1 of 2
1
Fodder
Posted: 17 December 2007 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2800
Joined  2007-01-31

Not as in “Yonder lies da castle of my ...”, although a castle is involved.

Today’s “Wizard of Id” comic strip has an odd usage of this word.  Sir Rodney comes up to the king and says “We’re out of fodder to put in the catapult!” (The king replies “Use anything expendable,” and in the last panel we see Larsen E. Pettifogger, the local lawyer, loaded into a catapult and saying “The bar association will here about this.)

Fodder?  I get a mental picture of bales of hay being flung at the enemy, which doesn’t seem terribly effective, though I suppose you could set them afire first.

My best guess is that the cartoonist, Jeff Parker, has heard the the expression “cannon fodder”, and in a misapprehension worthy of the Geekster himself, thinks it refers to the ammunition shot from cannons rather than to the (low-ranking) troops they are used against.  If cannonballs are cannon fodder, whatever you throw at the enemy with a catapult would be catapult fodder, is how I interpret it.

Comments?  Has anybody seen such a misunderstanding of “cannon fodder” previously?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1254
Joined  2007-03-21

My best guess is that the cartoonist, Jeff Parker, has heard the the expression “cannon fodder”, and in a misapprehension worthy of the Geekster himself, thinks it refers to the ammunition shot from cannons rather than to the (low-ranking) troops they are used against.  If cannonballs are cannon fodder, whatever you throw at the enemy with a catapult would be catapult fodder, is how I interpret it.

As an infantryman during that great war, I have to say that I always thought of cannon fodder in the sense of soldiers, as those who were part of the charge IN (as in chewed up by) the cannon rather than in the field.  Your sense of the cannon as an insatiable beast eating that which it shoots makes sense now that I think about it. 

However, I like the cartoonist, didn’t think very much about it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2800
Joined  2007-01-31

As an infantryman during that great war, I have to say that I always thought of cannon fodder in the sense of soldiers, as those who were part of the charge IN (as in chewed up by) the cannon rather than in the field.  Your sense of the cannon as an insatiable beast eating that which it shoots makes sense now that I think about it.

No, no! That’s not my sense of it, that’s just my attempt to reconstruct the thinking that might lead to using “fodder” as the comic strip used it.  My sense of it (and, I think, the generally accepted sense) has always been just what you describe, the soldiers who get chewed up, whose lives are, figuratively, devoured by the cannons.

ObEtymology: The OED (under headword cannon) says of cannon-fodder:"cannon-fodder [tr. G. kanonenfutter; cf. Shakespeare’s food for powder (1 Hen. IV, IV. ii. 72)]: men regarded merely as material to be consumed in war”.  Their first cite is from 1891, but that’s from the N.E.D. (isn’t that rather circular?) so it must be older.

The Shakespeare passage goes thus:

Prince: ...But tell me, Jack, whose fellows are these that come after? 
Falstaff:  Mine, Hal, mine. 
Prince:  I did never see such pitiful rascals. 
Falstaff:  Tut, tut; good enough to toss; food for powder, food for powder; they’ll fill a pit as well as better: tush, man, mortal men, mortal men.

[ Edited: 17 December 2007 06:02 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1254
Joined  2007-03-21

men regarded merely as material to be consumed in war”.

Let me try this again.  I had what I thought was a much better and clearer response but then I hit the wheel on my mouse and ended up in another land altogether.  And my reconstruction was not helpful.

Anyway, I think I’m in agreement (wrongly as I now believe) with Jeff Parker.  The fodder, from my earlier point of view, is the gun-powder, bullet, wadding and etc, that is eaten up in the firing of the cannon.  NOT the human thingies walking around on the field in front of the cannon, which said cannon “eats” as if these “thingies” were a metaphorical “fodder.”

I think your understanding is right and mine (and Jeff Parker’s is wrong).

There are times when I miss the geek.  This conversation could go on for days.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 09:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1966
Joined  2007-02-19

It never occurred to me that “cannon-fodder” could refer to anyone else but the infantrymen who were sent “into the cannon’s mouth”. It expresses very succintly the contemptuous attitudes of generals like the first Duke of Wellington; the common soldiers who won his battles, and made him immensely rich and a Duke, were rewarded by being called by him “the scum of the earth”.

I feel sure it’s a lot older than the 19th century, and may indeed have originated in Germany. It might be a good idea to look for earlier references in German.

I’m not sure that a clever cartoonist like Mr. Parker should necessarily be well-read. How many writers are, nowadays, if it comes to that? (reaches for his antacid tablets)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 10:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

Just took a glance at Google Books.

I see “cannon fodder” from 1852.

I see “Kanonenfutter” (in German) from 1808.

I see “cannon-food” in an English translation from German in 1827. Presumably this is a translation of “Kanonenfutter”.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 17 December 2007 10:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1966
Joined  2007-02-19

Bravo, Douglas.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 05:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  809
Joined  2007-03-01

It never occurred to me that “cannon-fodder” could refer to anyone else but the infantrymen who were sent “into the cannon’s mouth”. It expresses very succintly the contemptuous attitudes of generals like the first Duke of Wellington; the common soldiers who won his battles, and made him immensely rich and a Duke, were rewarded by being called by him “the scum of the earth”.

Perhaps Wellington was just passing on the kicking, since when he was just an awkward, shy, teenage misfit his mother had openly written him off as a dead loss with the remark“My ugly boy Arthur is food for powder and nothing more. “

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1254
Joined  2007-03-21

I feel sure it’s a lot older than the 19th century, and may indeed have originated in Germany.

Duden’s German Etymology says that Kanonenfutter is a 19th c. free translation of the English food for powder.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  158
Joined  2007-02-14

Fodder means food—particularly food for animals.  It is a slightly odd use of the term, but I think it makes sense.  Food as an analogy for ammunition to “feed” a catapult makes reasonable sense.  I don’t think that you have to go through “cannon fodder”’ to understand the term.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 08:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  311
Joined  2007-02-17

Catapults are often used to throw things that might not usually be considered proper ammunition - rocks, severed heads, plague-ridden bodies, pumpkins, cows, pianos, ...

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  710
Joined  2007-02-07
JimWilton - 18 December 2007 07:45 AM

Fodder means food—particularly food for animals.  It is a slightly odd use of the term, but I think it makes sense.  Food as an analogy for ammunition to “feed” a catapult makes reasonable sense.  I don’t think that you have to go through “cannon fodder”’ to understand the term.

Not to understand the term, but I think it helps the joke. It is, after all, a lawyer joke.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  811
Joined  2007-06-20
Oecolampadius - 18 December 2007 05:49 AM

Duden’s German Etymology says that Kanonenfutter is a 19th c. free translation of the English food for powder.

So the English expression “cannon fodder” is a translation of a German expression, which was a translation of an earlier English expression, which has itself now been replaced by the English expression that is a translation of the German expression that was a translation of the earlier English expression that has been replaced in English ... 

‘Nuff respect to Will the Shake, but I can see why the powerful “cannon fodder” drove out the much weaker “food for powder” as a metaphor. Was Falstaff being uncharacteristically euphemistic,. do you think. in saying “powder” rather than “cannon”?

Actually, I don’t think the cartoonist is necessarily misunderstanding “cannon fodder” as what cannons fire, I think it’s quite likely he was looking for a short expression suitable to cover “things that can be fired from a catapult” and probably felt “ammunition” was too associated with guns; although probably his choice of word was influenced by the expression “cannon fodder” (and before anybody turns to the OED, I see it says of ammunition: “Military stores or supplies; formerly, of all kinds”.)

[ Edited: 18 December 2007 10:36 AM by Zythophile ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 18 December 2007 10:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  809
Joined  2007-03-01

Was Falstaff being uncharacteristically euphemistic,. do you think. in saying “powder” rather than “cannon”?


I doubt it. More likely he was being expansive, because “powder” as a figure can refer to all kinds and sizes of forearms, whereas “cannon” excludes handguns. I haven’t got access to my reference books right now, but I also have a notion that “cannon” in the 16th century meant only a specific size of artillery piece, not even the full range of artillery.
Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 December 2007 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  362
Joined  2007-03-05
Myridon - 18 December 2007 08:53 AM

Catapults are often used to throw things that might not usually be considered proper ammunition - rocks, severed heads, plague-ridden bodies, pumpkins, cows, pianos, ...

pianos?!!! - when?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 19 December 2007 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  311
Joined  2007-02-17
flynn999 - 19 December 2007 05:46 AM

pianos?!!! - when?

Most notably on ”Northern Exposure” (you can skip to just past the half-way point).

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
‹‹ Bored of      re-illiterate ››