Today’s Peeve

I thought for sure I’d mentioned this one before, but a quick search informs me that in fact, I haven’t:

People, be aware that you don’t “fire” arrows.  “Fire” is a term from gunpowder tech, and the days when the person in charge of making a bullet or other projectile come out of the business end of the weapon had to apply literal flame to the powder at the other end.

The proper verb for arrows is “loose” – as in, the arrow is set free from the drawn bowstring.

“Shoot” also works. The verb goes back to Anglo-Saxon scēotan, meaning “to shoot” (it was also applied to the action of throwing a spear, but mostly to bows and arrows – sceotend, literally “shooter”, usually referred to an archer.)  When firearms came along, the old verb carried over to the newest entry in the category of “weapons that work by propelling something through the air towards a target.”

But talking about “firing” arrows will lose you credibility points with every medieval-weaponry geek and archery purist out there – and there are more of them out there than you’d think.

3 thoughts on “Today’s Peeve

    1. Prior to gunpowder, firing was setting things alight: for example, to prevent his armies retreating, Jason Madeupus fired his ships.

      Therefore, the target of a flaming arrow is fired.

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