IMPORTANT NOTICE: This site is scheduled for closure in September 2016.
If you have any comments about the closure, please post them to the newsgroup.
See this page for information about the newsgroup and how to post to it.

"hoist with his own petard"

by Mark Israel
 
     [This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]

"For 'tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his owne
petar" -- Shakespeare, Hamlet III iv.  "Hoist" was in Shakespeare's
time the past participles of a verb "to hoise", which meant what "to
hoist" does now:  to lift.  A petard (see under "peter out" for the
etymology) was an explosive charge detonated by a slowly burning
fuse.  If the petard went off prematurely, then the sapper (military
engineer; Shakespeare's "enginer") who planted it would be hurled
into the air by the explosion.  (Compare "up" in "to blow up".)  A
modern rendition might be:  "It's fun to see the engineer blown up
with his own bomb."