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Picture of BobHale
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There is an extremely pompous, extremely privileged, rather nauseating Tory politician in the UK named Jacob Rees-Mogg. Like many Tory politicians he always tries to put down the people interviewing him with his shows of erudition.
This was a recent exchange.

Rees-Mogg: I think you are classically overstating what has in fact happened.
Interviewer: The Prime Minister goes into the election looking for a major mandate for the biggest constitutional change in recent history...
Rees-Mogg: You called it a shambles. You say that it's a butchers' slaughterhouse.
Interviewer: You used that phrase, not me.
Rees-Mogg: That's what shambles means.

Perhaps that's what shambles MEANT but does anyone other than a pompous ass like Rees-Mogg use it that way any more?

I saw the clip on Have I Got News For You and rather liked Paul Merton's comment... "Let's have the view from 1785".
 
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It wasn't clear to me what Rees-Mogg thought shambles meant.

So I watched a video of the exchange and it became clearer. The interviewer, Jon Snow, calls the election a shambles. Rees-Mogg says that Snow is overstating the case because an old meaning of shambles is "butchers slaughterhouse". Then he says "I'm surprised you don't know that."

This is a fun game. I'm surprised that Rees-Mogg doesn't know that "shambles" means "A place where meat (or occasionally fish) is sold" and so Snow is actually saying... I don't know, I've forgotten what the point is.
 
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Perhaps that's what shambles MEANT but does anyone other than a pompous ass like Rees-Mogg use it that way any more?

Yes, this pompous ass does. However, I verbify it, as in "The old man shambles into the store."
 
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Really Geoff? You don't say things like, "The organisation was bad, the facilities were bad. The whole thing was a shambles." But you do say, "He works all day killing cows in a shambles."

If that's the case I'd just like to add that even so I don't consider you to be a pompous ass. Big Grin

Incidentally I conducted a kind of straw poll in the pub last night and among the ten English speaking ex-pats (Brits, Americans, Australians and a Canadian) I was the only one who had ever even heard the old meaning.
 
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You do raise an interesting question there though.

How does "shambles" (either in its "slaughterhouse" or "mess" meaning) connect etymologically with the verb "shamble" ("to shuffle along/to walk dragging ones feet")?
 
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Here's what Online Etymology Dictionary says
quote:


shamble (v.)
Look up shamble at Dictionary.com
"to walk with a shuffling gait, walk awkwardly and unsteadily," 1680s, from an adjective meaning "ungainly, awkward" (c. 1600), from shamble (n.) "table, bench" (see shambles), perhaps on the notion of the splayed legs of bench, or the way a worker sits astride it. Compare French bancal "bow-legged, wobbly" (of furniture), properly "bench-legged," from banc "bench." The noun meaning "a shambling gait" is from 1828. Related: Shambled; shambling.

shambolic (adj.)
Look up shambolic at Dictionary.com
1961, apparently from shamble in the sense "disorder" (see shambles), perhaps on model of symbolic.

shambles (n.)
Look up shambles at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "meat or fish market," from schamil "table, stall for vending" (c. 1300), from Old English scamol, scomul "stool, footstool" (also figurative); "bench, table for vending," an early Proto-Germanic borrowing (Old Saxon skamel "stool," Middle Dutch schamel, Old High German scamel, German schemel, Danish skammel "footstool") from Latin scamillus "low stool, a little bench," ultimately a diminutive of scamnum "stool, bench," from PIE root *skabh- "to prop up, support." In English, sense evolved from "place where meat is sold" to "slaughterhouse" (1540s), then figuratively "place of butchery" (1590s), and generally "confusion, mess" (1901, usually in plural).

 
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Oh wouldn't it have been perfect if Jon Snow had been able to say, "Well, actually, that's a later meaning. The earlier meaning was a place where meat was sold. Do you think Mrs May was selling her party like meat from a shambles?"
 
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Perhaps that's what shambles MEANT but does anyone other than a pompous ass like Rees-Mogg use it that way any more?
Hmmm, I can think of one other Englishman who might...Wink
 
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I knew the "slaughterhouse" meaning, but not that it evolved from "a place where meat is sold". In effect, they moved frem retail to wholesale. Presumably early slaughterhouses were extremely messy places, unlike the modern equivalents.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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But would you try to correct someone who said "the election was a complete shambles"?
 
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Of course not. That's the etymological fallacy. Just as I wouldn't "correct" anyone who used dilapidated to mean "tumble-down".

In any event, I'm not in the habit of "correcting" people's language use.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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