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

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Mon Aug 17 17:55:35 UTC 2015

Finally, what I've been suspecting (and half-remembering), that "Burton beer" is a particular style, from (naturally) the area of Burton upon Trent.  Burton is known for brewing, says Wikipedia.

Google Books for "Burton beer" in quotes, and find a book titled "Burton and its Bitter Beer", by J. Stevenson Bushnan, 1853.

The Beer Bible: The Essential Beer Lover's Guide, by Jeff Alworth (2015 ), page 109, says:  "A true Burton beer, one that has been pulled up through the gypsum-rich wells, should exhibit the “Burton snatch”—a whiff of unmuted sulfur. The scent comes in two varieties, one like a burned match (strange but broadly unobjectionable) and ...".

Praised by Ben Jonson, Robert Taylor the Water Poet, Shakespeare (in the mouth of Hotspur), Mary Queen of Scots (at least, she survived on it), and Scott (in Ivanhoe).  See London Society - Volume 39 - Page 41.  This page claims the existence of Burton beer in the times of Richard Couer de Lion (12th century).


From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, August 16, 2015 3:55 PM
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess (UNCLASSIFIED)

Cf. Housman's justifiably long-popular "Terence, this is stupid stuff"
(pub. 1896):

"Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?"


On Sun, Aug 16, 2015 at 2:01 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:      American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:      ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: go for a "Burton"--a 1944 etymology guess (UNCLASSIFIED)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> More data: Below is an explanation for the slang expression "He's gone
> for a Burton" printed in a Winnipeg, Canada newspaper in September
> 1944.
> Date: September 16, 1944
> Newspaper: The Winnipeg Tribune
> Newspaper Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
> Article: Toast and Tea
> (Advertisement for Jas. Barclay & Company, Walkerville, Ontario)
> Author: J. V. McAree
> Quote Page 3, Column 1
> [Begin excerpt]
> One explanation of its origin is that it first gained currency among
> English soldiers who were not satisfied with the beer that was
> provided in their canteens. Those who really wanted a strong glass of
> beer insisted on having Burton's and when it was not available at camp
> they would walk a considerable distance, if necessary, to the nearest
> pub.
> They would return in various stages of exhilaration, some
> incapacitated, some helpless. So it came to mean that a man who had
> gone for a Burton was in no immediate shape to perform his duties; he
> might be, as we say,dead to the world, and eventually the phrase came
> to mean death.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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