Two new etymologies
I was at my sister’s for brunch today, and whilst in the garden my little niece, Betty, accidentally booted her ball over the fence. ‘It’s gone for a burton,” I said; meaning of course that it was gone for good, lost, no way of getting it back. Several of the younger people didn’t know this expression, which I remember my dad using. It’s a bit of old RAF slang and he picked it up on his National Service. To go for a burton means, or meant, to die, and more figuratively to disappear or be destroyed. I explained the meaning, but said I didn’t know the origin; however, one of the other guests, a Lebanese neighbour named Marjaan, did know: when you died you were measured up for a funeral suit to be buried in, which was invariably provided by high street gentleman’s outfitters Burtons. Hence, to die was to go for a burton.
My brother-in-law Andrew then joined in to say that Montague Burton, founder of the company, was also responsible for another expression. If you went to Monty Burton’s shop and ordered a three-piece suit you were going for the full monty.
How about that? I went round for brunch and picked up two new etymologies.