Have you guys (in the States) watched "Pushing Daisies"? It's a new show on ABC on Wednesday nights that I can't stop talking about. It is truly the first time, in a loooong time, that I have been impressed by a network TV show. The show (about a man who has the ability to bring dead people back to life with one touch of his finger, but should he touch those same people again, will kill them) is fresh, cinematically-shot, very reminiscent of "Amelie" and Tim Burton stuff... and most importantly, is d e l i c i o u s l y written.
In fact, I pitched the show to my friend Stella (a vocabulary geek, pictured here next to fellow vocab geek, Brendan McNamara) based on this one phrase the female lead utters. The phrase made Bren laugh, and then fist pump in the air. Fist pump. Over a phrase. Said on TV. Ah vocabulary geeks... we are a funny bunch.
The phrase was: "I'm hoist by own petard!". Now, I told Stella it was "batard". But after she couldn't find it in her dictionary and emailed me, I re-consulted the King VG (vocab-geek), Bren, and he said it was with a 'p'. So that was my error.
The phrase means, for those who don't know (as I didn't), that you have unwittingly created your own undoing.
Bren and I just had a discussion over the "unwitting" part -- he doesn't think that's necessary, and I think it is, but guess who has the blog, big man?! Huh? Huh??? YEAH!
Oh. Um, sorry. Where were we?
Oh yeah, so the phrase means to be harmed UNWITTINGLY by something that was meant to harm someone else.
A petard was a popular weapon used in Elizabethan times, a box full of dynamite that was usually hurled over a castle wall before it exploded and made a huge hole in the wall. It was the precursor to the bomb. Soldiers would build a trench so they could take cover I imagine, and then hoist the petard up and over the castle wall. Hence the "hoisting" part. So essentially, the phrase means, "I have been blown up by my own bomb, which I had meant for someone else." Hence the "unwittingly" part of my definition, which of course now Bren says he actually agreed with but that I misunderstood him. Unwittingly.
Incidentally, petard derives from the french "peter" which means... to fart.