Words

moil, v.
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The Independent Culture
SAMUEL BECKETT'S pebble-sucking, eponymous hero Molloy informs us that, at one point, "in this I put, or she put, my so-called virile member, not without difficulty, and I toiled and moiled, when I dissembled or gave up trying or was begged by her to stop."

This is another reminder that the OED has overlooked swathes of 20th- century writing. In the circumstances, Beckett's word is apposite, or perhaps not, but we shall not dwell on such anatomical exactitude, other than to remark that Beckett is echoing a phrase which, from Humphrey Gifford in 1580 ("toyle and moyle for worldly drosse") comes by way of John Galt to Browning in 1880: "a lawyer wins repute / Having to toil and moil" - and there the OED calls a halt to this fine phrase.

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