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moonrakers


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One of the stock jokes about fools is that they mistake the reflection of the full moon in a pond for a round cheese, and try to rake it out. The nickname ‘moonrakers’ is traditionally given to Wiltshire people, especially those from Bishops Cannings. It can be a jeer by outsiders; or, more often, it is proudly used by Wiltshire men themselves, with this explanation: once, some smugglers from Bishops Cannings had hidden barrels of brandy in a pond, and were spotted by Excise men while trying to retrieve them. Challenged, they replied that they were ‘only raking for that big cheese down there’, pointing at the moon's reflection. The Excise men believed them—more fools they! Exactly the same story is told in Hampshire, while ‘moonraker’ as a term for a very foolish person occurs also in Herefordshire, West Yorkshire, and Oxfordshire (Wright, 1913:181–2).

Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine 50 (1943), 278–86,411–16,481–5.


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