A-Z of Sherlockian Phraseology - Baize to Beetling

Posted by Steve Emecz on

An extract from 'The Adventure of the Wordy Companion: An A-Z guide to Sherlockian Phraseology' by Nicko Vaughan

Here are some of the 'B's from Nicko's A-Z

Baize - A coarse wool material, usually coloured green, which resembles felt and is mostly found covering snooker/billiard and card tables. In part one of The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge, it plays its part in the cryptic note delivered to, and then discarded, by Mr Aloysius Garcia. “Our own colours, green and white. Green open, white shut. Main stair, first corridor, seventh right, green baize. Godspeed – D.”

Basaltic - referring to something which is like the igneous rock of a lava flow and is often seen to display a columned structure. In part two of A Study in Scarlet the craggy terrain and unwelcoming environment over the mountains is described to the reader when Jefferson Hope, along with John and his daughter Lucy Ferrier, escape the clutches of the Mormons in the dead of night. “On the one side a great crag towered up a thousand feet or more, black, stern, and menacing, with long basaltic columns upon its rugged surface like the ribs of some petrified monster.”

Beaune - a type of wine, a red burgundy which is produced in the region around Beaune in the east of France. In The Sign of Four, poor Watson admonishes himself for not confronting Holmes about his frequent drug use but, after a bit of courage from his wine glass, feels he can approach the subject. “Yet upon that afternoon, whether it was the Beaune which I had taken with my lunch, or the additional exasperation produced by the extreme deliberation of his manner, I suddenly felt that I could hold out no longer.”

Beeswing - potassium hydrogen tartrate or cream of tartar is a by-product of making wine. It crystallizes in wine casks during fermentation and will often form on wine corks. It creates a light, flaky substance which is often found in port and bottle-aged wines. In The Adventure of the Abbey Grange Sherlock Holmes spots it in the wine glasses supposedly used by the murderers. “The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of bees-wing. The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a long, deeply-stained cork.”

Beetling - something which is projecting or standing out, a face of a rock or a person’s forehead and eyebrows. The latter, along with a beard, helped with the elated identification of the escaped convict’s body and not that of Sir Henry Baskerville, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, as Holmes and Watson turned him over in the moor. “There could be no doubt about the beetling forehead, the sunken animal eyes. It was indeed the same face which had glared upon me in the light of the candle from over the rock—the face of Selden, the criminal.”


What would you buy in slop-shop? What would you put in your lumber room? And what on earth does the obliquity of the ecliptic actually mean? This A-Z of Sherlockian Phraseology can help you find out. A handy guide to those “wordy words” and references found within the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s books featuring the world’s only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes.

This book gives explanations and definitions of the language and references used in all 60 of the original stories, a companion book, much like a paper Watson, following wherever the complete Holmes goes, dutifully explaining and narrating his meanings to the reader. Whether you’re a lifelong fan of Sherlock Homes, completely new to the books or just somebody who enjoys learning new and interesting words, this book will guide you to some of the interesting language of the time.

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