Monthly Archives: June 2015

“Undermining” – Another Medieval Idiom

Ok Ok! I promise I won’t hit you with too many idioms but this one I can’t resist.  It is one of my favorites. It is “Undermining”. Did you ever wonder where that term came from?

It came from the sieging of castles. Yup. When an attacking force is sieging a castle one of the things that they would do was to dig a tunnel or mine underneath it. (They would dig a mine under it). Now here is where the real brilliance of the term comes into play.

We often think that they would dig a secret tunnel under a castle so they could sneak into the castle. But that really isn’t the case. The real point of these tunnels was to get under a wall or under a corner of the castle then collapse the mine. Therefore collapsing the wall or the corner of the castle wall. You see? So, digging the mine would cause the castle to collapse under it’s own weight.  Kind of brilliant.








How did they do it without having the tunnel collapse on them as they were digging it? Well, they would build wooden supports just like we picture in a regular mine. And when they were ready they would evacuate the mine and light it on fire.

And just like any good arms race our castle residents had a way to combat this undermining. How do you think they did it? With a moat! Yup. The moat around a castle was the perfect defense for this because the attacking army couldn’t dig a mine. It would simply flood before they could get close to underneath the castle.


Cut down to Size

I love idiomsrapier. They often have very wonderful beginnings that we are not aware of.

The idiom “Cut down to size” is exactly one of those idioms.

And it refers to the length of a rapier. Or more accurately a rapier that is too long!

In 16th and 17th century London rapiers were very popular. And men would wear them on the streets. But they got to the point where they were getting too long and they were a danger to passers by and visitors.

So, when entering London, men wielding swords would either have to turn them in or have them “cut down to size”.





Walking the Dogs and Finding a polearm!

Well! Got an email from a web visitor. (Chris) who was walking his dogs when he stumbled upon this weapon. It was a long polearm but the pole was broken in half and the other half was rotted. So, it must have been there for quite some time! My guess though is that it was there for a few years, not a few hundred! The cut and shape of it lead me to believe it is relatively modern. But…. if you have some experience with polearms and can shed light on this weapon please message me!!

And this was found in Ireland in the Cork/Waterford area. Nearby is a town called called Youghal.  And people have been speculating that this could be from the Cromwell era because he occupied this town for many years.

Chris will be sending along a better pic of the markings on it.