Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 385

November 15, 2009

From: Richard Fritz (richard.fritz vtmednet.org)
Subject: Horse-and-buggy
Def: Old-fashioned; outdated.

Hardly outdated in our little town, Bristol, Vermont. Trash and recycling pickup is done every Friday morning using Horse and buggy. [nytimes]

From: Doug Hughes (doug.hughes eng.auburn.edu)
Subject: horse-and-buggy

This phrase is still in widespread use in parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio where the Amish still live in force. You can often see them driving about the country roads in their horse and buggies, coached and clothed in black. As concessions to safety laws, they fit them with blinkers for turning and running lights for night travel. They also fit them with a large reflective triangle on the back.

The horse and buggy is alive and well, and all children who have grown up in that area of the country are familiar with the sight and clatter of hoof and harness, especially on Sundays when they travel to worship services.

From: Frank Vogtner (fvogtner hotmail.com)
Subject: Horse latitudes
Def: Either of the two belts around latitudes 30 to 35 degrees N or S.

This reminded me of The Doors recording of "Horse Latitudes" on their Strange Days album. More of a poem by Jim Morrison than a song, but a powerful piece on that record. Here's a link to the lyrics and some interesting commentary.

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stalking horse
Def: Something used to mask the true purpose.

As an old birdwatcher, I have found that, when you are short of horses, it is practical to get closest to wild birds by approaching these backward. When the bird does not see your eyes, it seems unconcerned until you turn around and it sees the close-set eyes of the predator. Preys tend to have eyes set to the side of the head.

From: Steve Patterson (pattersons allentownsd.org)
Subject: stalking horse

There is a lovely image of the derivation of this term at cequs.com.

From: Terri Currier (tercurrier aol.com)
Subject: Stalking Horse

Stalking horse has another common usage, particularly now in times of economic pressure. When a company filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, it may wish to sell itself as a going concern. To do so, it negotiates a deal with the best bidder it can find, then files the terms of that deal with the Bankruptcy Court for the purpose of luring other interested parties who may overbid the deal at a public auction. This first bidder who sets the "floor" for the bankruptcy auction is known as the stalking horse.

From: Dick Koepsell (koepsell embarqmail.com)
Subject: stalking horse

In the American west this is a term for a trained horse used to draw in wild horses, as horses will often follow the leader. The use is similar to cat's paw.

From: Dr. Alexis Melteff (alanmeredith42 hotmail.com)
Subject: hobbyhorse
Def: A favorite pastime, a pet project or topic; an obsession.

The French word for hobbyhorse or obsession is dada, which is a child's name for a horse.

From: Carsten Kruse (c-kruse t-online.de)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hobbyhorse

The German counterpart of hobbyhorse is "Steckenpferd". It also stands for the riding toy mentioned by you. So, "Steckenpferd" ought to be a perfectly good German word to describe one's hobby. Sadly enough, "Steckenpferd" has almost become extinct and was replaced by the English hobbyhorse in its short form. If you use the term "Steckenpferd" you are considered old-fashioned if your partner understands the term at all (99% of my students would give me a blank stare).

I'm waiting for the day to find a sign "Nursery school" instead of "Kindergarten" somewhere in Germany. ;-)

From: Bill Mintz (bmintz aol.com)
Subject: Hobbyhorse

In sailing we use the expression to mean the fore and aft bouncing of a boat. Some boat designs are more prone to it than others. Placing too much weight in the bow or stern will cause the same effect.

From: Alex Eliott (rae khl.co.za)
Subject: Hobbyhorse

A hobbyhorse was also the name given to a forerunner of the bicycle in the early to mid-nineteenth century. This pre-bicycle had two wheels but no pedals and was propelled by the rider's feet, much like the pedal-less bikes given to small children today. I would suggest that the phrase "ride one's hobbyhorse" owes much to this historical usage of the term.

From: Guy Vergnes (guyvergnes wanadoo.fr)
Subject: Hobbyhorse

I wonder why you didn't mention Laurence Sterne's Uncle Toby And his 'hobbyhorsical' occupations as described in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Why, he was the one to practice this kind of activity?

From: Steven D. Price (sdprice510 mac.com)
Subject: hobby horse

The Hobby, an Irish breed or type, was noted for its lateral pacing gait (as distinguished from a trotting horse's diagonal footfalls). According to Gervaise Markham's 1593 treatise on horsemanship, "this ambling motion in his smooth stealing away, as it were with a soft and tending touching of the ground, carries his burden gently and without shaking." Laterally-gaited horses were much favored prior to the 18th century when posting to the trot made riding at that gait more comfortable.

Steven D. Price, Editorial Director, The Whole Horse Catalog

From: Bethel Rodish (carousel03 comcast.net)
Subject: Trojan horse
Def: Something or someone placed in order to subvert from within.

I was thinking that it was Shakespeare who summed up the events of that night with the phrase: "Beware Greeks bearing gifts."

More recently, it was used in a sideways reference during a 1990s patent controversy. There was considerable discussion then, in Internet chat rooms etc., regarding the company CompuServe, who owned the patent to the GIF image format, and their possible intentions to restrict its use. Some people feared that they might be taken to law by Compuserve if they received and viewed GIF images without permission. The phrase "beware of geeks bearing gifs" was coined to sum that up.

[All relevant patents have since expired so the use of GIF is now unencumbered.]

From: J. Michael Sharman (jmsharman tiscali.co.uk)
Subject: Wooden Horse

The legend, as narrated by Homer, is that the Wooden Horse was built by Epeus [pron 'ep.EE.us] but the idea came from the 'wily' Odysseus (Odyssey Book 8. l 493). The Iliad in a different context mentions Epeus as a boxer. Virgil in his account of the fall of Troy (Aeneid Bk 2) does not mention his name, but says of the Horse 'Quicquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes' (Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when bringing gifts). The film The Wooden Horse is a true account of an escape from a POW Camp by concealing the tunnellers in a vaulting horse.

From: Ellen Raw (ejraw meltel.net)
Subject: "horse" phrases

Just wanted to mention a horse phrase that is common here in rural Minnesota (that I had never heard before, growing up only 150 miles away). So I don't know if it's used very many places, but I think it's interesting.

"A horse a piece" means the same as "Six of one, Half a dozen of the other"... Presumably it comes from horse trading, meaning it's basically the same value either way...

From: Andrew Kornweibel (akornweibel hotmail.com)
Subject: Horse Words

One of my favourite words is hackneyed, which is derived directly from the suburb I live in, Hackney, in London. They would breed the horses for hire in the area during the medieval times, and they would often be over-used and run into the ground, as well used for carriages (the term "Hackney Carriage" still applies to taxis in London today). Now "hackneyed" means a term which is over-used, and it also goes through to "hack" meaning literary writers employed to churn out copy. All from my little suburb.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go. -William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2022 Wordsmith