Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Literary Quiz

The trouble with most literary quizzes nowadays is that you can usually cheat by googling the relevant word or phrase. This one is different. So here goes: In which famous 20th century British novel is the word "buer" used several times, and what does the word mean?

Fleeting fame and finite mortality in the blogosphere await the first correct answer.


  1. Graham Greene - Brighton Rock

    'Buer' is a President of Hell?

    Clever little Minx!

  2. Ha! Minx, you ain't half clever. half because I don't think you've got the meaning quite right in the context of the book. You've read the book, yes?

  3. I looked really closely into me scrying mirror - I thought I'd got it right! And err, ummm, well, ummm - I read The Quiet American, is that any help?

  4. I've read the book - long time ago, but I remember looking at Brighton in a completely different light afterwards.
    Buer is certainly some form of Demon, but maybe more of a personal one, looks after you when you're bad.
    In the context of Brighton Rock, Greene uses it to describe Ida, who is a woman of loose morals.

  5. Quite right, John - funny, I thought you would know the answer to this. I haven't been able to determine the etymology of "buer" but in my mind it rhymes with "huer" which is a Scottish pronunciation of "whore", the meaning of the word in the novel.

  6. Better late than never, I guess, but here's the dope on buer, from OED:buer

    (bjU@(r)) Also 9 bure, buor, bewer. [Orig. unknown.]

    A woman, spec. one of loose character.

    1807 J. Stagg Misc. Poems (1808) 144 A bure her neame was Meg, A winsome weel far'd body. 1886 W. Newton Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 8 Buor, a woman. 1889 Barrère & Leland Dict. Slang I. 110/2 Bewer, (tinkers' slang), a woman.+ Young bew'r, a girl. 1938 G. Greene Brighton Rock i. i. 8 ‘Christ,’ the boy said, ‘won't anybody stop that buer's mouth?’ Ibid. vi. i. 228 That was what always happened if you took up with anything but a buer; they gave you the air.