Hoist on her own Petard

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.


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