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Two new etymologies

June 26, 2016

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.

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One Comment
  1. Simon carter permalink

    Another theory is that the expression came from a series of adverts for Burton ale which were cartoons of a group of people with one missing – one was of an orchestra with the lead violinist blanked out – bearing the legend “He’s gone for a Burton” which was adopted by the RAF in the way Americans used “bought the farm” rather than say someone had been killed.

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