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Thread: Booby trap

  1. #1
    rappiolla is offline Newbie
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    Default Booby trap

    According to my Concise Oxford English Dictionary, a booby trap is "an onject containing a concealed explosive designed to detonate when someone touches it".

    However I recall I once read in a book about a practical joke consisting in placing a bucket full of water resting on the top of a door ajar, so anyone pushing it open would get drenched. If my memory doesn't fail me, this was referred to as a booby trap. Was it a liberal use of the expression or perhaps this meaning is now dated? The book was by P.G.Wodehouse so it was probably written in the second or 3rd decade of last century.

  2. #2
    Anglika is offline No Longer With Us
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    Default Re: Booby trap

    A booby trap is anything designed to surprise and/or shock. It can be an explosive trap.

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    rappiolla is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Booby trap

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    A booby trap is anything designed to surprise and/or shock. It can be an explosive trap.
    That's what I thought. The definition in the COED refers to that particular meaning only.

    Thanks for the clarification.

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    vil is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Booby trap

    Hi rappiolla,

    The term “booby trap” comes from the implication such a trap will be set off by a foolish person (a booby). The first use of the term is from the 1850’, when it was used to describe “practical jokes” that are set off by their victim. The meaning of “practical jokes” is “a mischievous trick played on a person, especially one that causes the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. In fact , the term is still used to describe a type of firework which explodes loudly when string protruding from either end are pulled, which may be tied to a bucket on the top of the door, so by pressing of the door handle the bucket returns and you would be drenched. (the reminiscence of your childhood)

    Booby traps can also be applied as defense weapons against unwelcome guests, and some people set up traps in their homes to keep people from entering. These civilian booby traps typically are non-lethal method, such as a strong electric shock, rather than explosives.

    A booby trap does not necessarily incorporate explosives in its construction, though they commonly do. Deadfall Traps employing
    heavily objects set up to fall on and crash the victim who disturbs the triggering mechanism are also a booby trap. So is a concealed pit with sharpened stakes in the bottom.

    Regards.

    V.

  5. #5
    rappiolla is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Booby trap

    Thanks, I was momentarily somewhat mislead by the fact that only a very specific meaning appeared in my dictionary, so I thought the other meanings might be obsolete. But it just turns out my dictionary is not so comprehensive after all.

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