understrapper

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English[edit]

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Noun[edit]

understrapper ‎(plural understrappers)

  1. Any underling or inferior in office.
    • 1753, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom, Part I, Chapter 29,[1]
      [] I hope you will still lay an additional obligation upon the Count, by retorting the vengeance of the law upon his perfidious accuser, whom I know to be a trader in those articles of merchandise which are prohibited by the ordinances of this nation. I have seen him lately at Boulogne, and am perfectly well acquainted with some persons who have supplied him with French lace and embroidery; and, as a proof of what I allege, I desire you will order him and this barber, who is his understrapper, to be examined on the spot.”
    • 1814, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 13,[2]
      “No want of hands in our theatre, Miss Bertram. No want of understrappers: my sister desires her love, and hopes to be admitted into the company, and will be happy to take the part of any old duenna or tame confidante, that you may not like to do yourselves.”
    • 1847, Herman Melville, Omoo, Part II, Chapter 82,[3]
      The doctor immediately disappeared, returning soon after with a couple of flasks of wine concealed in the folds of his frock. Through the agency of the Marquesan, he had purchased them from an understrapper of the court.
    • 1927, Joseph C. Lincoln, The Aristocratic Miss Brewster, Chapter 3,[4]
      A fine state of affairs, when a fifteen-dollar-a-week understrapper’s job gets to interfering with the business of an institution like the Wapatomac National Bank.
    • 1977, Ian Winterbottom, Baron Winterbottom, Hansard, House of Lords, The Tornado military aircraft, 9 May, 1977,[5]
      My Lords, if an understrapper from a television company talks to an understrapper of the RAF, you do not expect air marshals to jump.
  2. A freelance operator for MI5.
    • 2000, Philip Davison, McKenzie’s Friend, Penguin, p. 37,
      Alfie was familiar with the term ‘understrapper’. The Harry Fielding Alfie knew was an understrapper; a bob-a-job man for MI5. Somebody who could do a bit of house- or office-breaking, or some surveillance work.