Bee to Before the Mast
Bee A social gathering for some useful work. The object generally precedes the word, as a spelling -
bee (a gathering to compete in spelling). There are apple-bees, husking-bees, and half a dozen other
sorts of bees or gatherings. It is an old Devonshire custom, which was carried across the Atlantic in
Bee-line The line that a bee, takes in making for the hive; the shortest distance between two given points.
Our footmarks, seen afterwards, showed that we had steered a bee-line to the brig.- Kane: Arctic Explorations,
vol. i. chap. xvii. p. 198.
Jupiter was nourished by bees in infancy. (See Athenian Bee, p. 72, col. 1.)
Pindar is said to have
been nourished by bees with honey instead of milk.
The coins of Ephesus had a bee on the reverse.
Greeks consecrated bees to the moon.
With the Romans a flight of bees was considered a bad omen.
Appian (Civil War, book ii.) says a swarm of bees lighted on the altar and prognosticated the fatal issue
of the battle of Pharsalia.
The priestesses of Ceres were called bees.
In Christian Art St. Ambrose is
represented with a beehive, from the tradition that a swarm of bees settled on his mouth in his infancy.
Beef Ox The former is Norman, and the latter Saxon. The Normans had the cooked meat, and when
set before them used the word they were accustomed to. The Saxon was the herdsman, and while the
beast was under his charge called it by its Saxon name.
Old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon title while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen; but
becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to
consume him.- Ivanhoe. Weaver's beef of Colchester, i.e. sprats, caught abundantly in the neighbourhood.
Beefeaters Yeomen of the Guard in the royal household, appointed, in 1485, by Henry VII., to form part
of the royal train in banquets and other grand occasions. The old theory was that the word means an
attendant on the royal buffets, Anglicised into buffeters or buffeteers, and corrupted into Beefeaters;
but Professor Skeat says no such word as buffeter has yet been found in any book; nor does buffetier
exist in French.
A plausible reply to this objection is that the word may have got corrupted almost ab
initio in those unlettered days; and the earliest quotation of Beefeater, already adduced, is above 150
years from the institution of the force, and even then the allusions are either satirical or humorous: as
Begone, yee greedy beefe-eaters, y' are best (Histriomastix, iii. 1; A.D. 1610); Bows, or Beefeaters, as
the French were pleased to terme us (1628); You beef-eater, you saucy cur (1671). Not one of the
quotations fixes the word on the Yeomen of the Guard, and that the English have been called Beefeaters
none will deny. Even if the allusion given above could be certainly affixed to Yeomen of the Guard it
would only prove that 150 or 160 years after their establishment in the palace they were so called (corruptly,
humorously or otherwise).
Arguments in favour of the old derivations: -
(1) Certainly Henry VII.
himself did not call these yeomen beef-eaters. He was as much French as Welsh, and must have
been familiar with the buffet (bu-fey); he had no spark of humour in his constitution, and it is extremely
doubtful whether beef was a standing dish at the time, certainly it was not so in Wales. We have a good
number of menus extant of the period, but beef does not appear in any of them.
(2) We have a host of
similar corruptions in our language, as Andrew Macs (q.v.), Billy-ruffians (see Bellerophon), Bull and
Mouth (q.v.), Charles's Wain (q.v.), Bag-o'-Nails, Goat and Compasses, Sparrow-grass (asparagus),
ancient (ensign), lutestring (lustring, from lustre), Dog-cheap (god-kepe, i.e. a good bargain), and
many more of the same sort.
(3) There can be no doubt that the beefeaters waited at the royal table,
for in 1602 we read that the dishes were brought in by the halberdiers [beefeaters], who are fine, big
fellows (quoted in Notes and Queries, February 4th, 1893, p. 86).
(4) If beef was a general food in the
sixteenth century, which is extremely doubtful, it would be supremely ridiculous to call a few yeomen
eaters of beef, unless beef was restricted to them. In the present Argentine Republic, beef dried, called
jerked beef, is the common diet, and it would be foolish indeed to restrict the phrase eaters of jerked
beef to some halfscore waiters at the President's table.
(5) That the word buffeteer or buffetier is not to