To Pet or not ToPet

“Hoist by your own petard” is a curious phrase meaning something like “falling into your own trap” or even “what goes around comes around”.

I have long known what the phrase meant but I misunderstood its literal meaning; I thought the phrase had it’s origins in ancient naval vocabulary and I assumed that a petard was something like a pennant such that some hapless ‘Jack Tar’ might sometimes have got himself all tangled up in rigging while trying to raise a signal flag in rough weather.

Not so; it turns out that a petard (un pétard)is a french word meaning a small hat-shaped explosive device used to blow a hole in a wall or blast open a door. These days the word usually means firecracker or the noise made by a firecracker.

The French have a verb péter which means “to fart” and a noun “pet” meaning the fart itself. During a scatalogical flight of fancy, I wondered if the French “péter” and “pet” were descended from pétard or perhaps the small French explosive device was named for a natural bodily function.

I can reveal to you now that the small explosive device is indeed named for a French fart. The next time you see Hamlet and you here the oft quoted phrase: “For ’tis the sport to have the engine[e]r / Hoist with his own petar[d].”, you can smile quietly to yourself as you picture some villain, on being undone by their own schemes, disappearing in a cloud of self generated excretia.

Continuing in a scatalogical vein, did you know that a common synonym for fart is trump? Now! Was there ever a more worthy candidate for being hoist by his own petard.

Get Back in your box Eric. OK!