Wednesday, November 2, 2016


So the other day, Juvat waxed eloquent on the "power" of The Chant. To wit, he had posted on a previous Monday as to the iniquities and inaccuracies of the construction zone signage in the Great State of Texas, whereby they proclaimed that one should "expect" delays from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Now our very own Juvat's point, in the first post, was to point out that delays could actually be expected from 7 AM to 7 PM. Now, having brought that matter to light, 'twas but a short time later that the signage was corrected to tell passers-by that delays could indeed be "expected" from 7 AM to 7 PM. Hence, Juvat proposes, TXDOT disposes.

A case of "be careful what you wish for"? Or, as our own survivor of L'Ancien Régime (Old NFO) put it "Hoist on your own petard eh?"

Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, yes, he was. (Hoist upon his own petard that is.)

Which put me in mind of a post. As comments often do.

Now I know what a petard is, I also know the original meaning of "being hoisted upon one's own petard," but what I didn't know was that the line originated with the Bard himself, to wit in Act 3, Scene 4 of Hamlet -
There's letters seal'd; and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar; and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon. O, 'tis most sweet
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
This man shall set me packing:
I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
Mother, good night. Indeed, this counsellor
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good night, mother.
I like to think of The Chant as a bastion of education regarding all things, well, not trivial but certainly not extremely profound, so let us say "interesting." After all, we're not just a collection of aging pretty boys. (Well, Tuna and Juvat could be. As to moi, the best I've ever been called is "cute." And I think sarcasm might have been involved.)

Now a petard, (which some sources tell me comes from the French word péter, which means to "break wind" but in a perhaps less refined way) was a device used by old-timey medieval combat engineers to blow holes in doors, walls, aluminum siding, etc. No, they didn't actually have aluminum siding in the Middle Ages, I was being "cute." If they did, it no doubt would have been called "aluminium." Which is how the Britons say it...


The Britons.

(You should have seen that coming...)

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, "hoist upon one's own petard." Now a petard was full of explosives (well, black powder, a medieval explosive) and would go boom when fire was applied to the fuse and the fire finally reached the powder. Now in olden times there wasn't a lot of what we now call quality control. OSHA hadn't been invented yet and I also doubt the existence of a Bureau of Ordnance at that time.

And my point is?

Well, I have a certain amount of experience with 'splodey things and sometimes poorly made fuses will burn a Hell of a lot faster than you'd perhaps want them to.

Why yes, exactly like that.

When that happened the old-timey combat engineer would be caught in the explosion of his petard and perhaps be tossed skyward. Hoisted, as it were.

On their own petard.

As for me? I'd rather hoist one of these -

But only when it's time to splice the mainbrace.

Like I said, cute.

*Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were unavailable for comment. As was the melancholy Dane...


  1. I wonder how many of those had the powder tamped down accidentally to form a Monroe Effect charge?

  2. Dang! This blog is like EDUCATIONAL! Who knew that Shakespeare was responsible for designing the AGM-65 Maverick?

    1. Well, I don't know if "design" is the right word...


  3. Replies
    1. Guilty as charged. At least as far as coyotes go.


  4. Nicely done sir, and the old Monte Python is a good one!

  5. Oh, thank God. Someone who actually knows what a petard was and how it hoisted someone. I knew I loved coming to this site for a reason (okay, many great reasons.)

    I have spent years trying to explain the concept of petards to medieval and renaissance re-enactors. Seriously spent too much time banging my head against the wall. Too many people thought it was Rutger Hauer in "Flesh and Blood" with the powder kegs.

    And yes, many were early shaped charge warheads, though not intentionally shaped, more due to the burn-blast effect of crappy partially corned powder blasting out of the throat of the heavy container (some sort of heavy pot or such). Excellent for punching people-sized holes in barred doors.

    1. Ah yes, Rutger Hauer. Or as a friend of mine in the Air Force referred to him, "Rootbeer Hauer."

      I wonder how many folks knew that black powder is "corned"? And the reason why.

      I do, I'm willing to bet that you do as well.

  6. To promote even burning, packing powdered gunpowder tended to create solid massed that burned unevenly, as O2 could not get to all the grains. Corning creates an uneven surface allowing air to flow through.

    1. Corning also keeps the ingredients from separating by fixing them together, thus allowing a consistent burn.

      Uncorned powder will, if moved enough after mixing, will settle out the components, and thus screwing up the combustion process.

      Learned all of that when I was 12 and, um, making black powder so my friends and I could blow up 55 gallon drums with gas in them. Ah, the fun days of youth.

    2. I used to use black powder when I was young(er). Fired a lot of muzzle loading weapons in my day. To include cannon. Good times. (Cannons used a coarser mix of powder. FWIW)

  7. Hoist in war, hoist in peace and hoist on the petard of his countrymen!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.