Sunday, 4 December 2011

The buzz

In Friday 2nd December’s Metro there is an article about some poor celebrity who is addicted to fame.  He states, ‘We’re chasing the buzz’.

Wondering when ‘the buzz’ started, I was pleased to have taken a note when looking at Sir John Reresby’s Memoirs (1682).  Some political brouhaha was going on, ‘the phenaticks haveing buzzed it abroad’, as he puts it.  The OED gives the first documented use of 'buzz' in this way (buss, actually) as sixteenth century, with an ‘implied’ use in the fourteenth century, and the origin as onomatopoeic (good job the dictionary was to hand).  One of the buzzes in January 1682 was the visit of the ambassador of the Sultan of Fez and Morocco, who brought a present of ‘two Lyons and 30 Ostriges’.  The lions were dispatched to the Tower, while the ostriches were let loose in St James’s Park, though evidently some of them were sent out of London, as Sir Thomas Browne seems to have had one in his garden.

The royal response was perhaps typical of the king known as ‘Old Rowley’:  ‘… his Majesty laughed, and said he knew nothing more proper to send by way of return than a flock of geese.’  Actually a rather more tactful consignment of 300 flintlock muskets was sent.  Ostrich diplomacy in January 1682, and now 'panda diplomacy' in December 2011.  Hmm.

Memo - 'brouhaha' and 'Old Rowley'.

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