Imagine my surprise when I looked in my email and saw a word of the day for “roland”. I instantly knew where it came from, naturally. I’d just read the Song of Roland recently, and loved it. Fighting the Moorish pagans, splitting shields and heads with swords, long white flowing beards, that last desperate blast on the trumpet (far too late, of course) — how can you not love it? The Song of Roland proves that the French knew how to fight — at one time, anyway. Those long white flowing beards inspired me to try and grow a beard on vacation recently. I won’t be sharing a picture of the results, but suffice it to say mine was neither long, nor white, nor flowing. (More like patchy, and scratchy, and wife-and-child-repelling.) Mountjoy!
noun: Someone who is an equal match for another. Typically used in the expression “to give a Roland for an Oliver” meaning “to give as good as one gets” (tit for tat).
After Roland, the legendary hero of the 11/12th century epic poem “Chanson de Roland” (Song of Roland). His tale was inspired by Charlemagne’s nephew and military leader. Oliver was friends with Roland and his equal. They fought each other but neither won. Earliest documented use: 1525. A related word is rounceval.
“My little lord, who was surrounded by savage women, poor thing, had the immense satisfaction of giving a Roland for an Oliver to an especially obnoxious young twit.”
Samara Al-Darraji; Eclipse; PublishAmerica; 2005.