owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:50pm on 13/08/2015 under ,
The phrase "bunfight" has been in avid use today, apropos of UK university Clearing, the process by which would-be university students go shopping for last-minute university paces, this year run on an unprecedented scale. (For example, in this THE article.)

I've assumed from long-casual reading that it meant "a conflict over something relatively trivial." But today's ubiquity prompted me to go digging a bit further.

The OED fails to mention this meaning, which briefly made me wonder if I had it all wrong.
bun-fight n. a jocular expression for a tea-party (cf. tea-fight n. at tea n. Compounds 3).
1928 R. Campbell Wayzgoose 7 It [the wayzgoose] combines the functions of a bun-fight, an Eisteddfod and an Olympic contest.

But it was baffling to think my friends were calling Clearing an expression of civility.

Collins does better with meaning #2 being "a petty squabble or argument".

More historical synonyms for bunfight in the tea party sense... )

A bun-fight Ngram: the rise of "bunfight", although without distinguishing between its senses.

Another person to briefly look at the subject observed the nineteenth-century terms "crumpet-scamble" and "muffin-worry" as synonyms for "bunfight", in the sense of "tea party".

It's not clear than anyone has bothered digging back to exactly where the argument meaning was first documented, but presumably it was post-'20s.
owlfish: (Labyrinth - Maze)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 11:31pm on 22/03/2013 under ,
A word in a NYT article threw me right out today. The women Senators of the US congress dine together once a month. At a recent dinner, they "nibbled on bread pudding".

Would men have "nibbled"? Or is the author emphasizing dainty feminine eating?

What does "bread pudding" connotate for US readers? Is it exotically British? Is it homely and comforting? Is it currently trendy? I have no idea.

Is "nibbled" even a good verb for a squishy dish? I was so uncertain that I turned to Webster's second international for help. (The answer is that yes, of course one can nibble on bread pudding. It's not a drink.)

A "nib" is, among its other meanings, a synonym for a handle on a snath. A snath can also be a snead. But, just to be confusing, a snead can also be a whipsocket. Happily, a whipsocket is exactly what it sounds like it should be: a socket for a whip.

All that was from a dictionary, but an online post clarified the relationship between snath and snead:
The scythe, without the blade is the Snath
The snath without the handles is a Snead
The handle on the sneed which make it a snath so it can become a scythe
is a Thole.

So a nib can be a thole, at least when it's on a snath?

Somehow, I doubt the grain which went that senatorial bread pudding was harvested by using the snath of a scythe. But the Senators tholed the pudding (since "thole" is also a verb meaning "to endure"), and hopefully enjoyed it too.

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