In Reply to: Beard the dragon posted by Smokey Stover on May 19, 2009 at 14:12:
: : What is the origin of the phrase, to "beard the dragon"
: The phrase is not idiomatic except insofar as the verb "beard" is not very commonly used with dragons, probably because dragons are so scarce. The most frequent use nowadays of "beard" as a verb is probably "to beard the lion in his den [or lair]." This phrase probably incorporates, or can, both the beard as hair, and the beard as the face. With a lion, you can pull his beard, if you dare (but only once), or, in the more common use of the verb, you can confront him boldly or resolutely, oppose him with daring, and if you're lucky, face him down.
: I've never heard or read the exact phrase that Mr. Forbes has quoted, but there's nothing peculiar about it. Even though dragons don't have beards, you can confront one with boldness and daring, preferably with sword in hand (like St. George), or possibly a taser. If the dragon is a metaphor for, say, your fears and doubts, you can face that dragon down with determination and some encouragement from your psychiatrist.
: Among the earlier uses of "beard" as a verb, the OED cites these examples:
: "1596 SHAKES. 1 Hen. VI, IV. i. 12 No man so potent breathes vpon the ground, But I will Beard him. 1682 Addr. Lancaster in Lond. Gaz. No. 1727/5 A Proceeding that Beards the Regal Power, Outfaces the Law, etc. 1749 SMOLLETT Regicide II. vii. 39 Sooner would'st thou beard The lion in his rage. . . ."
Well it is in Dictionary of phrase and fable By Ebenezer Cobham BrewerBeard (To). To beard one is to defy him, to contradict him flatly, to insult by plucking the beard. Among the Jews, no greater insult could be offered to a man than to pluck or even touch his beard.
To beard the lion in kit den. To contradict one either in his own growlery, or on some subject he has made his hobby. To defy personally or face to face.
" Dar*Bt them, then.
To benrd the lion in his den,
The Dnuulas in hiB hull ? "
Sir W. Scott: Martiiion, winto vt. Btanza 14.
Matigre his beard. In spite of him.
To laugh at one's beard. To attempt to make a fool of a person-to deceive by ridiculous exaggeration.
"' By the prophet'. hut helaucliBat mtr branls,' exclaimed the Pacha nnRrily. ' These are foolish lies.' "-Marrl/at: 1'aclM of Many Tilled
To laugh in one'* beard ["Jlirf dans ta bnrbe "] To laugh in one's pleeve.
To run in one's beard. To offer opposition to a person; to do something obnoxious to a person before his face. The French say, "a la barbe de yuel- gu'im," under one's very nose.
"to beard the lion" & to "beard the dragon" are common in late 1800's to early 1900" literature and poetry,
Senecas̕ Tragediesý - Page 369
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Frank Justus Miller - Drama - 1917
... will drink the flames which earth from the Sicilian mountains belches forth,
pouring down balls of fire, will beard the dragon still savagely raging in ...
Ballads & legends of Cheshireý - Page 225
by Egerton Leigh - English literature - 1867 - 314 pages
He vowed unto his ladye fair To beard the dragon in his lair, And offered up to
heaven a prayer To grant him strength in fight. XII.
The little lady of the big houseý - Page 33
by Jack London - Fiction - 1916 - 392 pages
I am only a Small Potato. Yet am I unafraid. I shall beard the dragon. I shall
beard him in his gullet, and, while he lingeringly chokes to death over my