Gut Rumbles

February 10, 2005

nice phrase

A clever commenter used the term "hoisted by his own petard." I LOVE that phrase. Do you know what it means?

Trust me... it's NOT a nautical term that has anything to do with sailboats.


It means to be blown up by one's own gunpowder as one tries to blow a besieged enemy's walls. That's the literal meaning. The figurative meaning is to be defeated by one's own weapons, including ideals.

I first encountered the phrase in "Hamlet" III. iv. 209 (Arden Edition) Before I looked it up, I thought it meant some kind of spear, and had an image of one's enemy with his own weapon up his ass.

Posted by: Brett on February 10, 2005 10:32 AM

See this link for more info:

Posted by: kartattack on February 10, 2005 10:40 AM

That's funny, I haven't heard that one in years
My Dad used to say that when I got caught doing something stupid. "Ya got hoisted by your own petard, didn't ya boy ? "
Love the blog

Posted by: DougFunnie on February 10, 2005 10:59 AM

Brett, you've hit the petard nail on the head. The petard was the first shaped charge, being a gunpowder-filled half-sphere of iron designed for breaching the heavy oak doors of castle keeps. It was quite heavy, and it had flanges on it's rim on the flat side, and the flanges had nail holes in them.

The petard deployer was always a large, strong person, because he had to carry the heavy mine through enemy fire right up to the door (not the walls) of the castle, hold it up, fish out a heavy nail and heavy hammer, and pound the nail into the wooden door which the petard was to breach. All with it's fuse previously lit behing his own lines because there wasn't a good way to insure the lighting of the fuse upon deployment in the heat of battle.

It wasn't a duty to be taken lightly, for in addition to the notoriously imperfect fuses (called "matches") of the day (which could result in "being hoist upon your own petard"), there was usually a little hatch in the alcove ceiling above the doorway-archway, from which either an archer or a fusileer would attack the petard-man, or maybe they would try to pour boiling oil on him from there.

There was a high rate of attrition for these boys, but one more word: it's "hoist", not "hoisted". The English of the day did not support many "ed" suffixes for past tense.

Now let me review my Chaucer.....

Posted by: Rivrdog on February 10, 2005 11:31 AM

Not to be confused with a PeTArd. Which is a shit-headded animal lover.

Posted by: DaneBramage on February 10, 2005 01:01 PM

It also was slang for farting yourself right off your seat at the dinner table.

Posted by: Acidman on February 10, 2005 01:23 PM

This is still a problem for combat engineers.

N.B., email addy has changed, am still the same deranged fan. Will try to send authentication.

Posted by: Justthisguy on February 10, 2005 10:07 PM
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