Saturday, July 14, 2007


In the colloquial sense, patter is defined as mere talk or incessant chatter. In sales or entertainment, it is the smooth, persuasive, and sometimes rapid speech used to attract an audience and then keep its attention.

It came from the rapid and mechanical way in which the Pater noster (the Our Father) was often repeated, e.g. in the rosary [1425]. The words would tumble out automatically with no thought given to meaning. Of course, the automatic nature of the prayers used in the rosary was supposed to give the reciter an opportunity to meditate on theological mysteries, so it wasn’t just an act of sloppiness.

Pater noster, qui es in caelis: __________________[Our Father, who art in heaven:]
sanctificetur nomen tuum; ____________________[hallowed be thy name.]
adveniat regnum tuum; ______________________ [Thy kingdom come;]
fiat voluntas tua, ___________________________[thy will be done]
sicut in caelo, et in terra. _____________________ [on earth as it is in heaven.]
Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie; ________[Give us this day our daily bread]
et dimitte nobis debita nostra, _________________ [and forgive us our debts]
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris; ________[as we forgive our debtors;]
et ne nos inducas in tentationem; _______________ [and lead us not into temptation,]
sed libera nos a malo. _______________________ [but deliver us from evil.]

• Paternoster came to be used as a term for a set of rosary beads. After ten Hail Mary’s, a larger bead, set apart, signalled the time to say an Our Father.

• Paternoster was also a measure of flax, perhaps, says the OED, with reference to the separating bead after each decade (10 Hail Mary’s).

• Something consisting of a long series of identical objects was also called a paternoster. For instance, a paternoster line is a fishing line with a weight at the end, and hooks are attached at intervals to this line.

• As an architectural term, a paternoster was a row of beadlike ornaments.

• Finally, a paternoster was an elevator consisting of a set of linked doorless compartments moving continuously on an endless belt so as to allow entry at any time and exit on any floor.

SIDEBAR: learn to chant the Pater Noster

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