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 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,
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.
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.
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).
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