[Ads-l] go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Aug 14 10:42:19 UTC 2015


It might.
Where's the ad?
(Not in British Newspaper Archive, apparently.)

Stephen Goranson
http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/

________________________________________
From: American Dialect Society... on behalf of Jonathan Lighter ...
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2015 6:37 AM
To: ...
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess

I discovered this long, long ago, don't remember where. Partridge?

At any rate, I have seen the newspaper ads for Burton's Ale. There's an
empty chair (as I recall) and the printed dialogue:

"Where's  [X]?"
"He's gone for a Burton."

That would do it.

JL

On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 6:02 AM, Stephen Goranson ...
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society ...
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson ...
> Subject:      go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess
>
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> OED "Etymology: Origin unknown; perhaps connected with Burton n2 [the
> town]=
> .
>
> In slang phrase to go for a burton, (of an airman) to be killed; (of a
> pers=
> on or thing) to be missing, ruined, destroyed.
>
> None of the several colourful explanations of the origin of the expression
> =
> is authenticated by contemporary printed evidence. 1941...Go for a Burton,
> =
> crash...." (It isn't always noted that this was also applied to inanimate
> t=
> hings (e.g. an ammo dump exploding), hence not always to an airman, though
> =
> it may have originated in the RAF.)
>
>
> Here's a (pretty good?) etymology guess. At a minimum, it's relatively
> earl=
> y.
>
> "'The Door that Leads to Nothingness': Extracts from the letter of an
> offic=
> er serving in the Middle East" by Stephen Claude. Horizon: A Review of
> Lite=
> rature and Art v. 9 no. 49 January 1944 [original paper] pages 48-52, here
> =
> 50. This Staff officer got permission to take a parachute course. He
> descri=
> bes "a most reassuring demonstration" of "manufacture and packing" of the
> p=
> arachutes. "Really there is nothing in the game at all!--given two
> essentia=
> ls. (1) that the confounded thing opens, and (2) that you land without
> brea=
> king your ankle, knee, ribs, collar-bone or neck. If the thing does not
> ope=
> n, it is called 'a Roman candle' and you go for a 'Burton', which
> presumabl=
> y is rhyming slang for 'curtain.'"
>
>
> For a singular use of curtain n. 1 sense 2 d "the end" slang OED gives
> "193=
> 7 C. Day Lewis...I rather fancy potassium cyanide. You just chew a piece
> an=
> d quick curtain."
>
>
> (As for potential secondary meaning or attestation of Burton, a
> corresponde=
> nt may wish to mention an oral tradition, noted offlist.)
>
>
> Stephen Goranson

------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


More information about the Ads-l mailing list