Where Do Words Come From?

Posted: September 20, 2012 in the evolution of words
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Falconspeak 

In the March/April issue of Saudi Aramco World there was a fascinating article about falconry “A Heritage Takes Wing”. It is the traditional (not just in the Middle East) practice of keeping falcons and other birds of prey to hunt in cooperation with humans and is a centuries old sport. Like any other sport or cultural endeavor, it has its own terminology. But I was fascinated to discover that some of our common English words and phrases have their roots in falconry. 

Here are a few:

Musket – the word for a male sparrowhawk, which flies quickly from the hand. This bird was likely the inspiration for the name of the muzzle-loaded infantry gun when it was invented, since the sparrowhawk was a familiar fast-flying object at that time. 

Cadger – the man who carried the wooden rack, called a cadge, for falcons to perch on during hunts. Often an older falconer, he’d usually stand off to the side of the action, trying to cadge tips by spinning good stories. A likely description of an old babbler that we call a codger. 

Bousing – When a hawk takes a deep drink. When a person drinks too deeply, it’s called boozing!

Hoodwinked – deceiving someone is like the slipping of a hood over a falcon’s head plunging the bird into a darkness. 

“Under your thumb” or “wrapped around your finger” describes securing jesses, the ties that keep a bird upon the falconer’s arm and fully in his control and thus when used today means controlling someone.

 

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