Words: Petard, n.

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The Independent Culture
THERE ARE 295 instances of the word petard in our newspaper database and all but 42 of them have the word hoist (or hoisted) in close proximity. Inspecting a few of those 42 petards that have not been hoisted, however, reveals a horse called Miss Petard, a chipshop owner called Mr Petard, a battleship HMS Petard and a Home Security firm called Petard. A non-hoist petard without a capital P is a rare creature indeed.

A petard was a type of battering ram with an explosive head. To be hoist with one's own petard is to be blown up with one's own weapons: "For 'tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petard" (Hamlet, Act III, scene 4).

The word has a nice etymology: it comes from the same root as the French verb peter, to break wind.

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