PPRuNe Forums

PPRuNe Forums (https://www.pprune.org/)
-   Aviation History and Nostalgia (https://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia-86/)
-   -   "Gone for a Burton" (https://www.pprune.org/aviation-history-nostalgia/575205-gone-burton.html)

deanm 24th Feb 2016 02:29

"Gone for a Burton"
 
The colloquial phrase "Gone for a Burton" is generally understood to refer to someone who has died, been killed or gone missing.

Apparently, it was in widespread use in the RAF during WWII, during which the phrase migrated to the US.

However - the origin is unclear: some believe it refers to Burton's Ale (meaning the absent person has 'nicked off' to the pub for a pint, or to the tailor, Burtons, who supplied almost all demob suits provided to returning armed forces personnel.

Nevertheless, the RAF connection appears strongest:

Gone for a burton - meaning and origin.

Can anyone here shed light?!

Dean

seafire6b 24th Feb 2016 04:08

No doubt whatsoever in my mind, I've heard the other theories but I'm sure it's RAF slang, referring to Burton, "the tailor of taste". Much diminished now, but they used to have at least one branch, frequently more, in almost every UK town and city, a total of over 400 shops.

Many years ago when I was a young lad, I actually asked my dad, no longer with us, but was a pilot with the RAF during the 1939-1945 "unpleasantness", how the term "went for a Burton" had originated. I think even then I had the feeling it was aviation-related

With a sad look he quietly replied, "Son, that means getting a tailor-made suit, wooden, flying crew for the use of." Post-war he'd gone on to become an airline pilot, but never spoke of any operational wartime experiences, so I think that sentence summed it up.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montague_Burton


Edit : Incidentally, perhaps another well known idiom also came from that same enterprise. When, amongst others, ex-forces personnel went for their new suits, they'd get a jacket, trousers, waistcoat and then maybe a tie, a shirt, and so on. That would've been the whole works, or "the full Monty" (as in Montague Burton). Not just dressing the nation, but contributing to the language too!


'

PAXboy 24th Feb 2016 10:06

I grew up with the phrase. My father (WWII for 4.5 years) used the phrase a lot. Example: If some domestic electrical appliance had failed, he would say, "That's gone for a Burton."

Ah, if only I could ask but he went for a Burton in 2001.

TyroPicard 24th Feb 2016 16:34

Many years ago I heard the following on ?Radio4?.....
During WW2 RAF W/T operators did morse code training in Liverpool, in rooms above a branch of Burton the tailor. Each day of the course trainees had to be faster at sending and receiving than the previous day, if not they were chopped from the course. Then they went down the stairs "for a burton".
Not saying it's the derivation.... but it is a nice story.
TP

A and C 24th Feb 2016 17:13

From what I can understand the term was late 20's early 30's RAF slang for someone who's engine had Quit and had forced landed, the idea being they would search for a pub to telephone for help a have a beer at the same time.

As with all living language things moved on and with the coming of WW2 the expression took on a much darker meaning.

FlightlessParrot 24th Feb 2016 20:44

I have no clue about the real origin of this phrase, but I doubt the connection with Burton the Tailors.

1. I have actually had suits made by Burton: I have never heard of such a suit being called "a Burton," and it seems not to be idiomatic for the English of the time. *"A Burton's" might be possible, but I've never heard it.

2. The connection with demob suits is just too late for the origin of the phrase.

3. Does it fit with the demographics of the RAF? Burton's were definitely one up from The Fifty Shilling Tailor, but I'm not sure they were officer class.

The explanation I've heard is the Burton ale one, but I don't put much faith in that, either. Sometimes the origin of words and phrases is just lost. How about the origin of "gremlin"?

Wander00 24th Feb 2016 21:11

ISTR Burtons as an authorised No 1 SD tailor

deanm 25th Feb 2016 02:42

Both?!
 
Fascinating responses, folks - thanks!

I suspect that both versions may simultaneously be authentic (i.e. beer & bespoke tailors!)

Dean

lederhosen 25th Feb 2016 07:19

A long time ago I had some involvement with Bass one of the big Burton breweries and at the time the largest pub landlord in Britain. The story I heard there was that the phrase originated during the first world war in the trenches as a euphemism for someone having died.

It was considered bad luck to talk about death and so like the similar 'buying the farm' or 'he's bought it' as a way of saying he's gone to a better place (e.g. in this case down the pub), the phrase entered into popular parlance.

There was also an advertising campaign between the wars themed on someone missing from a group with the title 'he's gone for a Burton' most probably building on this cultural meme. So there is evidence that the phrase goes back considerably earlier than WW2.

Haraka 25th Feb 2016 08:08

Those inhabitants of "The Towers" ( before it went comprehensive) will remember all the "Gieves" and "City's" pantomime for uniform fitting, with Burtons considered very "Infra dig" for officers in those days. So I doubt the tailor origins of the term before then.
Thread drifting a bit, there was also the "Poulson and Skone" show for fitting officers' shoes, with one having one's foot drawn around on a piece of brown paper as these shoes " are made personally for Sir"
Funny then how mine turned up with "Size 10 " printed on the insole.

BEagle 25th Feb 2016 11:08

Actually it was 'Poulson and Skone'...

When the shoes eventually turned up in stages, it was found that the toecaps were larger than they should have been - which meant even more bulling than ever....:uhoh:

One chap had been chopped before his shoes arrived - another was still waiting for his 'tailored' shoes to arrive, so the rep. just said "These'll do you, Sir" and fobbed them off onto him.

As for 'gone for a Burton', I always thought that it meant that the chap had gone for a bespoke wooden overcoat :confused:

Flybiker7000 25th Feb 2016 19:41


......a bespoke wooden overcoat .
'Single-room flat - With lid' :-o

spekesoftly 25th Feb 2016 21:19


Actually it was 'Poulson and Skone'...
To be absolutely correct, it was 'Poulsen, Skone & Co., LTD.'

I still have a receipt from early 1969 - Box Oxfords 4-7-6 !


And a receipt from R. E. City Ltd - RAF SD Uniform 35-0-0

FlightlessParrot 26th Feb 2016 21:31

I have spent a little time with the Oxford English Dictionary and everyone's favourite search engine on this (in the course of which I discovered to my surprise that "Take a dim view" was regarded as RAF slang in the 1940s).

1. OED (which is generally regarded in the EngLang biz as about as reliable as you can get) says, bleakly:

None of the several colourful explanations of the origin of the expression is authenticated by contemporary printed evidence.

2. There's a rather reliable looking site which discusses "burton": World Wide Words: Gone for a Burton
As it says, the theory of a pre-war advertisement is plausible and appealing, but unfortunately there is absolutely no evidence for it whatever. I did a Google Image search, and got plenty of adverts for Burton Ales, but not one example of this missing chap advert. Given how many people are interested in this question, the argument from silence seems strong.

3. Some people want to make it rhyming slang, with Burton as the first of a pair of words, the second word in the phrase bearing the rhyme. The best they can do is "Burton on Trent" = "went", which is pathetic and ungrammatical.

Sometimes, we just can't know the origin of phrases. What we could know is what people thought they meant when they said it. Here we have people who are proper informants who can tell us what people were thinking of when they said "Gone for a Burton": were you thinking of ale? Or was it just something one said?

Captain Dart 26th Feb 2016 22:42

In my experience of reading World War 2 aviation history and narratives, I too found that the phrase seemed to relate to equipment failure more often than human death or disappearance. Men 'bought it', 'went west' or 'got the chop'. But often it would be, 'Skipper, the radio's just gone for a Burton'.

ExSp33db1rd 27th Feb 2016 01:02


........'Skipper, the radio's just gone for a Burton'.
Heard of a WAAF going into the workshop and banging an aircraft radio down on the bench. "What's wrong with that, said the Sergeant technician ? " "It's fcuked " she replied "well, but the little bugger over there." he said.

and then she reported him for using obscene language.

Allan Lupton 27th Feb 2016 08:58


Originally Posted by FlightlessParrot (Post 9283237)
1. OED (which is generally regarded in the EngLang biz as about as reliable as you can get) says, bleakly:
Quote
None of the several colourful explanations of the origin of the expression is authenticated by contemporary printed evidence.

That's the OED in a nutshell: it has always looked for the printed evidence and is therefore out of its depth when dealing with the spoken language. No shame in that, but just don't expect anything else.

People, as opposed to equipment, certainly "went for a Burton" in period and it referred to those who were killed, and not those who died later (or naturally).

FlightlessParrot 27th Feb 2016 10:06


That's the OED in a nutshell: it has always looked for the printed evidence and is therefore out of its depth when dealing with the spoken language. No shame in that, but just don't expect anything else.
True that, and my professional use of the OED is mostly concerned with the 14th c., where the lag is something shocking. But for such a recent usage, in a slang which was the focus of so much favourable attention, in print, in its own time, the fact that the new breed of OED editors, who are all down with spoken language and such, can find no persuasive evidence seems pretty telling.

Two points: in the 21st c., I think the contrast with written evidence is the sort of saloon bar make-it-up-as-you-go-along that gave us "posh" as an acronym.

Second, what are the personal motivations for an OED editor? Do you get more fame and brownie points for saying "The origin is this ...", or "I don't know..."

Note that they have retreated from an earlier inclination towards the Burton ale theory.

I think their confessed ignorance is more than the product of a bias towards the written form of the language.

fauteuil volant 27th Feb 2016 10:47


During WW2 RAF W/T operators did morse code training in Liverpool, in rooms above a branch of Burton the tailor.
I seem to recollect that over most branches of Burtons there was a billiard hall. Is my recollection defective? If not, can anyone suggest the reason for the Burton and billiard hall association?

chevvron 27th Feb 2016 10:52

Gone for a .....
 
Nothing to do with the subject but:
Back in the '70s, Ronnie Barker had a tv show in which one of the characters he played was a partially deaf country squire.
One day searching his house for another of the characters in the sketch, a female character said 'perhaps he's gone over an abyss'
'Gone for a what?' replies Ronnie.

Think about it.

Oh all right, I'll get me coat.

goudie 27th Feb 2016 11:08


If not, can anyone suggest the reason for the Burton and billiard hall association?
OSYNKY Was the name of the Polish tailor who founded Burtons. He placed snooker/billiard rooms above his shops to encourage 'footfall' past his shop windows.

fauteuil volant 27th Feb 2016 11:38

Thank you, goudie.

PAXboy 27th Feb 2016 15:31

I agree that Burton cannot be demob suits and my father seemed to use it for hardware. People always 'went West' or 'got the chop', someone being made redundant would also 'get the chop'.

It may also be germane that my paternal grandfather was WWI so my father would have collected WWI slang in his childhood.

After the OED, does anyone have a copy of Brewers' Phrase & Fable to hand?

Tankertrashnav 27th Feb 2016 15:53


Originally Posted by Haraka (Post 9281294)
Those inhabitants of "The Towers" ( before it went comprehensive) will remember all the "Gieves" and "City's" pantomime for uniform fitting, with Burtons considered very "Infra dig" for officers in those days. So I doubt the tailor origins of the term before then.

I didn't go through Sleaford Tech, but even at OCTU we had the same snobbery about Burtons. A few months earlier we had been scruffy oiks and here we were pretending we knew all about bespoke tailoring. The bubble was burst when one of our number told us he had worked for Burtons before joining the RAF, and spilled the beans that Moss Bros used to contract a lot of their work out to Burtons, even to the extent of getting them to sew in the Moss Bros label.

Re Burtons/snooker halls - I got my first suit from Burtons in Carlisle and played my first game of snooker upstairs.

Innominate 27th Feb 2016 16:21

My copy of Brewer (1985) is not particularly helpful. ""Widely used in the services in World War II and said to have originated in the RAF."

It then makes the link between Burton on Trent and beer (it is, after all, Brewer's Dictionary...) "A token explanation for a person's absence could be 'He has gone for a Burton'" and then suggest that someone "down in the drink" might have gone for a Burton.

I have a vague recollection of hearing about beer adverts which featured a couple of chaps saying "Where's [name]?" "He's gone for a Burton..." but that might be wishful thinking on my part.

Barksdale Boy 28th Feb 2016 03:11

I've a vague recollection of hearing that the phrase derives from the fact that the bodies of USAAF KIA were repatriated through RAF Burtonwood, but it could just be my memory playing tricks with me.

megan 28th Feb 2016 04:34

A page that poses the question with possibilities

Gone for a burton - meaning and origin.

The Burton beer ad is mentioned elsewhere on the net, and as the above page mentions, if it were so, someone should have been able to access it by now.

MaxR 28th Feb 2016 15:41

Several people on here doubt the Burton the Tailor explanation simply because it is not an establishment frequented by the officer class.

So, what proportion of WWII aircrew were officers?

goudie 28th Feb 2016 15:56

Burtons certainly had a good share of the demob suit market



Raymond Burton - Telegraph

Herod 28th Feb 2016 18:30

Trawling the net I've managed to find a beer mat with the phrase "why don't you go for a Burton?" No date on it though, so it's a bit chicken and egg.

AtomKraft 28th Feb 2016 21:23

It certainly features in that old poem about Beaufighters.

http://www.johnderbyshire.com/Readings/beau.html

bobward 1st Mar 2016 12:07

Many years ago I worked with a former hair yars e techie who would often remark that so and so had gone for a 'posh burton'. When I asked, he told me that, before WW2, when 'officers and gentlemen' failed their flying training, they were sent off to be measured for a smart suit before rejoining civvy street.

Hope this helps
Regards
BW

GOLF_BRAVO_ZULU 1st Mar 2016 12:51


Innominate
I have a vague recollection of hearing about beer adverts which featured a couple of chaps saying "Where's [name]?" "He's gone for a Burton..." but that might be wishful thinking on my part.
Happily not wishful, I've seen the advert. The Bald Buck in Lichfield was a bloody awful pub but they had a number of beer adverts in a quiet corner and that was amongst them. It wasn't a couple of chaps, it was a parade.

lederhosen 2nd Mar 2016 13:03

There is a Marston's beer mat on ebay with the the theme 'gone for a burton'. I am sure I have seen other advertising materials in the past. But the beer mat is finally proof positive that the phrase has been used this way. This does not mean that the phrase may not mean something different to other people. That is after all the way a living language works and develops.

FlightlessParrot 3rd Mar 2016 01:17

Please could we have pictures or links for the beer mat and the advert? If either or both date from before 1941, it could clear up a lexicographical puzzle.

Trivial, perhaps, but what isn't?

lederhosen 3rd Mar 2016 07:38

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beer-Coaster...p2047675.l2557

I am not sure of the date when this beer mat was produced. What it proves is that a brewery has been using the phrase in this way. Whether this is a repeat of an earlier campaign or something entirely different is difficult to say.

Sorry I do not seem to be able to post this picture. But if you google 'beer coaster gone for a marstons bitter' you should be able to find it.

FlightlessParrot 3rd Mar 2016 09:20


Originally Posted by lederhosen (Post 9288166)
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Beer-Coaster...p2047675.l2557

I am not sure of the date when this beer mat was produced. What it proves is that a brewery has been using the phrase in this way. Whether this is a repeat of an earlier campaign or something entirely different is difficult to say.

Sorry I do not seem to be able to post this picture. But if you google 'beer coaster gone for a marstons bitter' you should be able to find it.

Alas, that beer coaster is pretty modern (the postcode on the back of it is of a post-WW II type), so it is very interesting, but sadly not evidence of the origin of the phrase.

Danny42C 13th Mar 2016 12:10

Wander00 (your #7), and subsequent Posts.

...ISTR Burtons as an authorised No 1 SD tailor...
I clearly recall that in '53 or '54, Monty's sold me:

A No.1 SD for 13/15.

A Crombie Greatcoat for 15/15.

A barathea battledress (No.?) for 12/15. (Multiply by 26 for inflation)

whether authorised or not. The trick was to be of a stock size (I was lucky). The barathea and Crombie were of equal quality with the cloths used by Gieves and the Forty Other Thieves. Indeed I've heard that these were not above using Monty as a sub-contractor (having supplied their own labels to be sewn in). But then you hear all sorts of things.

Danny.

Wander00 13th Mar 2016 14:20

Aah, so my memory is not failing. Thanks, Danny


All times are GMT. The time now is 22:46.


Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.