Who doesn’t love pirates and high seas adventures? When I hear the word swashbuckle, immediately my imagination conjures a vast ship, cannons firing and gunpowder heavy in the air, men swinging from the ropes, shouting orders, and swords clashing in a bitter fight to the end.
Of course I had to a find a quote from an old book to capture where my mind was taking me.
“Yes, cap’, dis is no place for us,” agreed the dory-mate, who always had the right word for the occasion. “I’d radder be hove down on de Gran’ Banks tvice dan pursed up here in shaller vater, vid a mess o’ lan’lubbers finnin’ like a pod o’ fish, an’ schoolin’ round ye to beat de band.”*
Now try to say that out loud. Without laughing.
Avast ye mateys!
Word of the day: Swashbuckle
Entered the English language in the 19th century. Swashbuckle is a back-formation from swashbuckler (from 16th century), which originally denoted a warrior who struck his shield with his sword as a sign of aggression and machismo, rather like a gorilla beating its chest. It was a compound formed from swash ‘hit’ (from 16th century), a word of imitative origin which is now restricted to the sound of water splashing against a surface, and buckler ‘shield.’ It was used broadly for a ‘swaggering fellow,’ but the word’s modern associations of romantic swordplay and high adventure did not begin to emerge until the early 19th century.
Source: Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto
*A Dauntless Viking by William Hale (1905).