Placemen who stick to their offices but do little work, like the barnacles which live on the ship but impede its progress.
“The redundants would be ‘Barnacles’ with a vengeance ... and the work be all the worse done for these hangers-on.” —Nineteenth Century (August, 1888, p. 280).
Spectacles, or rather reading-glasses; so called because in shape they resemble the twitchers used by farriers to keep under restraint unruly horses during the process of bleeding, dressing, or shoeing. This instrument, formerly called a barnacle, consisting of two branches joined at one end by a hinge, was fixed on the horse's nose. Dr. Latham considers the word a corruption of binocles (double-eyes), Latin, binus oculus. Another suggestion is “binnacle,” the case on board ship in which the steering compass is placed, illuminated when it is dark by a lamp.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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