➤ Originally used to carry agricultural supplies, it was most often associated with the cartage of animal manure.
Synonyms: farmer's cart, farm tipcart, dung cart.
➤ It was also used, however, by artillery units to carry tools and ammunition, and during the French Revolution it gained wide celebrity as the vehicle used to bear prisoners to the guillotine.
Synonym: instrument of punishment
Tumbrel IN USE
In coats and ties, the University of Denver's men's lacrosse team caught the five-o'clock tumbrel to the Carrier Dome. It was actually a chartered bus, . . . on its way to face off with Syracuse, the No. 1 team in the college world, national champions in 2008, national champions 2009. —John McPhee, "Pioneer: A star coach goes west," The New Yorker, March 22, 2010, 34.
A RELATED TERM
It is not altogether an accident that, while the London lamp-post has always been mild and undistinguished, the Paris lamp-post has been more historic because it has been more horrible. It has been a yet more revolutionary substitute for the guillotine — yet more revolutionary, because it was the guillotine of the mob, as distinct even from the guillotine of the Republic. They hanged aristocrats upon it. —GKC: The Uses of Diversity: A Book of Essays Google Books books.google.com, 14-15.
I account myself as something of an expert on what writer Joyce Cary once called "tumbrel remarks." A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines.
I can give you a few for flavor.
• The late queen mother, being driven in a Rolls-Royce through a stricken district of Manchester, England, said as she winced at the view, "I see no point at all in being poor."
• The Duke of St. Albans once told an interviewer that an ancestor of his had lost about 50 million pounds in a foolish speculation in South African goldfields, adding after a pause, "That was a lot of money in those days."
• The Duke of Devonshire, having been criticized in the London Times, announced in an annoyed and plaintive tone that he would no longer have the newspaper "in any of my houses."