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A wooden paddle-shaped implement formerly used in washing clothes for beating and stirring; the word then came to denote the small racket used in the game of battledore and shuttlecock, the forerunner of badminton.

The word is recorded from Middle English, and may come ultimately from Provençal batedor ‘beater’.

not know a B from a battledore be completely illiterate or ignorant; the saying is based on the resemblance in shape of a battledore to a horn-book, from which children traditionally learned to read.

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