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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 14 15:39:07 UTC 2015


Circa 1942 a journal called "Great Britain and the East" presented a
passage of slang together with a translation. However, the Burton
phrase was given a different meaning:

Slang: One bought it; the other two went for a Burton.

Translation: One was killed: the other two were severely reprimanded.

A line with three asterisks was used as a spacer in the original text.

Year: 1943 (GB Year is 1942; probes for 1943 show headers indicating
some issues in the volume appeared in 1943; the body of the text
mentioned 1942 as the date the slang was spoken)
Periodical: Great Britain and the East
Volume 59
Quote Page GB 29
(Google Books snippet view; metadata may be inaccurate; OCR errors may
be present; should be verified on paper/microfilm)

[Begin extracted text]
An item to conclude with even more
Shavian in style than Shaw. Here it is:
"Three ropey types, all sprogs, pranged
a cheeseye kite on bumps and circuits.
One bought it; the other two went for
a Burton. They'd taken a shagbat Wofficer,
who was browned off, along, and the Queen
Bee was hopping mad." This may sound
like double Dutch or a section from a
New York cab-driver's vocabulary, but
it's nothing of the sort. It's the King's
English,  1942 version, as spoken--some-
times--by the Royal Air Force.

* * *

A translation for those who don't
understand such modern English would
read: "Three unpopular individuals, all
brand new pilot officers, crashed a worn-
out aircraft while making practice cir-
cuits and landings. One was killed: the
other two were severely reprimanded.
The station commander disapproved and
roundly rated them. They had taken
along a somewhat plain W.A.A.F. officer,
who was bored, and the W.A.A.F. com-
mandant was very angry.
                     LONDONER.
[End extracted text]

Garson

On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 11:00 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> I certainly recall seeing the ad, presumably on a newspaper page. But other
> than the fact that it must have been thirty or forty years ago, I can
> recall nothing more about it.  It registered because I knew the slang
> phrase from Partridge and this apparent origin seemed to be unassailable.
>
> I took no further note of it because it had nothing to do with "American"
> slang.
>
> Of course, senility has to begin some time.
>
> Could the Burton's brand have been revived after the war?
>
> Maybe, but I can't imagine they'd adopt for advertising an RAF phrase
> alluding to being killed in action.
>
> JL
>
> On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 10:18 AM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      Re: go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess
>>
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>
>> I distrust the Burton for curtain theory -- rhyming slang usually uses the
>> non-rhyming word as the 'code', so Monty means Montague Burton means
>> curtain.
>>
>> British music halls might allow a phrase like "He's gone for a Burton" to
>> persist in the culture long after the product has passed on. Nowadays TV
>> does that job. How old do you have to be to actually remember "the thrill
>> of victory, the agony of defeat", anyway? WWoS ended 17 years ago...
>>
>> DanG
>>
>> On Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 9:52 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu>
>> wrote:
>>
>> > ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> > -----------------------
>> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> > Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
>> > Subject:      Re: go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess
>> >
>> >
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> >
>> > 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
>> > seri=
>> > es of advertisements for beer in the inter-war years, each of which
>> > feature=
>> > d 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 =97 had gone for a
>> > Burto=
>> > n. The slogan was then taken up by RAF pilots for one of their number
>> > missi=
>> > ng in action as a typical example of wartime sick humour.
>> > There=92s little we can do to choose one of these over the others. If the
>> > a=
>> > dverts really did run before the War they would be the obvious source,
>> > thou=
>> > gh none have been traced and the most probable candidate, the Burton
>> > Brewer=
>> > y 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
>> > seco=
>> > ndary meaning (e.g., suit for burial, say).
>> >
>> > Field Marshall Montgomery has been associated with "full Monty," but that
>> > m=
>> > ay be an effect somewhat parallel to the well-known quote magnets.
>> >
>> > Research on "Monty Burton" would be incomplete without noting the
>> > anti-Semi=
>> > tic song from 1939 with the incipit "Onward Christian Soldiers"  or
>> > "Onward=
>> >  conscript army" and the line "clothed/clad by Monty Burton" (various
>> > versi=
>> > ons online; Burton made uniforms, which also could contribute to possible
>> > b=
>> > lending of Montys).
>> >
>> > Stephen Goranson
>> > http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
>> >
>> > ________________________________________
>> > From: American Dialect Society ... on behalf of Bonnie Taylor-Blake
>> > <b.tayl=
>> > orblake 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
>> > correspon=
>> > de=3D
>> > > 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
>> >
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>
>
>
>
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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