Does "cheeke" mean check or cheek?
Copyright © 2005, 2011, D. Matthew Kelty

Cheeke Pike
In many re-enactor circles, the command "Check Pike" is used, specifically when going under low cover or through narrow openings, primarily to protect any innocent bystanders from running into an unprotected pike head, but it looks like we may have been misled in our actual term for this posture. After pouring through dozens of period manuscripts, I think I may have found where "check" wandered into the Pike vernacular.

"Cheeks" are used in reference to the reinforcing strips that connect to the pike head and are attached to the shaft (a.k.a. "langets"), e.g.

"A good Pike..strongly headed, with the cheekes three foote long."
Theorike And Practike Of Moderne Warres, Robert Barret, 1598, page 36

"…the Pike of Ashen wood for the Steale, and at the upper end an yron head of about a handfull long with cheekes about the length of two foote…"
The Tactiks of Aelian, John Bingham, 1616, page 153.

As far as the Pike Postures or drills, all of the oldest manuals use the word "cheeke" for this command...

"Cheeke your pikes"
The exercise of armes for calivres, muskettes, and pikes, Jacob De Gheyn, 1608

"Cheeeke you pikes"
Tactiks Of Aelian, John Bingham, 1616, page 156

"Order your Pikes, Traile your Pikes, Cheeke your Pikes."
Compleat Gentleman, Henry Peacham, 1622
"Cheeke your pikes"
Order Of Drilling For Ye Musket And Pike, Jacob De Gheyn, 1623
(BTW, this is definitely not his artwork in this version, it's someone's very lousing rendering of his plates).


Instructions For Musters And Armes, By Order Of the Privy Council, 1623

(Pike commands are verbatim, using the same letters)

"Aduance your pikes.
Order your pikes.
Shoulder your pikes.
Charge your pikes.
Order your pikes.
Traile your pikes.
Checke your pikes."

Now, the typeface for "e" has a *VERY* small loop, and the "C" is a little thick on the top.

Most all of the other words in the book use fairly standard and familiar spellings ('Traile', 'Aduance', 'Reare' and 'Legge' being the only deviants on the entire page). I'm just wondering if the typesetter simply misplaced a slightly smashed "c" into the "e" rack?

When this pamphlet was reprinted in 1631, it is most decidely intentional, as the 'e' underwent a drastic change, and ended up much thinner, and almost italicized. This would vaguely support my assertation that the little lead letters look darn similiar, especially when covered with ink and backwards... :)

"Checke" is definitely the word in the 1631 version, but he was probably building this based on the previous work (they are virtually identical textually, as well as with the layout, but they are different Printing houses).

I can't help but wonder if a typesetter's error set the stage for a vernacular change? DeGheyn's 'cheeke' becomes the Privy Council's 'checke', and who's going to ever tell the Privy Council they don't know what they're doing... :)


Later on:

"Advance your Pike, Shoulder your Pike, Levell your Pike, Sloape your Pike, Cheeke your Pike, Trayle your Pike."
Souldiers Accidence, Gervase Markham, 1625

"Cheeke your pikes"
Military Garden, James Acheson, 1629

"Every one trayling his Pike, and holding the cheeke thereof in his hand, ready to push."
T. STAFFORD Pac. Hib., 1633, page 44

"Comport, Cheeke, or Traile, the Pikeman may..charge to the Front, Reare, or Flanks. "
Militarie Discipline Or The Young Artillery Man, William Barriffe, 1635

Then it pops up again:

Animadiversions Of Warre, Robert Ward, 1639
Now, bear in mind his intro is four pages of grovelling to Charles and the Counselors and Captains, and admits these are a collection of his findings from several *months* of speaking with people of Authority... ;). My guess is he went to the Privy council's pamphlet first.

Cheeke: 8
Checke: 2

I'm liking those odds... :)