Excerpt from "The Babe and the Dragon", by P.G. Wodehouse (1902).

...The lady’s steady and critical inspection of his style of carving a chicken completed his downfall. His previous experience of carving had been limited to those entertainments which went by the name of “study-gorges,” where, if you wanted to help a chicken, you took hold of one leg, invited an accomplice to attach himself to the other, and pulled.

I looked up "gorges" and found different meanings. There's one connected with eating (eating much), but I am at a loss how to combine it with "study" (perhaps, "preparations"?)...

  • It is probably a one-off usage. The issue is not only with 'gorge' (which can mean an activity of eating too much), but also with 'study' (is this the room or the activity, as in an 'all-night study, or something else?) and 'entertainment', which besides its everyday meanings also had several meanings that are no longer in use. The Captain was a boys' magazine, so you could find someone who was a boy in England in 1902 and ask them... :) What involves a gorge, a chicken, two boys, and 'an entertainment? I dunno. – Alan Carmack Jun 29 '16 at 2:40
  • What about "a course of gourmandizing"? – V.V. Jun 29 '16 at 3:18
  • Well, "a course of gormandizing" is ambiguous. What do you mean by that? – Alan Carmack Jun 29 '16 at 3:25
  • It probably is a one-off, "study-gorges" doesn't seem to show up on Ngrams. – Peter Jun 29 '16 at 3:26
  • 1
    "help" is an odd verb. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 29 '16 at 13:42

The character's "previous experience of carving" occurred when he was at school: specifically, at a classic English boarding school ("public school"). There three or four boys, usually close friends, shared a room called a "study".

(I have no idea whether this system of accommodation was universal, or whether it survives today, but it's common to all the Victorian and Edwardian school stories I've read, from Arnold to Kipling and Wodehouse. Hogwarts appears to have the same system but doesn't use the term study.)

A "study-gorge" is presumably schoolboy slang for a feast at which the friends brought large quantities of food to their study and consumed it there.

  • Presumably so, although the "character" had never been a border and it seems ate most his meals at home with his parents. – Alan Carmack Jun 29 '16 at 15:01
  • Note that the sentence is actually just saying "he's terrible at carving a chicken because his only experience is ripping them in half." – Epicedion Jun 29 '16 at 17:02
  • AlanCarmack - I see that you did more than I and actually read the work in question! --But we may conjecture that a study-gorge is not a formal meal taken at home or in a school dining-hall but a sort of supplemental socio-culinary episode; I seem to recall Tom Brown, Stalky & Co. and Mike and Psmith indulging extravagantly at teas taken in their studies. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 29 '16 at 22:37

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