Buy A Friend A Book Week (and beards)

Buy A Friend A Book WeekI do. The irrepressible (not that you’d want to) Debra Hamel is running another Buy A Friend A Book Week. Across the blogosphere, word geeks are a-chatter and readers are carefully selecting books to send their friends. I’ve considered running a counter promotion called ‘Buy An Enemy A Book Week’ but there are only so many copies of Life of Pi.

Win a copy of my book!

To celebrate BAFAB Week, I’m giving away one signed copy of my science fiction novel, Déjà Vu. To win it, all you have to do is add a comment to this post. You can provide a reason that illustrates how deserving you are, if you want, but your entry will be judged solely on your use of the word ‘beard’.


Writers don’t seem to have beards any more. Sure, you’ve got your Hemmingways, Kings, and, well…various others, but it is no exaggeration to say they’re sadly lacking from the writing population at large. I used to work in a psychology department, and we had an impressive number of beards. I would venture that the beardless men were somewhat frowned upon. Anyway, in preparation for my winter hibernation, a certain amount of hairiness has seized my chin and gripped my jowls. (See pictorial evidence below.)

There’s always a debate when one grows a beard. To what extent will it repel the ladies? Well, since I’m spoken for, I don’t need to worry about that. Will it itch? Perhaps. Will its insulating properties cause my brain to overheat during light exercise? Certainly. So I was vacillating about whether to shave it off. Last night, however, the girlfriend and I took receipt of two friends who have arrived from Germany, and one of them asked me about this unholy fur on my face, using the German for beard, ‘Bart’. Ah-hah! I thought. There is clearly an etymological connection between ‘beard’ and ‘bard’. I’ll keep the beard!

During a quick visit to the OED, which confirmed that my initial intuition about the connection was quite, quite wrong, I came across a number of phrases under the entry for ‘beard’ that I feel duty-bound to share with you, dear reader.

Phrase Meaning
in spite of or maugre any one’s beard in defiance of or direct opposition to his purpose
to be, meet, or run in any one’s beard to oppose him openly and resolutely, to BEARD.
to take by the beard to attack resolutely
to make a man’s beard (lit.) to dress his beard, (fig.) to outwit or delude him
to make a man’s beard without a razor (in later sense) to behead him
to put something against a man’s beard to taunt him with it
to one’s beard to one’s face, openly

Examples of usage: “Can you believe the Prime Minister of Great Britain would stoop so low as to take Mr Hussein by the beard? It comes as little surprise, perhaps, given the latter’s constant bearding and the frankly canine persistence that drives him to shove his weapons of mass destruction in Mr Blair’s beard, and, famously, other beards. One would hardly be surprised if our illustrious premier took Mr Hussein’s beard without a razor. The whole situation beggars my beard.”

So! Think up your own expression that involves the word ‘beard’ and post a comment below! The best will get a copy of my book.

Me with beard; Copyright (c) The Beard

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

20 thoughts on “Buy A Friend A Book Week (and beards)”

  1. To braid the beard – make things appear as they are not

    Mr. Bush has braided the beard on the issue of WMD.

    To suck the beard – to in essense “kiss up” to another

    The appearance of Mr. Blair sucking the beard of Mr. Bush has forced him from office.

    Hope you enjoy!

  2. Very good, Tom. You are correct to surmise that a beard can only be an advantage in such a competition.

    ‘Suck the beard’ is good.

    Old timer detective to rookie cop: “Don’t suck my beard, kid.”

  3. It isn’t just the beards – I’m terribly worried about the new generation of fantasy writers who don’t wear hats. It just ain’t right…

  4. I must run in the OED’s beard. English ‘beard’ and German ‘bart’ are indeed related, and I will take any man by the beard, and then *make* that man’s beard with a razor (or a dull spoon) should he dare say otherwise.

    I’m incapable of growing a beard, myself. Maybe that’s why so many of my characters seem to have them. And please don’t go in my beard by suggesting it’s because I write historical fiction. No, I *like* beards, and when I grow up (40-45?) I will have a massive one.


  5. Hi Joe – I’ll have a chance to check out Pratchett’s beard/hat combo when he comes to Exeter in the near future. I’ll give it a quick tug before security wrestle me to the ground. I have a feeling that whole thing is a one-piece assembly that is dropped on his head each morning a la Wallace’s tank-top putter-onner.

  6. Let go of my beard, Martin! English ‘beard’ and German ‘bart’ are indeed related, but I meant there was no (apparent) connection to the English word ‘bard’ (which is Celtic, I think).

    Beardly yours,

  7. A beard is man’s natural state. I love beards. In fact I once contemplated making a Flickr collection of men with beards — see this post —
    — but never seriously got around to it.
    I fell for my partner when he had a beard, but about 3 weeks after I started seeing him he shaved it off. I’ve tried persuading him to regrow it but, 23 years later, he still hasn’t. Curses!
    But there is always Viggo (Aragorn) .

  8. Most obvious one I can think is actually a real one. The token girlfriend or wife of a gay guy is often called “a beard” because she’s just there to conceal his true sexuality.

    I remember a hilarious trick somebody played on Captain Haddock in Tintin – just before he went to bed, they asked him if he slept with his beard above or below the covers. Haddock was up all night wondering.

    Oh, and if you have a small goatee beard, you’re evil. Like ‘Evil Spock’ in that episode of Star Trek. And in South Park, where the kids went to a parallel dimension and they all had beards.

  9. Although this isn’t a ‘saying’, I wanted to share this quote about beards with you– from The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins. Made me laugh when I read it 🙂

    “In the year 1844, the fact of a man’s not shaving was regarded by the enlightened majority of the English nation as a proof of unsoundness of intellect.”

    “He was at that very time…one of the sharpest men of business in London…but what did these advantages avail him, in the estimation of his neighbours,…when he wore a hairy certificate of lunacy of the lower part of his face?”

  10. I once had someone come to my blog by googling this question:

    “How do you shave your neck with a beard?”

  11. Roger, I wish I could summon some surprise at that…but I’m just too jaundiced. (Good title for a post, though.)

  12. “Nibbling at the beard”

    That is, to have arrived at a state of destitution (in condition, thought, action, etc.) due to attrition. (As in one who is so starved that his only sustenance is gotten from the crumbs that remain in his beard from meals long eaten.)

    Example: Though his initial works were highly lauded, the film maker has been nibbling at the beard for some time.

  13. My romantic entanglements have only ever been with men with beards – however they have had to be full sets. Moustaches, goatees and variations will not do. Frankly I think they look a bit sad – as if the hormone level is lacking. I think it is the cave woman in me.

    My best beloved has only ever shaved his beard off once (for any extended period) and was eventually forced to grow it back again because our two year old refused to have anything to do with him. In fact he cried when the beardless father approached. It may have been the beardless face or it may have been the lacerations – shaving, as well as being time-consuming is also a skilful activity, it appears.

    Sometimes the bestbeloved has to shave the beard off in order to wear a gas mask to go on ‘t’plant’. This is obviously a disturbing time for me and I welcome the new bristly growth like the first buds of spring.

    One final note: I used to think that beards gave Arctic explorers additional protection during expeditions but apparently this is not the case – beards in fact can cause frostbite. I am sure where I read this but it does explain why the Inuit face tend to be quite beardless.

    Enough, enough. I seem to know more about beards than is altogether healthy. I am never coming near this blog again in case you start me off on somethng else. I really must go away and do something.

  14. I have stumbled upon your blog and am now terrified by all this talk of beards and the Life of Pi in one posting!!
    However, am I too late to win the signed copy?

  15. Ok. I was terrified – but now I return.
    I have searched the BNC for humourous qirks with the word beard in them. And there are none. Because beards are really really terrifying things!
    But here are some BNC beard entries:

    CDN 2181 I sure thought there was a writer hidden behind that beard of yours.’

    FPF 385 His massive head was framed by red hair that met beard spreading to his chest. (see how terrifying!)

    G3B 567 And with the beard of the Emperor

    HGJ 1756 He had shaved off his beard. (I like this one!)

    I love the BNC. But then again, I am sad like that!
    (Is that better?)

  16. Not bad, Caroline, but you have to come up with your own (or at least plagiarise in silence)! BTW, I’m jealous that you have access to a corpus…so much more useful than a dictionary when you’ve stared at a sentence for an hour and the prepositions don’t seem right anymore.

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