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Old buffer redux

A few clarifications, following up on yesterday's poll.

"Lord X was an old buffer."

This is an ambiguous statement.
The author clearly means Lord X was a clownish or mocked old man.
The author clearly means Lord X was an old petty officer.
Other, to be explained in a comment.

What is the difference between an old duffer and an old buffer, with respect to human beings? (the_alchemist asked, I'd love to know too.)

Also on the subject of language recently: C wasn't familiar with the phrase "to phone in a performance". major_clanger assures me it's an Americanism.

I'd never encountered "the subject in hand" before, only "the subject at hand"; yet, from online discussions, the former is apparently much more widespread and more multinational than the latter.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
I think "clownish or mocked" is too strong. A bit doddery and/or set in his ways and/or slightly deaf and ignoring the fact might be closer
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for refining on what it might mean. I do appreciate it.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
I'd agree with m'learned friend above on the precise shadings of the term...
Dec. 23rd, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I also concur.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I wasn't aware of buffer as a term for a CPO, but even given that meaning I'd assume that Lord X would have been an officer rather than a non-comm, and that the author therefore meant the term as a synonym for duffer.

On 'phoning it in': Sarah says that it's an Americanism, also heard as 'dialing in a performance,' but that UK theatre types would recognise (and occasionally use) the phrase.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Thank you for the clarification; and also, on checking with Sarah about "phoning it in"!
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
Also, if there is a recorded example of a peer of the realm who was also a petty officer in the navy I'd be curious to know when, where and how. At least after about 1830. I can just see a very young peer being rated Midshipman or Master's Mate before that date.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
Also "phoning in a performance" is certainly au courant in Toronto. I heard Isabel Bayrakdarian's Pamina earlier this year described thusly.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
Excellent. Thank you for Toronto evidence. (Alas, I cannot generalize from that to the rest of Canada, as you know.)
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
I'm familiar with "phoning it in", and would not have thought it an Americanism.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
I clicked 'other' because I think 'clownish or mocked' is too strong. Calling someone an old buffer might be affectionate if slightly exasperated term. Set in his ways and stubborn about it rather than clownish.
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
I am so grateful for language clarifications and the constellation of what this phrase might connote. Thank you!
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
I think it's fascinating to try to articulate the meaning of a term I have heard and used so often but never thought about
Dec. 22nd, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
"Phoning in" a performance (acting, job, etc.) of some sort is certainly widely used here in the US.
Dec. 23rd, 2011 06:20 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure 'phoning it in' is American in origin--some vague recollection is telling me it comes out of sports commentary but it seems to be viral now.

Dec. 23rd, 2011 09:39 am (UTC)
'Old duffer' implies an element of direct military action in the old man's (and it is man, not person) past that old buffer lacks - see meanings around 'duff up'. I'd have no problem with the former being applied to a retired non-comissioned officer in any service. 'Old buffer' carries (for me) an implication of past uniform or office without the associated element of action - to buff is to polish so perhaps batman or steward? Either implies a certain lack of brains and initiative coupled with rigidity of personal habits based on past military service, and neither quite works with 'Lord X' imho.
Dec. 23rd, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
For me an "old buffer" is a slightly less condemnatory than "old duffer" who is slightly foolish. Neither have any military connotations for me - just age and upper-middle class at least.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )