WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Barking Irons

Research is so terribly entertaining.

A simple googling of “barking irons” in the hopes of turning up some interesting portraits or illustrations revealed a wholly unexpected result: it is not so obsolete as the Oxford English Dictionary would have one believe.  A likely too-hipster-for-me clothing store in the Bowery in NYC is called Barking Irons.  Hugh Laurie wears their t-shirts; that’s a sales pitch I can support.

But I digress.  We are here for vocabulary.

The Explanation by James Gillray, 1798. Pitt and Opposition MP George Tierney fought a duel in May 1798 after Pitt accused Tierney in the Commons of seeking to obstruct the defence of the country. When Tierney appealed to the Speaker, Pitt retorted that he would neither retract nor explain his words. Today, we might rather label this a "cat fight" and rename the pistols "mewling irons."

The Explanation by James Gillray, 1798. Pitt and Opposition MP George Tierney fought a duel in May 1798 after Pitt accused Tierney in the Commons of seeking to obstruct the defence of the country. When Tierney appealed to the Speaker, Pitt retorted that he would neither retract nor explain his words. Today, we might rather label this a “cat fight” and rename the pistols “mewling irons.”

Killing, No Murder: or a new ministerial way of settling the affairs of the nation!! by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1809 (satire of the duel between Castlereagh and Canning).

Killing, No Murder: or a new ministerial way of settling the affairs of the nation!! by Isaac Robert Cruikshank, 1809 (satire of the duel between Castlereagh and Canning, with one pistol barking considerably louder than the other).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barking Irons (noun)

Pistols; from their explosion resembling the bow-wow or barking of a dog; attributed as Irish.

The birds rose with a whirr; the little gun barked; the pointer dropped to his haunches; it was perfect work. From “Frank of Freedom Hill” by Samuel A. Derieux, 1922

In the coming third book in my Lords of Oxford Series, Earl Crazy, the grandmother and aunt of my hero are entertainingly eccentric, and each carry a Singing Bird Pistol at all times in their reticules.  Although these little jewels weren’t crafted until 1820, I fudged a bit on the timing because they so delightfully fit the personalities of the two grandes dames of my story.  Lord Aylesford’s grand-aunt is particularly proud of her “tiny, harmless, barking iron.”

The only pair of matching Singing Bird Pistols known to exist; attributed to Frères Rochat, ca. 1820.

The only pair of matching Singing Bird Pistols known to exist; attributed to Frères Rochat, ca. 1820.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All definitions and/or examples taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

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