The other day I had a weird compulsion to look up the word “petard” in the dictionary. This came from a family discussion about local politics, and someone (probably my Dad), made a reference to one of our local politicians being hoist on his own petard. I know that this means that the person in question was caught in a trap of his own making. But I wasn’t sure what petard actually meant. Maybe a sabre?
So I looked it up in askOxford. A petard is an explosive device in a metal or wooden box. My handy-dandy paper dictionary provides this definition: an explosive device in a metal cone. Which brings all kinds of imagery to bear when thinking about hoisting on one’s own petard.
The point of this little anecdote is that I had been operating with incorrect understanding of the concept for decades, because I assumed that I knew the answer, and was too lazy to look it up. One of my professors in B-School used to say, “make no un-tested assumptions”. I should have learned that lesson 20 years ago.