military, and thus gave the expression a wider audience.  Once people were familiar with what a one-off was, namely a single, unique, manufactured item, then it was a small leap from there to compare people to unique manufactured items and also more abstract events and instances could be compared to unique manufactured items.  Hence the expression 'one off instance' and similar came into existence in the English language.

Regardless of how the phrase was actually disseminated amongst the English speaking public, the evidence that 'one off' did not make its appearance in the English language until around the period of the Second World War is as clear as a bell.  One only needs to check any digital database of documents written in the English language to see an absolute explosion of the use of the expression 'one-off' during the 1960s and 1970s compared to only a few references in the 1950s and virtually nothing before that unless you are searching texts relating to pattern making.  Yet the basic expression ('one-off instance', 'one-off event', 'one-off occasion' etc.) is so remarkably useful, and fits so many possible contexts, that it is simply inconceivable to think that it would have been written down in 1888 and never again for the next fifty years.  It's just not how language works.  And we certainly know that no newspaper in any digitally searchable newspaper archive used the expression (or similar) prior to the Second World War. In addition, no writer in any digitally searchable book used the expression (or similar) prior to the Second World War.  But more than this, it's impossible for it to have been used in 1888 because of the way the expression had evolved.  As of 1888 it hasn't yet evolved to mean anything more than a quantity.  By the early 1900s it meant nothing more than a single casting off a pattern.  Maybrick could thus not possibly have referred to striking his wife as a 'one off instance' by which he is supposed to have meant it was a unique aberration that would never happen again.

You know, there is nothing natural or obvious about the expression 'one-off instance'.  It could have been 'one-on instance'  or 'one-up instance' or 'one-for instance' or 'one-through instance' or 'one-add instance'.  Because 'one-on', 'one-up' 'one-for', 'one-through', 'one-add' etc. etc. could all easily have originally meant one of an item instead of the fairly random 'one-off', which notation appears to have been derived from both 'one off a stocklist' and 'one [casting] off a pattern'. While we don't give it a moment's thought that a 'one-off' today means something that is unique and/or unrepeatable, this wasn't how English speakers in 1888 would have viewed it.  In 1888, such an expression would only have been used by engineers or pattern makers to indicate a single quantity of an item, absolutely no different from 'ten off' or '100 off', other than the numbers involved.  It had absolutely no connotations of being unique.  This did not occur until the twentieth century.  Even today, hardly anyone would understand what 'ten-off' means.  Why add 'off' after 'ten'?  It doesn't really make any sense to general speakers of English. It was the same for 'one off' in 1888. 

But it was certainly possible for an engineer or pattern maker in 1888 to note that 'one off' of an item was required or that a pattern had been used just once to cast an item.  What is crucial, however, is that it didn't mean that this was a unique or unrepeatable item.  It just meant one of the item as opposed to two, three or four. For that reason, saying 'one off instance' as used in the diary wouldn't have made sense in 1888 because, at best, assuming knowledge of an obscure engineering or pattern making notation, and a strange desire to create a confusing new expression which no-one else would have understood, it could only have been Maybrick saying that he hit his wife once as opposed to hitting her repeatedly.  In other words, it would have conveyed the impression of a beating with a single punch (as opposed to multiple punches) rather than a beating that would never happen again.  It's clear that Maybrick is saying in his diary that the beating would never happen again because we, in the twenty-first century, know that 'one off instance' refers to a unique, not to be repeated, occasion.  Maybrick (or his wife to whom he is supposed to have said it was a one off instance) could not possibly have understood what a one off instance was; no more than if he had told her it was a 'one on instance' or a 'one up instance' or a'one add instance' etc.  That kind of gibberish is what 'one off instance' would have looked like to someone in 1888.  So the use of the expression 'one off instance' was impossible as it was used in the Diary and, of course, the expression (not surprisingly) isn't known to have been used in any similar fashion for at least the next fifty years!   That fact really should be allowed to sink in for those who have any doubts. It's just not realistic.

Finally, it must be remembered that any argument that 'one off instance' could have existed in 1888 is an argument against the experts and against the dictionaries.  There's been plenty of time since the Diary emerged in 1992.  How is it that no-one, not even the most dedicated of Diary fanatic, with all the electronic search resources available today, can find a single example in the entire nineteenth century of anyone using the expression 'one off' in any sentence?   It's utterly absurd to suggest that it was some kind of secret, hidden expression that people only spoke and never wrote down for the next fifty years.  Pure fantastical and anti-intellectual tosh based on ignorance of language.

This is how I have managed to confirm that the Diary is a modern fake.  I am someone who requires the highest standards of evidence to reach such a positive conclusion.  And I have obtained that evidence.  I'm sharing it with you, the reader, so that you won't have to die wondering.  I don't have any personal or professional interest in whether the diary is old, fake or genuine but I can state with certainty that the Diary is definitely a post-Second World War forgery.  The forger made a mistake. There is absolutely no doubt in the matter.  I guarantee you that no examples of 'one off instance' or anything remotely similar will ever be found in any kind of nineteenth century century document. Anyone who is waiting for one will die disappointed.   

David Barrat
6 August 2019
Updated 18 September 2019 (to bring the date for when 'one off' expanded beyond pattern making down from the 1930s to the 1920s)

UPDATE 11 August 2019 

There have been a few responses to this piece over on the Censorship Forum in the ‘Hoax’ thread.   My own responses to those responses are as follows:


When Iconoclast 'published' his Society's Pillar, he said, 'I would welcome a rebuttal from David Orsam' and then, in a subsequent post, 'I look forward to the possibility of one day adding a rebuttal from Lord Orsam'.  Having taken him seriously, read his essay carefully, considered the evidence, checked the facts and written a lengthy rebuttal, I must say he doesn't seem to be too grateful.  He doesn't even seem to be able to find the time to read it!

One of the big themes of Iconoclast's reply is that I have a 'big head'.  No reasoning is given for this and I must say it's a bit rich coming from someone who refers to his 'brilliant Society's Pillar' and who, moreover, claimed, ludicrously, that 'you will find it difficult to read Society's Pillar and then lean towards the notion that the Victorian scrapbook is a forgery'

But hey, he's written his response post in a typical bouncy, jokey, clown-type style so that's all okay then.

The trouble is that it's really hard to know what parts of his argument he is being serious about and where he has his tongue in his cheek.  Even he doesn't seem to know.  He tells us that 'it is true that there is an element of tongue-in-cheek' in his suggestion that Maybrick was writing in his Diary about an 'off-instance'.  An element?  The entire suggestion is a joke!  In the English language one does something on the off-chance but not on the off-instance.  It's just a non-starter.  And he certainly hasn't confused me with the use of a hyphen as he thinks.  I stated quite clearly that there is 'no such thing as an off-instance, with or without hyphen, in the English language'.  The hyphen is irrelevant.

It's also not particularly important whether the Maybrick of the Diary did or did not use the words 'one off instance' when he was spoke to his wife after hitting her (although he writes in his Diary that he DID say this – 'a one off instance, I said').  But Iconoclast's claim that it was 'simply a poorly-constructed sentence which Maybrick did not care to cross out and correct' is not only hopeless but an admission that he could not have written 'one off instance' in 1888.

Finally, Iconoclast says, 'it is perfectly possible that there were two uses of the expression in 1888'.  But it is not perfectly possible at all.  It's nothing more than wishful thinking of the most foolishly optimistic kind.  I've traced the evolution of the phrase for him and it's all perfectly clear.  I really can't see why Iconoclast remains attached to Maybrick as the Diary author.  His 'pillar' has crumbled into dust.  There's literally nothing left.  No reason to think that Maybrick could have written it.  It may be that he just likes wasting his time but I can tell him, so that he doesn’t further waste his time and energy, that the Diary was not written by anyone in 1888 because the expression 'one off instance' did not exist at that point in time. 

He says he's belatedly updated his essay, no doubt with further nonsense, but having already wasted so much of my own time on his original poorly argued essay, I for one will not be reading it.

One more thing to say to Iconoclast (and to Sam Flynn if he's reading this):  Zoom function on your browser.  Find it.  Use it.

C.D. - #339

c.d. suggests that I should 'go pound sand' up my 'ass'.   That sounds kind of fun and probably an easier task than the earlier one she (or he) set me of reading every single book, newspaper and document that's ever been written and listening to every conversation that's ever been had.

Here's the thing though: I took the time to read what c.d. refers to as 'countless obscure plumbing journals' (by which she (or he) presumably means 'countless obscure pattern making journals'), so that c.d. doesn't have to.  I have made a serious effort to uncover the truth about the Maybrick Diary in the interests of everyone.  If c.d. isn't interested in that, why bother posting in the Maybrick threads? 

HARRY - #340

Harry's was the response I enjoyed the most.  He hasn't, he tells us, ever claimed 'mastery of the English language'. Lol! Well I don't think one needs 'mastery' of the English language to know that the expression 'one-off' bears no connection to the notion of taking one [of something] off [something else].  One just needs to be able to speak English.  So why did he even mention the one off the bottom of the deck thing?  He claims that he never argued that the expression 'to take one off the bottom of the deck' invalidated my argument.   But he doesn't tell us what point he actually was making.  That's not surprising because he was, of course, doing precisely what I said he was doing!

In his post, which is available for all to read on the Censorship Forum (#273), he was rebutting my supposed claim that there was not a single recorded use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century by purporting to provide an example of a recorded use of the expression 'one off' in the nineteenth century, thus, in his mind, invalidating my claim. That's what he was doing, or rather attempting to do.  It's not even arguable.  But he failed because he hasn't found an 'expression' or a 'term' of 'one off' being used at all. 

He's followed up on his response by, incredibly, noting to his apparent surprise (#347) that there are lots of hits of 'one off' in an electronic search of nineteenth century newspapers.  Yes, of course there are, Harry, for the reason I explained in my 'One Off Article’.  The challenge for the researcher is to discover which, if any (and none will be) are relevant to the expression 'one off'.  I spent the time in 2016 eliminating those false results (some of which are false because of poor OCR results, which turn something like 'one of' into 'one off').  But it all seems to be beyond the ability of Harry to comprehend the difference between an actual expression and two words placed together in a sentence bearing a different meaning.

As I said in my 'One Off Article':

'The combination of words 'one' and 'off' is as old as the English language…..So finding 'one off', by itself, in 1888 is meaningless. For it to begin to explain the phrase 'one off instance', there has to be a element of uniqueness or something special in the meaning.' 

I don't know how that can be any clearer.

Most amusingly, Iconoclast thinks he has been offered a lifeline and has grasped Harry's suggestion that usage in the nineteenth century such as (for example) 'there were lots of books and he took one off the shelf' could somehow have magically enabled Maybrick to write in 1888 that hitting his wife was a 'one off instance'. As if Dr Kate Flint and every other person who has considered the matter was in some way unaware of the appearance of the words 'one off' together in the nineteenth century in circumstances where those words mean something different from unique, unrepeatable etc.

CAZ - N/A 

I didn't expect a response from the poster called Caz nor did I expect her to acknowledge her error (and that of her good friend Robert Smith) about the misdating of a 1922 journal article.  Correcting embarrassing errors of that nature, especially ones pointed out to her by others, isn't her thing.  She never does it.  At least not in my experience.


Graham once revealed that he is a former member of the British Institute of Foundrymen.  That being so, he might have been able to assist with the technical aspects of pattern making but he doesn't seem interested. 


One thing that everyone - loonies aside - must, surely, agree on is that 'one off instance' (as used in the Diary and everywhere else) means a unique or unrepeatable instance, right?  Are we agreed? Of course we are.

So, in order for anyone in the entire history of the English language, going as far back as you like, to have combined 'one off' with 'instance' in order to create 'one off instance' then, at some point prior to that, the meaning of 'one off' must have been: 'unique' or 'unrepeatable'.  That must be right, mustn't it?  If not, the expression 'one off instance' would have made no sense and it would have been impossible for anyone to have coined such an expression and for anyone else to have understood it. 

That being so, as you simply must agree, it is an absolute essential prerequisite of the existence of the expression 'one off instance' that 'one off', within the expression, is and was capable of meaning'unique' or 'unrepeatable'.  Consequently, for anyone in the nineteenth century to have used that expression, or even created it for the very first time, then, at that time, 'one off' must already have meant 'unique' or 'unrepeatable'.  You dig?

And right there is how we know the Diary is a fake.  Because 'one off' bore no such meaning in the nineteenth century.  It did NOT mean unique.  It did NOT mean unrepeatable.  It didn't carry such a meaning until much later, in the twentieth century. 

If anyone disagrees with me, it should be simplicity itself to find a written example of a usage of 'one off' to mean unique or unrepeatable in the nineteenth century, bearing in mind the huge numbers of digitized documents from the period that now exist and are fully searchable. Go ahead and try.  Then come back to me and agree that I was right.  That's how we know the Diary is a modern fake.

Lord Orsam
12 August 2019

Anyone who wants the right of reply to this article should email that reply to david@orsam.co.uk.