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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.


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.