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This sentence is from a novel about a party going to hunt buffalos and my question is about the meaning of this sentence "missed the lights" and this is the complete sentence:

He said:

Whoever shot her (a buffalo cow), missed the lights; more than likely, this one just plain bled to death. Probably left behind by the main herd.

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2 Answers 2

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Lights is another word for lungs. So I think it meant they were aiming to shoot the buffalo in the lungs, but missed.

This video recommends a kill shot in the lungs of a buffalo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnPVjKkOozw

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  • Thank you so much.this meaning make sense.
    – So Gh
    Jan 27 at 2:39
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    Glad to help. You can accept my answer by clicking on the tick mark on the left.
    – Pete
    Jan 27 at 5:43
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    I thought about "lights" meaning "lungs" but didn't know that they were an accepted target area for shooting buffalo (I was also thinking of American Bison rather than Cape Buffalo so thanks for the information). I also suspect that "lights" would only be used in this sense for food animals as I've encountered it mainly as a butchery term.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 27 at 7:53
  • "I...didn't know that they were an accepted target area for shooting buffalo " Neither did I. But knowing lights=lungs, it seemed like a likely meaning. I Googled for information on shooting, and found the video quite quickly.
    – Pete
    Jan 27 at 17:17
  • @BoldBen This is about American bison, but the book calls them buffalo
    – Henry
    Jan 27 at 17:54
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Cambridge

lights
animal lungs eaten as food

There is a strong tradition of use in the phrase “livers and lights”.

Wordsense

livers and lights (English)

Origin & history

From the most prominent organs, the liver and the lights (lungs); probably influenced by alliteration. Noun

livers and lights (pl.) (plural only) (UK) Offal; The internal organs of an animal, especially when used as food.

2007, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Iron Tree: "Helpless, the riders are borne into the Marsh, or a freshwater lake or even, so it is said in Grïmnørsland, the salt sea. After the waters close over their heads they are not seen again, although sometimes their livers and lights are found cast up on the shore."
2009, Andrew Sherburne, Memoirs of Andrew Sherburne, page 113: "The livers and lights of sheep, cattle, &c. were well boiled, chopped fine, seasoned with pepper and salt, and filled into the small intestines of those animals; and a piece from seven to nine inches long, sold to us for sixpence, York currency;" (by extension) Innards; entrails.
1884, Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: "... for I forgot he was old King Lear and a drownded A-rab all in one, and it most scared the livers and lights out of me."
1898, Uncle Jake's Story: The South Bend Bear Hunt, The Cyclopædia of Wit and Humor, page 30: "It's all as true as Gospel; and I can whip the livers and lights out of any crowd that disputes it."
1918, James Joyce, Exiles: "D'ye hear me? I'll cut ye open. I'll cut the livers and lights out o'ye."

Hence the threatening use of the word in dramatic highway robberies “Your liver or your lights!” (For which, strangely, I find no reference. It was common in playground games in my youth).

To miss the lights is hence to fail to shoot the lungs.

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