Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ever since seeing the film Moonraker, I wondered where that word came from. I just assumed it was something made up by Ian Fleming. I was incorrect. Seeing Hobson's Choice only made me wonder further: The bar in that film is named "Moonrakers", and clearly had a meaning. I finally looked it up.

The word comes from an English legend from the mid 1700s. The King's revenue officials were trying to catch some smugglers in Wiltshire in South West England. The smugglers were hiding barrels of French brandy in a local pond. A couple of the smugglers were caught one night using rakes to try to snag the barrels and bring them up. Knowing that Londoners believed Wiltshiremen to be incredibly stupid, the smugglers played dumb. Pointing to the reflection of the full moon in the water, they said, "Why, we saw a round of cheese in the water and were trying to get it out." The revenue officials believed them, and left -- thinking the locals a bunch of morons.

Depending on the context, a "moonraker" can have two meanings. It can mean "incredibly dumb and easily misled". Or it can mean someone who pretends to be an idiot in order to deceive others who are too self-important and arrogant to see through the ruse.

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