Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"hoist by your own petard"

"Hoist by your own petard" is an expression that made me want to know today what the heck a "petard" was. Wikipedia informed me:

A petard was a small bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications.

The device was extremely dangerous to employ and hence the meaning of "hoist by his own petard" --  to be harmed by one's own evil- or well-intentioned devices.

Delightfully enough, the word finds its roots in "the Middle French, peter, to break wind."

So being hoist by your own petard may be a little like farting under the covers: There can be a sense of relief, but there is a price to pay.

1 comment:

  1. Still means that in modern French, by the way. And a "petard" is a little firecracker, presumably because it makes a similar noise.