The Language of Falconry

Falconry / The Language of Falconry

  • You probably don’t realise – we all talk the language of falconry!

     

    Having such a long and rich history around the world, the practice of falconry has developed an extensive vocabulary to describe it. Over time many of these words and phrases have become part of everyday life without many of us realising the original meaning behind the term.

    For example:

    "I’m just so fed up with all this work."
    The term to be 'fed up' comes from the falconry term for when a trained hawk has eaten its fill. When a bird is 'fed up' it is unwilling to fly and hunt for the falconer. Hence today, to be 'fed up' means you are no longer interested in doing something.

    "That guy is so under her thumb!"
    To be under the thumb, comes from the action of a falconer holding the leash of the hawk under their thumb to maintain a tight control of the bird. Today the term under the thumb is generally used in a derogatory manner to describe a partners overbearing control over the other partners actions.

    "Ha ha - he's been hoodwinked!"
    Falconers use a leather ‘hood’ to cover a hawks eyes and keep them calm. Hence the term hoodwinked came about to describe somebody being fooled or tricked into doing something.

    "Noel has been working too hard - he’s looking a bit haggard!"
    A haggard falcon was traditionally a bird that was caught from the wild while on migration. Typically a bird caught at this time would be thin and tired from its journey. Hence the term for somebody looking 'haggard' means that they look a bit rough around the edges, a bit worn out.

    “She’s been waiting with bated breath all day”
    Falcons, when they want to fly, bate from the block, meaning they try to fly but are held short of leaving the area around their perch by their leash. When doing this they can become short of breath – and hence are waiting for the falconer to come to release them from their tether with 'bated breath'. The term “at the end of my tether” similarly comes from the action of a falcon, particularly an un-trained young falcon, bating from the perch and being held up by their tether – hence they are at the end of their tether i.e. extremely frustrated.

    "Ok, I will cadge a lift off Tom."
    A cadge was what falconers called a portable perch. Falcons were carried to the hunting grounds on a cadge. Thus the term to 'cadge a lift' came about, meaning to get a free lift. Phrases based on the words cadge don’t end there. 'Codger' is a derivative of the word 'cadger'. Cadgers were usually old falconers (who carried the falcons on the cadge) hence today the term has come to be used to refer to an elderly person, as in the affectionate term – ‘the old codger’. Interestingly, a caddy today is somebody who carries golf clubs for somebody – and normally the person carrying the clubs is considerably younger than the person playing the game!

    "I’m off down the boozer."
    When raptors drink, it is called bowsing. A bird that drinks heavily is called a boozer. The same term is used to describe the same tendency in humans – hence a 'boozer' is someone who drinks a lot and the 'boozer' is where people that drink beer like to go for a drink (or two).