Hatchet-man was originally California slang for "hired Chinese assassin" (1880), later extended figuratively to journalists who attacked the reputation of a public figure (1944).
O.E. byrgan "to raise a mound, hide, bury, inter," akin to beorgan "to shelter," from P.Gmc. *burzjanan "protection, shelter" (cf. O.N. bjarga, Sw. berga, Ger. bergen, Goth. bairgan "to save, preserve"), from PIE base *bhergh- "protect, preserve" (cf. O.C.S. brego "I preserve, guard"). The O.E. -y- was
a short "oo" sound, like modern Fr. -u-. It normally transformed into Mod.Eng. -i- (cf. bridge, kiss, listen, sister), but in bury and a few other words (merry, knell) it retains a Kentish change to "e" that took place in the late O.E. period. In the West Midlands, meanwhile, the O.E. -y- sound persisted, slightly modified over time, giving the standard modern pronunciation of blush, much, church.