animal lungs eaten as food
There is a strong tradition of use in the phrase “livers and lights”.
livers and lights (English)
Origin & history
From the most prominent organs, the liver and the lights (lungs); probably influenced by alliteration.
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.