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Pistols

So called from Pistoja, in Tuscany, where they were invented in 1545. (Latin, pistorium.)

To discharge one's pistol in the air.
To fight a man of straw; to fight harmlessly in order to make up a foolish quarrel.

“Dr. Réyille has discharged his pistol in the air [that is, he pretends to fight against me, but discharges his shot against objections which I never made].” —W. E. Gladstone: Nineteenth Centary, November, 1885.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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