I love words, and I am always amused by the different meanings of a word, especially when they’re slightly out of the way. So, today’s word is “tailor”. Yes, it’s a man who makes clothes, originally mainly for men, and now for everybody; but now the word has an upmarket connotation, and few of us have a tailor to design and make our clothes to order (though I have just watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on DVD, Le Carré’s Smiley masterpiece, based on the game for divining your career from plum stones – "tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief”). The tailor is, in folk tales, the man who cuts up the cloth - but in the trade, he's the cutter, and the tailor is the man who stitches them together.
But did you know, tailors are also small fish, and a kind of caterpillar? And:
Nine tailors make a man – a contemptuous expression, suggesting that tailors were of such poor physique that nine of them would make a real man. But also, the nine strokes of the funeral bell that announce the death of a man - "tailor" may be a corruption of "teller", a stroke on a bell. See, in a a light hearted murder mystery, but one evoking the quiet desolation of the Fens, Dorothy Sayers' Nine Tailors.
It’s a tailor’s war – a World War II saying, meaning I know not what.
To tailor a shot – to bungle a shot at a bird or a deer, injuring but not killing it (I came across this in John Buchan's John McNab).