Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Pluck!

To pluck is to grab and pull, sometimes sharply (as with eyebrows and tweezers or a chicken being parted from its feathers), sometimes gently (as when withdrawing a dummy from a sleeping infant’s mouth, or pulling music from a stringed instrument). To pluck an object also implies a kind of rescue (as in from a car teetering on the edge of a cliff — or from obscurity).

To have pluck is also to have courage and daring — the kind needed to achieve all of the above acts of plucking. To be described as “plucky” is to be associated with fortuitous nerve, the kind most often attributed to boys who have yet to develop fear.

One needs to be plucky in order to eat pluck — the collective name for a freshly slaughtered animal’s heart, liver, lungs (“lights”) and trachea. Of all the names for offal, pluck is the prettiest and most descriptive, since to retrieve these organs one has to pluck them from the carcass.

In butchery, you can tell someone to “pluck off” and all it means is get to work you lazy sod.

A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1852

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