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

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Fri Aug 14 13:52:15 UTC 2015

Thank you Bonnie!

Partridge/Beale 1984 does mention rhyming slang, but a different proposal.

Michael Quinion at World Wide Words: ".... It is said that there was a series of advertisements for beer in the inter-war years, each of which featured a group of people with one obviously missing (a football team with a gap in the line-up, a dinner party with one chair empty). The tagline suggested the missing person had just popped out for a beer — had gone for a Burton. The slogan was then taken up by RAF pilots for one of their number missing in action as a typical example of wartime sick humour.
There’s little we can do to choose one of these over the others. If the adverts really did run before the War they would be the obvious source, though none have been traced and the most probable candidate, the Burton Brewery Co Ltd, closed in 1935 and was hardly well-known even before then....."

Curtains sound plausible to me. Of course Burton could possibly have a secondary meaning (e.g., suit for burial, say).

Field Marshall Montgomery has been associated with "full Monty," but that may be an effect somewhat parallel to the well-known quote magnets.

Research on "Monty Burton" would be incomplete without noting the anti-Semitic song from 1939 with the incipit "Onward Christian Soldiers"  or "Onward conscript army" and the line "clothed/clad by Monty Burton" (various versions online; Burton made uniforms, which also could contribute to possible blending of Montys).

Stephen Goranson

From: American Dialect Society ... on behalf of Bonnie Taylor-Blake <b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2015 9:16 AM
To: ...
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess

On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 6:02 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> (As for potential secondary meaning or attestation of Burton, a corresponde=
> nt may wish to mention an oral tradition, noted offlist.)

Ah, I don't know whether I'm the offlist-correspondent you're thinking
of, Stephen, but I'll note here that an 80-something English friend
(who lives over there) once told me of his familiarity with a bit of
rhyming slang holding that "Montague(s)" signifies "curtain(s)."
(Because "[Montague] Burton" rhymes with "curtain.")  So, "pull the
Montagues" means "pull the curtains."  "Montague(s)" signifying
"curtain(s)" may be long lost and little used, but there you go.
(Yes, and "Richard Burton" also means "curtain," but at the time I was
particularly interested in my friend's reference to "Montagues.")

-- Bonnie

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

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