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Prawl revisited

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Lancel, Dec 17, 2003.

  1. Lancel

    Lancel Well-Known Member

    Gun English

    A recent thread mentioned the meaning of the word "prawl". The word is used so little, it's not even listed in dictionaries. I think I know the reason.

    "Prawl" is used to mean a toothlike projection that keeps a grip from rotating (in one's hand). That's also what a "pawl" does. Here's my thoughts:

    Some words are a bastardization of others, this appears to be one. Examples are hearing "frustrated", knowing "flustered", saying "flustrated". Or hearing "shrapnel", knowing "scrap metal", using "scrapnel".

    Now some rachets, like a watch escapement, have two teeth separated by an arm that could be thought to sprawl over the gear teeth. You probably see where I'm going with this.

    I'm thinking that "prawl" is a case where someone heard "pawl", knew "sprawl", used "prawl". In other words, "prawl" is not a standard word but simply a noise mistakenly made, and on rare occasions written.

    'Course if enough of us make the same noise it becomes a standard word and logged as such in a dictionary. That doesn't appear to be the case here.

    Be interested if someone knows different.

    (who doesn't like long posts but now has one:))
  2. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    I think pawl is the correct term and prawl would be the one that comedian Norm Crosby, IIRC, would use. :D
  3. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member


    The definition for a pawl is a bit different from what you've indicated...

    A prawl is fixed -- it doesn't move, it only prevents movement or acts as a barrier.

    A pawl, on the other hand, does move.

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

    Pawl -- A hinged or pivoted device adapted to fit into a notch of a ratchet wheel to impart forward motion or prevent backward motion.

    You do raise some interesting possibilities, one that I think can only be answered by an unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. I've just e-mailed a friend to see if it's in his.

    I've also got a possible counter reference as to the origin of the word...

    A Google search reveals that Prawl is a not common, but also no uncommon last name. I'm wondering if it could have been named after someone who worked in a firearms factory...
  4. Justin

    Justin Moderator Staff Member

    And this is gun-related *how*?


    -Justin (whose finger is hovering over the lock button.)
  5. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    "And this is gun related *how*?"


    Let's see.

    The term Prawl has been used in years past to describe the frame knuckle behind the hammer on Smith & Wesson revolvers.

    The New Model No. 3 has a prawl, the Schofield and Old Model Russians do not.

    The term prawl appears in the glossary section of "The Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson."

    A "How much do you know about guns" quiz here a few days ago asked this very question.

    The origins of this word as it relates to firearms are apparently somewhat shrouded in mystery, as I just heard back from a friend that Prawl doesn't even appear in the OED.

    The original poster was trying to float some theories on the origin of the word prawl as it relates to firearms.

    Gun related, I do believe.
  6. Gewehr98

    Gewehr98 Well-Known Member

    Looks like Mike's finger...

    was hovering somewhere over the "right back at ya, Moderator!" button. :D
  7. Justin

    Justin Moderator Staff Member

    And Mike Irwin's in like Emeril:

    BAM! Here's the answer! :D

    Learn something new every day.
  8. Lancel

    Lancel Well-Known Member

    Gee Justin and I even used the word "Gun" in the beginning of the thread.;):)

    Thanks, Mike.
    Without more information, I'm not sure if I'll be using "prawl" much in the future - or at least no more than I've used it in the past.:)

  9. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    I just call it "saw handle" and be done with it. Who needs a new word. :uhoh:
  10. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    It's a word that's older than you or me...
  11. seeker_two

    seeker_two Well-Known Member

    Another trigger-happy moderator thwarted. Good job, Mike Irwin. :D

    I never thought about "pawl" & "prawl" being used interchangably. I'd always thought that the "pawl" was part of the cylinder-rotation mechanism on a SAA--usually the part that needed replacing most on a used SAA. And I always thought the hump on a revolver that kept your hand from riding up was called a "hump"....

    Learn something new here everyday...

  12. Azrael256

    Azrael256 Well-Known Member

    1. Naut. Each of the short stout bars made to engage with the whelps, and prevent a capstan, windlass, or winch from recoiling.
    In a capstan the pawls are now usually attached to a part of the barrel called the pawl-head, and engage with the whelps in a pawl-rim attached to the floor or platform on which the capstan works; in a windlass, etc. (formerly also in capstans) the pawl-rim forms part of the barrel, and the pawls are attached to the separate pawl-bitt or -post.

    1626 Capt. Smith Accid. Yng. Seamen 13 The Capsterne, the pawle, the whelps. 1627 I Seaman's Gram. ii. 8 The Paul is a short piece of iron made fast to the Deck, resting upon the whelps to keepe the Capstaine from recoiling. 1704 J. Harris Lex. Techn. I. s.v., They say, Heave a Pawle! That is, Heave a little more for the Pawle to get hold of the Whelps: And this they call Pawling the Capstan. 1776 Phil. Trans. LX. 88 The palls or stops+of the windlass. 1840 R. H. Dana Bef. Mast xxiv, By the force of twenty strong arms, the windlass came slowly round, pawl after pawl. 1853 Kane Grinnell Exp. xi. (1856) 83 ‘All hands’ walking round with the capstan-bars to the click of its iron pauls. 1886 J. M. Caulfeild Seamanship Notes 3 Parts of the Capstan. Drum head,+pauls, paul rim, paul stops, paul beds, whelps.

    2. A bar pivoted at one end to a support, and engaging at the other with the teeth of a ratchet-wheel or ratchet-bar, so as to hold it in a required position; a lever with a catch for the teeth of a wheel or bar.

    1729 Desaguliers in Phil. Trans. XXXVI. 197 Such a Contrivance, that the Pall or Lever+does so communicate with the Catch, that+the Catch always takes. 1792 Trans. Soc. Arts (ed. 2) III. 159 A pall or stop, which prevents the crane running back. c1865 Letheby in Circ. Sc. I. 137/1 The latter carries a double paul, which locks into the cogs. 1884 C. G. W. Lock Workshop Receipts Ser. iii. 80/2 A ratchet and pawl keeps the plates in position.

    3. Comb., as pawl-bitt, -post (Naut.), a strong vertical post in which the pawls of a windlass are fixed; pawl-head (Naut.), the part of the capstan to which the pawls are attached: see sense 1; pawl-press, a press used in bookbinding, having ratchet-wheels and pawls (Knight Dict. Mech. 1875); pawl-rim (Naut.), a notched cast-iron ring for the pawls to catch in: see sense 1; pawl-stone, a stone placed at the base of a pillar, wall, or fence, to protect it from damage by wheels.
    1867 Smyth Sailor's Word-bk., *Paul bitt+Paul rim. 1874 Thearle Naval Archit. 109 Mast and pall bitt beams, and beams under the heel of bowsprit,+must not be less in size than the midship beam.

    1897 Kipling Capt. Cour. 80 Under the yellow glare of the lamp on the *pawl-post.

    c1860 H. Stuart Seaman's Catech. 54 Parts of a Capstan. The bed, *paul rim,+drum-head, palls and bars.

    1844 H. Stephens Bk. Farm I. 151 A *pawl-stone should be placed on each side of every pillar.

    That's the OED for Pawl (complete with citations!). Mike, you're right. Prawl does not appear.
  13. BigG

    BigG Well-Known Member

    As Sherlock Holmes once stated, "Now that I know that, I'm going to do my best to forget it." ;)
  14. Mute

    Mute Well-Known Member

    Y'all prawl ain't know what y'alls talkin' about.
  15. Mike Irwin

    Mike Irwin Well-Known Member

    Man, I've so far struck out in ALL of my references here at home on the origin of this word.

    None of my "firearms dictionaries" from the 1950s through the 1970s have any reference to it.

    I can't find my master technical index for American Rifleman magazine to see what they have to say about it.

    This is aggravating.

    I KNOW they don't mean those big shrimp that you get at Japanese restaurants...
  16. Mal H

    Mal H Administrator

  17. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Well-Known Member

    Webster's New Universal Unabridged Deluxe 2nd Edition (1983) does not contain the word "prawl."

    Internet search turns up lots of people and places named "Prawl." Also lots of people clearly using the word "prawl" when they mean "pawl."

    Lancel may have nailed it...
  18. Prodigalshooter

    Prodigalshooter Well-Known Member

    I think Mute has the matter sewed up!:D
  19. Lancel

    Lancel Well-Known Member

    I suggest we retire the (non)word, "prawl".

    "Saw handle", "bump", "protuberance" or "step" might work, but I think I'll use "hump". (Not to be confused with the action of a friendly dog.:D)

  20. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Well-Known Member



    How about a poll referencing this thread? You know, "All in favor click on this selection..." ;)

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