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Gone for a Burton, Part II

Posted by ESC on October 23, 1999

In Reply to: Go for a Burton posted by ESC on October 11, 1999

: : does anyone know of the origin of gone for a burton
: : is it anything to do with the brewing industry in the uk?

: From "The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang" by John Ayto & John Simpson (Oxford University Press, 1992): burton, noun. Also "Burton, to go for a." Brit. of a pilot; to be killed, of a person or thing: to be missing, ruined, destroyed. 1941-. E. Roberts "I can see those flowers going for a burton." . (Origin unknown; perhaps connected with Burton type of beer from Burton-on-Trent.)

PART II
"Salty Dog Talk: The Nautical Origins of Everyday Expressions" by Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey (Sheridan House; originally published in London in 1983): "Gone for a burton - Popular amongst airmen of World War II to describe those missing or killed in action. It is one of several expressions which transferred from the navy when its air wing was merged into the RAF in 1918. There are two derivations, each of them plausible. The first refers to a 'Spanish Burton' which was an ingenious but complicated pulley arrangement made up of three blocks. Indeed so complicated was the Spanish Burton, and so rarely used that hardly anyone could remember how to do it. Thus it became the standard answer to anyone in authority enquiring the whereabouts of a missing member of a working part 'he's gone for a burton'. The other explanation comes from the term 'a-burton' an unusual method of stowing wooden casks or barrels sideways across the ship's hold. The advantage of this was that they took up less space and were individually more accessible than when stowed in the fore-and-aft line. The disadvantage, however, and the reason why it was rarely employed, was that the entire stowage could easily collapse. Hence the implication of knocking a man over."