April 29, 2011

Lobsterbacks and a Royal Wedding



     Yesterday, while reviewing information for my novel, I came across the word lobsterback. What the heck, I thought. What does it mean to a New Englander who likes an occasional lobster?

     I picked up a book that was lounging in my house, I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases. It offers the following discussion on the word lobsterback: The British side of the Revolutionary War had the redcoats, also called Lobsters (England 1643; America 1770); lobsterbacks and bloody backs (American use since 1770). All these, of course, referred to the British soldiers’ bright red uniform jackets.*  


     When I woke up just after 5:00 a. m. this morning I fully intended to return to my warm bed for the rest of my night’s rest. However, my husband Monte, who happened to be working on the computer, asked me if I had awakened to watch the British Royal Wedding of William and Kate, scheduled to be aired live on BBCA. The actual wedding was to begin at 11:00 a. m. British time, or 6:00 a. m. United States time. Since I wasn’t too tired I decided to switch the television channel to BBCA at 5:30 a. m.

     Nancy Lee, my sister who lives in Buffalo, New York, said last night that she was going to set her alarm clock for 2:30 a. m. to watch the festivities I don’t know what television channel she was watching, but I knew we would be enjoying the wedding together, although we live six hours driving time apart. How BBCA described the wedding, as a nice communal, unifying, English experience was working for us too.


     I turned to my computer, where I found lobsterback defined as A british soldier who faught against the soon to be Americans in the American Revolutionary war. They were called lobster backs because they wore red coats;** A term that patriots used before and during the revolutionary war referring to the British. The British wore red coats..hence lobsterbacks. It was considered very offensive and Slang for an annoying british person who is arrogant and cant stop boasting about how much better there country is than America;  An archaic slur for a British person – still used humorously today (British Army used to wear red coats – lobsters are red). That dirty Lobster back has bad teeth.** relates the red coat explanation for lobsterback, and adds another possible explanation: British soldiers were whipped so frequently by their officers that their backs became scarred. Multiple scars might make their bare backs resemble the segmented shells of lobsters… but disclaims this explanation: I can’t imagine that the Patriot army would have seen their enemy shirtless often enough to make this explanation plausible. I believe the red coat theory to be correct. Perhaps British soldiers once called each other lobsterbacks because of scarring, but I suspect not.***


     As I viewed the wedding scenes, there were often shots of a sea of red coats (with lines of gold braid sewn on the backs) I’m certain no one referred to the wearers as lobsterbacks. Instead, I saw evidence of much admiration, pomp, and…circumstance.

     Even being  a New Englander, I also doubt that I would purchase a mug, t-shirt, or cap with these definitions imprinted on them. Nor would I opt to own, display or give lobsterback cards or calendars that can be purchased online.

     I called Nancy Lee at 7:00 a. m. and we shared our thoughts about the wedding. She is a pomp and glamour person, while I normally could care less about that aspect of life. What we do have in common is the draw of weddings. 



*I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases by Stuart Berg Flexner, pp 303      





Hats Make a Statement

Hats at a Royal Wedding

The Red Tuque


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