To reject a candidate for literary honours because he is not up
to the required mark. The rejected candidate is said to be plucked.
When degrees are conferred the name of each person is read out
before he is presented to the
Vice-Chancellor. The proctor used at one time to walk once up and
down the room, and anyone who objected to the degree being conferred
might signify his dissent by plucking or twitching the proctor's
gown. This was occasionally done by tradesmen to whom the candidate was
in debt; but now all persons likely to be objected to, either by
tradesmen or examiners, know it beforehand, and keep away. They are
virtually plucked, but not really so.
A case of pluck.
An instance of one who has been plucked: as “Tom Jones is a case of
pluck,” i.e. is a plucked man.
A man of pluck.
Of courage or spirit. The pluck is the heart, liver, and whatever
else is “plucked” away from the chest of a sheep or hog. We also use
the expressions bold heart, lily—livered, a man of
another kidney, bowels of mercy, a vein of fun, it raised
his bile, etc. (See Liver.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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