Of buffaloes and peasants not knowing to feel the sword


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Keith Farrell is one of my favorite author and sword companion especially if it comes to teach me the Scottish way of fencing from the later centuries than my late medieval sources. In his latest post “Reconsidering the buffalo” he reminded me of a fencing term that I explored some years ago but never brought to virtual or real paper: the Büffel.

Büffel in the dictionaries

The Büffel translated as “buffalo” is a small version of the Auerochs covered with red hairs according to Adelung and Lexer. The Auerochs was eradicated in Germany in the 16th century.

Looking up the DWB we see that the Büffel is a hairy wild ox. Martin Luther uses the term “Büffelarbeit” (work of a buffalo) to describe dull work done mechanically without using or needing the brain. In the Schweizerisches Idiotikon we find the description of a strong but not very smart young man who could be led by some smart words like the ox by the ring through the nose. But in the Swiss dialect the Büffel is seen as a male horned animal and so the metaphor of leading an ox by the ring in the nose matches not the wild version of cattle as it is described in less southern German languages.

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