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Banty-cock

28 May 2017

One of this week’s most popular tweets was the word banty-cock, defined simply as “a little priggish man”. And as always, you can provide your own example of that.

 

 

The word banty or banty-cock is actually an old English dialect corruption of bantam, the name of a small type of domestic fowl. Male bantams were once well known for their characteristically belligerent and cocksure behaviour, and it’s from there that not only the word banty-cock derived, but also the name of the bantamweight class of boxers, and—during the First World War, at least—the use of bantam to refer to a small but no less efficient and combative battalion of troops.

 

But where does the word bantam itself come from? Well, it’s believed that these cocky cockerels were first brought across to Europe in the early 1700s from the Indonesian port of Bantam, or Banten, on the island of Java. Bantam was a major export point for the Dutch East Indies, so while the birds themselves might actually have originated in China or Japan (according to some theories, at least), it was the trade port of Bantam that gave them their name.

 

 (Picture credit: Wix)

 

From there the word was simply imported into English just as the birds themselves were imported into European markets. And with them came the perfect word for—well, whoever the most priggish man you know is. 

 

 

 

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