‘The Vocabularist: How the word ‘tunnel’ went from France to England and back’


‘The Channel Tunnel has been the focus of riots and fires in recent weeks. It is noteworthy that the word “tunnel” itself moved from France to England and then back again.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first definition of tunnel, from the 15th Century, “a net for catching partridges”.

It is true that it was used to mean the sort of tube-shaped net into which birds can be coaxed. A beautiful engraving from 1678 shows partridges being gently herded into a tunnel by a man wearing a cow-skin.’

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