This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Spot the frippet: lobster.

A marvellous thing is the lobster:

Photo by Anna Langova

They have blue blood (based on copper, like Mr Spock's, rather than on iron like human blood), ten legs, a green liver, swim backwards, and, scientists are beginning to think, may be effectively immortal.

If you can't see a lobster in a river, sea, or on a plate near you, then a pop-eyed red-faced man is sometimes called a lobster (though not, if you've got any sense, to his face). A boiled lobster is an old rude name for a British soldier (because they wore red coats (some of them still do for special occasions)); a raw lobster was, by analogy, a rude name for a British policeman, who wear blue  (though this, too, has fallen into disuse).

If you're in Eastern England, then a lobster, confusingly, may actually mean a stoat.

Lobster is also a word for jointed armour. The Lobsters were the name of Haselrig's famous regiment of Cuirassiers which fought on the Parliamentarian side in the English Civil War: 

Our cuirassiers have burst on the ranks of the accurst illustration from Ballads of Famous Fights - William Henry Charles Groome
Painting by William Henry Charles Groome.

Other than that, there's a lobster in The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley:

Tom and the lobster

And Lewis Carroll has given us a lobster quadrille:

Mock Turtle and Gryphon demonstrating the Lobster Quadrille to Alice
Picture by Tenniel

And if you're really lucky you just might come across someone lobsterizing - that is, moving backwards.

Watch where you're going, now.

Spot the frippet: lobster. This word comes from the Old English loppestre, from loppe, spider.

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