Bus - buss

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Most students know about buses as public motor transport. Few, if any, will write it in the old-fashioned way, which betrays its etymology: 'bus. This is the abbreviated, colloquial form of a Latin word omnibus, 'for all'.

  • There are also three homophones of bus, two verbs and two nouns. All are more or less archaic, and written buss. , with two '-s-'s. The plurals of the nouns, and the 3rd person singular of the verbs, are all written busses. This distinguishes their spelling from that of the modern [motor-] buses.
    • Students of Shakespeare and other Early Modern writers will find the form buss meaning 'a kiss [particularly a demonstrative and noisy one]'. Falstaff says, in Shakespeare's Henry IV, part 2 to his paramour Doll Tearsheet, "Thou dost give me flattering busses", to which she replies "By my troth, I kiss thee with a most constant heart" (II iv 333). The verb 'to buss' means 'to kiss in that fashion'.
    • Students of marine history may come across buss as the name of a type of vessel: from the fourteenth century, a large cargo ship designed for heavy loads; from the sixteenth century, increasingly used for a two- or three-masted fishing-boat used mostly to catch herring. (It was sometimes called a herring-buss.)
    • A second verb 'to buss', a spelling variant of an equally archaic busk meaning 'to prepare or equip [oneself]', 'to dress or ornament', became used for 'to tie a [fishing] fly or hook', and recently only some festivals of 'riding the bounds' of some towns in the Scottish borders, where the flags are bussed with ribbons - that is, they have ribbons tied on them for the bonny show.