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Browbeat, High noon, Bugger, Olive branch

Created date

October 24th, 2016
High Noon movie poster

Browbeat

When someone “browbeats” another person, they’ve effectively bullied or coerced them by way of a sharply furrowed brow, harsh words, and a lot of finger pointing. The term originated in the sixteenth century as a figurative reference and remains one today.

That is, to browbeat someone is to figuratively “beat” them with an angry, lowered “brow.”

“After much browbeating by the foreman, the dissenting juror was coerced into voting for acquittal.” 

High noon

The phrase “high noon” immediately evokes images of a Western gunslinger—especially if you’ve ever seen the classic 1952 Gary Cooper film by the same name. And while we most closely associate the label with America’s Wild-West heydays, it actually dates back to the 1400s. 

In its most literal sense, “high noon” refers to 12 p.m., the time when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Over the years, however, people began using the term not only in reference to the time of day but also the peak of a historical period or event, even the peak of a person’s career.

“He plans to retire at the high noon of his career.”

Bugger

During the Middle Ages, heresy was a high crime. With the Catholic Church essentially at the “high noon” of its power, religious officials hunted so-called “enemies of God” with great vigor.

One place where they were particularly busy was in Bulgaria, which quickly became synonymous with heresy. In fact, the ancient French reference for heretics, bougre, stems from the name Bulgaria.

As is often the case, English speakers eventually adopted the French term in their own language, spelling it “bugger.” The corrupted word quickly became a sweeping reference to anyone whose sordid tastes, bad behavior, and lack of morals disrupted the natural order of society.

Oddly, what began as a derogatory expletive is, today, something of an affectionate slur.

“Worms are slippery little buggers.”

Olive branch

To extend an “olive branch” is to make an overture for peace. But why has an olive branch been an almost universal symbol of peace for so long?

Well, because its roots reach back to the Bible in the Book of Genesis. 

As the story goes, after battling floodwaters—quite literally of Biblical proportions—Noah enlisted the help of a dove to determine if his troubles were at an end. When his bird returned to him carrying an olive branch, he knew that the flood was over; there was peace.

This scene has given the olive branch its meaning and its place in history. Indeed, perhaps the most famous instance of a formal olive branch was a petition drafted by certain members of Colonial America’s Continental Congress in 1775. 

Addressed to England’s King George III, the Olive Branch Petition was colonial representatives’ last-ditch effort to peacefully settle their differences with the mother country. As we all know, it didn’t work; however, the olive branch is still commonly used as a figurative reference to peace.

“As an olive branch, the restaurant’s owner offered the angry patron a free meal.”

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