At loggerheads over “pluck-buffet”

Yesterday – I forgot to post this – the Oxford English Dictionary‘s Word of the Day was appropriate both for the Olympics but also -if you stumble into the pronunciation trap English sets for us all – for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. See if you can tell why.

By the way… one really doesn’t get many opportunities to write Chick-fil-A and Oxford English Dictionary in the same sentence.

pluck-buffet, n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /plʌkˈbʌfɪt/ , U.S. /pləkˈbəfət/
Forms: see pluck v. and buffet n.1
Etymology: < pluck v. + buffet n.1 rare (hist. in later use). Prob.: an archery contest, in which the loser received a buffet or blow from the winner. c1510 Gest Robyn Hode viii. 1695 in F. J. Child Eng. & Sc. Pop. Ballads (1888) III. v. 77 And they shote plucke-buffet, As they went by the way And many a buffet owr kinge wan of Robin Hode that day. 1833 Archer's Guide vi. 170 A sport called ‘pluck buffet’, in which (in the ‘Garland’, an old poem) Richard Coeur de Lion is made to engage with Robin Hood. 1916 G. L. Kittredge Stud. Gawain & Green Knight 121 The introductory incident, with the challenge to a game of pluck-buffet, serves to embark the hero on the adventurous journey. 1927 in Mod. Philol. (1936) 33 361 The game of alternating blows or pluck-buffet provided a story-pattern which was inconsistent..with the myth, but effective as entertainment.

And, just to extend the English fun, the buffeting Chick-fil-A has received shows that they have pluck!

That last entry reminded me of the scene in the Aubrey/Maturin books, The Commodore, when sailors report to Stephen to be repaired after having amused themselves at loggerheads.

These were the two invalids in the starboard sick-berth, whom Padeen had been sitting with. They had been sparring, in a spirit of fun, with loggerheads, those massy iron balls with long handles to be carried red-hot from the fire and plunged into buckets of tar or pitch so that the substance might be melted with no risk of flame. ‘They are sober now, sir; and penitent, the creatures.’

‘I shall look at them, when we have everything ready,’ said Stephen, beginning to range saws, scalpels, ligatures and tourniquets.

Stephen walked into the other berth, looked at his patients and asked them how they did. ‘Prime, sir,’ they answered, and thanked him kindly.

‘Well, I am glad of that,’ he said. ‘Yet although they were good clean breaks, immobilized at once, it will be long before you can go aloft, or dance upon the green, if ever we get home, which God send.’

‘Amen, amen, sir,’ they answered together.

‘But how did you ever come to be so indiscreet and thoughtless as to beat one another with those vile great loggerheads?’

‘It was only in fun, sir, like we sometimes do, meaning no harm. One has a swipe and the other dodges, turn and turn about.’

‘In all my experience of the sea I have never heard of such a dreadful practice.’

The patients looked meek, avoiding one another’s eyes; and presently Ellis said ‘It all depends on the ship, sir. We often used to play in the Agamemnon; and my father, which he was carpenter’s crew in the old George, had a real set-to, real serious, with a forecastleman that called him a …’

‘Called him what?’

‘I hardly like to say it.’

‘Murmur it in my ear,’ said Stephen, bending low. ‘A nymph,’ whispered Ellis.

‘Did he indeed, the wicked dog? How did it end, so?’

‘Well, sir, they were at right loggerheads, like I said – the whole forecastle agreed it was right – and my dad fetched him such a crack they had to take his leg off that very evening, much mangled. But it was a blessing to the poor bugger in the end. Having but one leg left, Captain the Honourable Byron, who was always very good to his men, got him a cook’s warrant, and he lived till he was drowned on the Coromandel coast.’

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JonPatrick says:

    Pluck-buffet and loggerheads – never a day goes by that I don’t learn something new from this blog.

  2. skypilot777 says:

    I too am constantly amazed at the daily enrichment I receive from Fr. Z.

    And here is another example of how the English have attempted to civilize the arts of manly challenge.
    The Fish Slapping Dance

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Ah, the days of real men…and real ships… and the making of language.

  4. digdigby says:

    1939’s Technicolor Robin Hood…Even in the fifties when I was a kid this was still a hit at Saturday Matinees. Erroll Flynn to Littlejohn (Alan Hale Sr.) after they meet and fight with wooden staffs and Littlejohn wins and knocks Robin the water. Robin laughs uproariously and says “I love a man who can best me!” Why do I still remember that line? Funny, we boys didn’t like the ‘icky’ stuff but even so we all fell in love with Lady Marian/Olivia de Haviland. Somehow, from Robin Hood I first began to understand the man/woman thing. Oh, and that Korngold score!!! Poor, poor kids today.

  5. acardnal says:

    Fr. Z, have you read the entire series of Aubrey/Maturin books?

  6. acardnal says:

    Impressive, Fr. Well, I have purchased vol. 1. We will see how far I go.

  7. Chatto says:

    Speaking of pronunciation traps, there’s a hidden one in that dialogue with the ruffian sailors: “…the whole forecastle agreed it was right…” Forecastle [pron. fohksul]. What is it about sailing the Seven Seas that makes men pronounce things in a funny way?

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