Brown Bess to Brutus

Brown Bess means brown barrel. The barrels were browned to keep them from rusting. (Dutch, bus, a gun-barrel; Low German, büsse; Swedish, byssa. Our arquebus, blunderbuss.) In 1808 a process of browning was introduced, but this has, of course, nothing to do with the distinctive epithet. Probably Bess is a companion word to Bill. (See below.)

Brown Bill A kind of halbert used by English foot-soldiers before muskets were employed. We find in the mediæval ballads the expressions, “brown brand,” “brown sword,” “brown blade,” etc. Sometimes the word rusty is substituted for brown, as in Chaucer: “And in his side he had a rousty blade”; which, being the god Mars, cannot mean a bad one. Keeping the weapons bright is a modern fashion; our forefathers preferred the honour of blood stains. Some say thè weapons were varnished with a brown varnish to prevent rust, and some affirm that one Brown was a famous maker of these instruments, and that Brown Bill is a phrase similar to Armstrong gun and Colt's revolver. (See above.)

“So, with a band of bowmen and of pikes,
Brown bills and targetiers.”
Marlowe: Edward II. (1622.)
    Brown also means shining (Dutch, brun ), hence, “My bonnie brown sword,” “brown as glass,” etc., so that a “brown bill” might refer to the shining steel, and “brown Bess” to the bright barrel.

Brown Study Absence of mind; apparent thought, but real vacuity. The corresponding French expression explains it- sombre réverie. Sombre and brun both mean sad, melancholy, gloomy, dull.

“Invention flags, his brain grows muddy,
And black despair succeeds brown study.”
Congreve: An Impossible Thing.

Browns To astonish the Browns. To do or say something regardless of the annoyance it may cause or the shock it may give to Mrs. Grundy.
   Anne Boleyn had a whole host of Browns, or “country cousins,” who were welcomed at Court in the reign of Elizabeth. The queen, however, was quick to see what was gauche, and did not scruple to reprove the Browns if she noticed anything in their conduct not comme il faut. Her bluntness of speech often “astonished the Browns.”

Brownie The house spirit in Scottish superstition. He is called in England Robin Goodfellow. At night he is supposed to busy himself in doing little jobs for the family over which he presides. Farms are his favourite abode. Brownies are brown or tawny spirits, in opposition to fairies, which are fair or elegant ones. (See Fairies. )

“It is not long since every family of considerable substance was haunted by a spirit they called Browny, which did several sorts of work and this was the reason why they gave him offerings ... on what they called `Browny's stone.' ”- Martin: Scotland.

Brownists Followers of Robert Brown, of Rutlandshire, a violent opponent of the Established Church in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The present “Independents” hold pretty well the same religious tenets as the Brownists. Sir Andrew Aguecheek says:

“I'd as lief be a Brownist as á politician.” Shakespeare: Twelfth Night, iii. 2.

Browse his Jib (To ). A sailor's phrase, meaning to drink till the face is flushed and swollen. The jib means the face, and to browse here means “to fatten.”
    The only correct form of the phrase, however, is “to bowse his jib.” To bowse the jib means to haul the sail taut; and as a metaphor signifies that a man is “tight.”

Bruel The goose, in the tale of Reynard the Fox. The word means little-roarer.

Bruin One of the leaders arrayed against Hudibras. He was Talgol, a Newgate butcher, who obtained a captain's commission for valour at Naseby. He marched next Orsin (Joshua Gosling, landlord of the bear-gardens at Southwark).
   Sir Bruin. The name of the bear in the famous German beast-epic, called Reynard the Fox. (Dutch for brown.)

  By PanEris using Melati.

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