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Archive for March, 2012

Dumb Cluck

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 23, 2012

A dumb cluck is, well, a dull-witted, stupid person … a blockhead … a dolt.  Some will tell you it’s a corruption of the Yiddish word klutz which means blockhead, and others will tell you it’s a corruption of the German word dummkopf which also means blockhead.  Still others will tell you it has to do with how smart a chicken really is.

On March 12, 2012 the Miami Herald ran a story entitled “Local Sports Franchises Take The Prize.”  The journalist, Glenn Garvin, wrote in part:

Marlins President David Samson, thinking he was safely in the company of his fellow robber-baron plutocrats at the Beacon Council, delivered a smirking speech in which he bragged about how easily he snookered $315 million or so out of our dumb-cluck local politicians. And he doesn’t want to hear any complaints out of you, buddy. The purpose of local government is to extract your money to pump up his bottom line.

Back in February of 1991, Max Baer Jr won a $2-million award Wednesday against ABC.  He claimed that ABC had prevented him from getting the film rights to Madonna’s song “Like A Virgin” which he had hoped would form the basis of a movie he wanted to produce.  On February 21, 1991 the Herald Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina reported:

Baer — best known for his role in the 1960s TV series — has filed a multimillion dollar suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that ABC-TV tried to take advantage of Jethro’s “big, dumb cluck” image in a 1986 dispute over film rights to the hit song.

The Ann Landers column published in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on April 9, 1962 ran a letter from a writer named, Dutch Uncle.   The problem was that the businessman had hired the daughter of a friend to work for him in a secretarial position.  At first, it appeared that the biggest problem was her inability to spell, but there was more to the story as Dutch Uncle added:

Linda is a nice person and tried hard, but in addition to her lack of skills she arrives late (from 20 to 30 minutes) about three days every week.  Her absentee record is the worst in the office.  She has not worked a single Monday in nine weeks. I pay this dumb cluck $310 a month.  What can I do in view of the close relationship?

The Hartford Courant published a report by Grantland Race on March 26, 1941 entitled, “Fighter Who Beats Louis Will Have To Be Smart.”  The subtitle read:

‘No Dumb Cluck Is Going To Have Much Of A Chance,’ Says Jack Kearns In Discussing Current Crop Of Heavyweight Challengers

On December 20, 1937 an animated short was released.  The name of the short?  Why it was “The Dumb Cluck” produced by Walter Lantz (27 April 1899 – 22 March 1994), the man who brought us Chilly Willy and Woody Woodpecker.  The character of the Dumb Cluck first appeared two months earlier on October 18, 1937 in the animated short “The Keeper of the Lions.”  The Dumb Cluck was the creation of writer Charles R. Bowers (June 7, 1877 – November 26, 1946).

And let’s not forget the Three Stooges who filmed “Three Dumb Clucks” that same year!  In this movie, the Stooges are in jail when they learn that their father, Popsie-Wopsie is about to marry a gold-digger named Daisy.  Of course, they have to get out of jail and save Popsie-Wopsie and get him back home to the loving arms of Momma.

Pulp fiction writer and Iowan, Dwight V. Babcock (1909 – 1979) published a story in 1934 entitled, “Dumb Cluck.”  Like his contemporary, Raymond Chandler, Dwight V. Babcock was known for writing longer stories and reworking each story until it was a good as it could possibly be.  That 1934 story is one of those stories.

Writer Joseph Patrick McEvoy (1895 – 1958) — he eventually became a roving editor for Reader’s Digest — wrote “Denny and the Dumb Cluck” which was published by Simon and Schuster in 1930.  It told the story of a salesman with the Gleason Card Company named Denny Kerrigan and Chicago shop girl, Doris Miller — the dumb cluck of the title.  If you’re interested in knowing more about the novel, it was reviewed in Book Review Digest on page 658 in 1930.

Author Edmund Wilson only wrote three novels in his lifetime, one of which was entitled, “I Thought of Daisy” which was published in 1929.  A colleague of both Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos, Edmund Wilson‘s book was a realistic depiction of the 1920s.  The expression dumb cluck is found in this passage in the book:  

The door into the dining room opened, and Larry Mickler and Daisy appeared.

“Come on, yuh dope!” said Daisy to Pete Bird.  “What d’ye think yuh are, brooding around the kitchen?  — a cockroach?” 

“Get away, yuh dumb cluck!” replied Pete, relunctantly opening his eyes, “and leave me to my meditations!”

“Let’s leave him to his slumbers,” said Larry Mickler, who was evidently drunker than ever.  “The boyfriend’s passed out!  Too many of those rich liverwurst sandwiches!”

This American slang doesn’t seem to appear before 1929 however for the expression to be used so freely in Edmund Wilson‘s book, it had to be part of the vernacular and with that, Idiomation is willing to guess that it likely dates back to about 1920.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Go To Bed With The Chickens And Get Up With The Cows

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 21, 2012

Back in the day when farming was dependent on being able to see what was going on and clocks weren’t necessarily around yet, farmers would do as the chickens did and go to bed around dusk. There wasn’t much to do after dusk anyway, so it made sense for all to get a good night’s sleep so they could get up with the cows, shortly after daybreak. This way, the greatest amount of daylight was used to get all the chores done on the farm.

On January 5, 2011 CBC News published a story about sleep patterns and interrupted sleep entitled, “The Genes Behind Sleep Patterns.”  The article talked about circadian and homeostatic rhythms and stated in part:

The idea that someone can change his or her morning or night person status is pretty widespread. People who couldn’t get up in the morning are often seen as lazy, while those who go to bed with the chickens are seen as boring —- the types who can never last during a night on the town.

In the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” written by Harper Lee and published in 1960, the following passage is found in Chapter 24:

And so they went, down the row of laughing women, around the diningroom, refilling coffee cups, dishing out goodies as though their only regret was the temporary domestic disaster of losing Calpurnia.  The gentle hum began again.  “Yes sir, Mrs. Perkins, that J. Grimes Everett is a martyred saint, he needed to get married so they ran to the beauty parlor every Sunday afternoon soon as the sun goes down.  He goes to bed with the chickens, a crate full of sock chickens, Fred says that’s what started it all.  Fred says …”

On July 10, 1920 the Morning Leader newspaper published an article entitled, “Two Ohio Newspapermen May Fight It Out For The American Presidency.”  It read in part:

Governor Cox has just turned the half-century mark.  He was born March 31, 1870 on a farm near Jacksonburg, Butler County, Ohio.  His early training was that of a farm boy of the period, up with the cows and to bed with the chickens.  He attended the country schools, and finally the Middletown High school.

The Hartford Courant in Hartford, Connecticut published an article on December 27, 1907 entitled “Rolling Thunder Beat Bill Meader.”  It was an interesting article that revealed the younger generation’s view of the older generation by stating the following:

Some of the young bloods about town are of the opinion that residents of Manchester in the early days were a lot of old fossils who went to bed with the chickens and did not get out at all nights just because there were no electric lights to steer them home.

While the expression hasn’t been used very often in literature or news stories, the expression is what is called a Southernism and hails from the southern states in the U.S.  Since it was used so freely in this news article dating back to 1907, Idiomation believes it can easily be placed in the vernacular of the generation before 1907 putting it to some time around 1875.

That being said, maybe a good night’s sleep will reveal more in the morning when we get up with the cows.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicken Feed

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 20, 2012

Chicken feed refers to a small amount of anything especially money.  It comes from the fact that chickens can be fed grains in amounts too small for other uses but that are enough for the chickens.

Earlier this month, on March 8th, This Is Cornwall ran a news story about the youngest pupils at Falmouth Primary School and how they raised 13 newly hatched chicks.  The students fed and cared for the chicks with the help of the school staff.  The story was aptly entitled, “Cost of Keeping Hens Isn’t Chicken Feed” as the school community continues to fundraise for a coop and a plastic chicken house for their charges.

The Lodi News-Sentinel newspaper of Lodi, California ran a story on March 2, 1977 about the water resources projects that were to be suspended by the Jimmy Carter administration.  The suspensions would hopefully save the American public $5.1 billion.  The story appeared in Andrew Tully’s Capital Fare column and was entitled, “Dam Money Is Chicken Feed.”

On March 28, 1945 the front page news in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper was an article entitled, “Enclosing The Ruhr: Vital Areas In Danger.”  It read in part:

It is not too much to say that between General Patton’s Darmstadt-Aschaffenburg-Frankfurt bridgehead and the Swiss frontier there are no forces that the Third Army leader would consider as more than chicken feed while east and north-east of Frankfurt there is something very much like an open gate.

Chicken Feed was the title of a twenty-minute black-and-white short silent comedy film directed by Robert A. McGowan (22 May 1901 – 20 June 1955) and Charles Oelze (24 November 1885 –  2 August 1949), and released on November 6, 1927.  It was the 64th short from the “Our Gang” series and starred Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon and Jean Darling in the lead roles.

The Detroit Free Press carried a serialized story entitled, “Mr. Dooley On Making A Will” which was written by Finley Dunne.  Part Five was published on August 24, 1913 and the first paragraph read:

“I NEVER made a will,” said Mr. Dooley. “I didn’t want to give a headache thinkin’ iv something to put into it. A will iv mine wud be a puny little thing annyhow, an’ wan thried to file it be lible to locked up contimpt iv th’ Probate coort. Besides, I like to cause any onseemly wrangles an’ lawsuits among me heirs.”

As the story progressed, the following passage can be found:

And wit out an’ decoyed another dollar an’ aven if it come back ladin’ nawthin’ more thin a little chickenfeed, Dochney wasn’t cross about it.

While the expression isn’t used as often as the more popular “peanuts” when referring to money, the phrase first appeared in print in the memoirs of American frontiersman and statesman, Davy Crockett and published in 1836.  Davy Crockett described professional riverboat gamblers who played card games for small change, stating that gamblers made good money on their “chickenfeed” games. It would seem that the term originates with Davy Crockett and if readers can trace the expression back to before 1836, we welcome the additional information.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Henpecked

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 19, 2012

We’ve all heard about henpecked husbands and boyfriends and we’ve heard more than a few jokes about the situation.  There’s the joke about men who have to ask their wives and girlfriends permission to ask for permission and there’s the joke about men who have to hold their pay envelopes up to the light to find out if they’ve gotten a raise.

Just yesterday, the London Daily Mail newspaper published a story about famous British explorer, Captain Robert Scott depicting him as a henpecked husband.  Entitled, “Adoring Wife’s Last Hen-Pecking Letter To Her ‘Splendid’ Scott of the Antarctic” it read in part:

He was the stiff-upper-lip explorer whose death during a failed Antarctic expedition came to symbolise British stoicism in the face of extreme adversity.  But even as he raced in vain to beat a rival to the South Pole, Captain Robert Scott had another role – as a hen-pecked husband.

The Milwaukee Journal ran a two sentence news bite from Los Angeles, California on July 11, 1957 that read as follows:

Municipal Judge Robert Clifton says that henpecked husbands top the list of problem drinkers who pass in an endless parade through Los Angeles courts.  Clifton’s court handles an average of 99,000 drunk cases annually.

Twenty years before that on June 7, 1937 there was an article in the local newspaper entitled “Henpecked Men’s Wives Threaten Sit Down Strike” that spoke about events going on in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  The first few sentences of the article were:

Members of the doughty clan, the Royal Order of the Doghouse, assembled in hasty consternation today as their new-found independence hung in the balance.  The henpecked hubbies face a wifely sit-down strike.

“They’ll get no meals when we strike!” threatened Mrs. Harry Powers, Milwaukee spokesman for a prospective women’s auxiliary.  “They’ll do their own cooking then.  Those men are getting too much protection from that club of theirs.  Too many nights out a week to suit us.  If they think they can ‘love, honor’ but not ‘obey’ us they’re due for a shock.”

Yes, this was a real news story and not a joke.  In fact, it was reported that the Royal Order of the Doghouse had been formed the previous November when henpecked husbands had banded together in “common misery and defiance of wifely authority.” 

When the Philadelphia Recorder published a news story out of Cape May, New Jersey on August 5, 1890 about the Secretary of State in which it was reported:

He cannot retire to a cave and promulgate his theories to rivals who have no personal ends to serve in carrying them out.  No, indeed; nor can he afford to give up the chief post in the Cabinet, in order that Reed and McKinley may secure it.  He wouldn’t be half so powerful as a political martyr as a henpecked Secretary of State.  To what purpose would he have endured so many petty humiliations.  He must go on, and he knows it.  Let us hear no more, therefore, about the impending crisis at Cape May Point.  He has only to wait, as he kept the President waiting while he breakfasted on Saturday morning.

Of course, the word was well-known and on June 20, 1849, the Charleston Mercury was happy to run an advertisement for George Oates with regards to new books available at his store located at 234 King Street in Charleston, South Carolina.  One of the new arrivals was a book entitled “Family Failings” by the author of “The Henpecked Husband.”

Along the 19th century, a “hen frigate” was a ship with the captain’s wife on board.  Unfortunately, more times than not, the wife would interfere with the duty or regulations and the crew took to referring to captains who couldn’t control their wives as henpecked husbands.  In fact, the term henpecked is found in the “1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” by Francis Grose as well as the “1828 Webster’s American Dictionary” by Noah Webster.

It was also found in “Don Juan” by Lord Byron (January 22, 1788 – April 19, 1824) in Canto I, Stanza 22 where he wrote:

But O ye lords of ladies intellectual
Inform us truly, have they not henpecked you all?

The Spectator was a daily magazine publication from 1711 to 1712,  founded by English politician and writer Joseph Addison (1 May 1672 – 17 June 1719) and Irish politician and writer, Richard Steele (12 March 1672 – 1 September 1729).  In the September 12, 1712 edition No. 482, readers were treated to a story entitled “The Fraternity of The Henpecked.”  

The earliest use of this expression dates back to English poet and satirist Samuel Butler (14 February 1613 – 25 September 1680) who wrote this prose in 1671:

The henpect man rides behind his wife and lets her wear the spurs and govern the reins.  He is a kind of preposterous animal, that being curbed in goes with his tail forwards.  He is subordinate and ministerial to his wife, who commands in chief, and he dares do nothing without her order.

And that is an accurate description of a henpecked man in modern times.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Riding Roughshod

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 8, 2012

If you know someone who is riding roughshod over someone or something, you’re talking about someone who is acting how they want, ignoring rules and traditions, and imposing their will on others with complete disregard for how it will affect them.

Just yesterday on March 7th, the Washington Examiner newspaper reported on Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recent appearance on the television news program “Face the Nation” in an article entitled, “One-Party Martin O’Malley Hates Two-Party Accountability.”  The article read in part:

They mean how dare Republicans form some kind of opposition party. (Maryland Democrats especially seem dismally unaware that we have a two-party system for a reason.)  They mean how dare Republicans keep them from riding roughshod over the electorate, abusing the Constitution and raiding the taxpayers’ wallets at will.

The expression is one that brings to mind a clear picture of what’s being described as can be seen in the news story “Whom The Gods Would Destroy” published in the Pittsburgh Press on January 10, 1937 where the opening paragraph read:

If anybody ever asked for trouble, Hitler is the man.  For several years now, he has been riding roughshod over international treaties and stepping on sensitive toes.  And he has been getting away with it for three very good reasons.

Fifty years before that, on May 26, 1887 the New York Times published a story on the Vedder Whisky Tax bill in a story entitled, “Warm Words At Albany.”   It was a very spirited report that began with this announcement:

The 74 Republicans of the Assembly were throttled by the 54 Democrats to-day and preventing from riding roughshod over them and outraging every principle of decency and fair play.

In Chapter 19 of “Man and Wife” written by William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) and published in 1870, the author writes of the main character entertaining five guests – two who are middle-aged with the other three under thirty — in his library.   One of the characters says:

“Saw your name down in the newspaper for the Foot-Race; and said, when we asked him if he’d taken the odds, he’d lay any odds we liked against you in the other Race at the University — meaning, old boy, your Degree. Nasty, that about the Degree — in the opinion of Number One. Bad taste in Sir Patrick to rake up what we never mention among ourselves — in the opinion of Number Two. Un-English to sneer at a man in that way behind his back — in the opinion of Number Three. Bring him to book, Delamayn. Your name’s in the papers; he can’t ride roughshod over You.”

And the expression appeared in the Nelson Examiner in New Zealand on December 17, 1864 in a news story quite simply entitled, “New Bills.”  The Colonial Secretary was speaking on a bill to authorize the Governor to take land for roads and military purposes.  He was reported as having said in part:

But if I am not ready to accept amendments of members upon this question, let it not be said that I am riding roughshod over the House; but let them rather say – I speak of myself, and I speak also the sentiments of my own colleagues, “Here are a set of men sitting upon this bench willing to undergo all the risk of failure, the risk of losing political reputation; to risk all that is most dear to public men to say nothing of private inconvenience.”

When Thomas Moore wrote Twopenny Post-Bag in 1813, he dedicated it to Stephen Woolriche, esq.  In the part entitled “Intercepted Letters, Etc.” in Letter I, he wrote:

‘Tis a scheme of the Romanists, so help me God!
To ride over your most Royal Highness roughshod
Excuse, Sir, my tears — they’re from loyalty’s source –
Bad enough ’twas for Troy to be sackt by a Horse,
But for us to be ruined by Ponies still worse!

Robert Burns the “Election Ballad” which was given at the close of the contest for representing the Dumfries Burghs in 1790.  The poem was addressed to Robert Graham of Fintry which included this verse:

Now for my friends’ and brethren’s sakes,
And for my dear-lov’d Land o’ Cakes,
I pray with holy fire: —
Lord, send a rough-shod troop o’ Hell
O’er a’ wad Scotland buy or sell,
To grind them in the mire!

Seeing that the expression already spoke of the behavior that is associated with the expression today, it’s reasonable to believe that this expression and its meaning hails back at least another two generations to the early 1700s.

In fact, back in the 1680s it was said that a horse that was roughshod was one that had nails intentionally left projecting from its shoes to prevent slippage.  The idea was that the nail heads would give horses at a racetrack better traction so that they could ride roughshod over the competition.  And so somewhere between the 1680s and the early 1700s, the expression referred to people as well as to horses.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ruckus

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 7, 2012

Ruckus is one of those interesting manufactured words that has made its way into legitimate dictionaries.

On August 23, 2008 the Burbank Leader newspaper ran a story about 60 teachers gathered in the Joaquin Miller Elementary School library for a workshop on music education.  The workshop was a rousing success as teachers broke library rules, banging on drums and playing kazoos.  In fact, it was such a spirit affair that the headline read:

Teachers Make A Ruckus For Education:  Arts Seminar On Teaching Kids Music Immerses District Educators In Rhythm And Resonance

On December 14, 1961 the Florence Times in Alabama ran Peter Edson’s column on the Industrial Unions Department Conference held in Washington, DC.  The article was entitled, “Reuther And Building Trades Stir Jurisdictional Brew” and reported on the internal warfare in building trades craft unions against the AFL-CIO. The first paragraph read:

There’s another side of the story to the latest ruckus stirred up by United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther.

The Miami News reported about what was colloquially referred to as Jacksonville’s favourite winter sport on February 15, 1922.  Supposedly this winter sport was none other than chasing the fire apparatus due to the fact that the fire department was sorely overworked according to Chief Thomas W. Haney.  In fact, the news article made it clear just how crazy things were at fire stations in town.

It seems that Jacksonville, as befitting a big town, has a system whereby the major station are always named.  For instance, when No. 1 goes on a run, station No. 2 hastens to fill its place.  No. 3 moving up to No. 2, etc.  As a result, an awful ruckus turns loose when the fire bell rings.  The screeching sirens penetrate the air as the various apparatus scurries in all directions.  No. 1 station responds to an alarm and passes No. 2 racing noisily to man the station made vacant.  The fire-chasing fan chases hither and thither, not knowing which apparatus to follow.

The Random House Dictionary indicates that the word is an Americanism that was first documented in 1885.   However, the following is found in the Tahlequah, OK newspaper, the Cherokee Advocate published of 24 February 1882:

It is but right that they should know how the matter stands, and have fair warning to avoid a “pending” rucus of some sort.

For those who are wondering what two words are responsible for this hybrid, it comes from the German word for back, rücken, and ruction which was a corruption of the word “insurrection” that had been cropped to just ruction. The word ruckus quickly became a popular synonym for any loud and potentially destructive quarrel or disturbance.

Based on this information, Idiomation believes that ruckus in its various forms was part of the vernacular as early as the first half of the 1800s.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Make No Bones About It

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 6, 2012

When someone says they make no bones about what they’re about to say, what they’re trying to convey is that they are going to plainly state how they think or feel on a subject even though it might embarrass or offend others.  In other words, the speaker is about to be forthright and candid while giving his or her opinion to the audience at large.

The Rock Hill Herald ran a story on July 28, 1976 about Lawrence Paros of Providence, Rhode Island and author of the book “The Great American Cliché.”  He had moved to Rhode Island in 1971 to direct a federal learning program for high school students, however, he grew tired of what he referred to as working within the system, quit and began collecting clichés that became the basis of his book filled with 50,000 entries.  The newspaper article was entitled: 

Make No Bones About It, He’s The King Of Clichés

Back on June 16, 1902, the New York Times published an article dealing with the beet sugar Senators, the United States government’s Reciprocity bill and a rebate of between twenty and fifty percent.  In the end, the government would not yield to the Senators’ demands and the newspaper reported that one Senator stated the following:

“It threatens beet sugar men with ostracism if we do not abandon the plan of Cuban relief to which he told us time and time again he would make no objection.  Even now, in spite of his message, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d sign a rebate bill and make no bones about it.”

In Part II: Chapter VIII of the book “The Idiot” written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (11 November 1821 – 9 February 1881) which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger in 1868 and 1869 – and translated by Frederick Whishaw for publication in 1887, the author wrote:

“As to the article,” said Hippolyte in his croaking voice, “I have told you already that we none of us approve of it! There is the writer,” he added, pointing to the boxer, who sat beside him. “I quite admit that he has written it in his old regimental manner, with an equal disregard for style and decency. I know he is a cross between a fool and an adventurer; I make no bones about telling him so to his face every day. But after all he is half justified; publicity is the lawful right of every man; consequently, Burdovsky is not excepted. Let him answer for his own blunders. As to the objection which I made just now in the name of all, to the presence of your friends, I think I ought to explain, gentlemen, that I only did so to assert our rights, though we really wished to have witnesses; we had agreed unanimously upon the point before we came in. We do not care who your witnesses may be, or whether they are your friends or not. As they cannot fail to recognize Burdovsky’s right (seeing that it is mathematically demonstrable), it is just as well that the witnesses should be your friends. The truth will only be more plainly evident.”

The expression hasn’t been used as often as one might think, however in the book “Paraphrase Of Luke” by Desiderius Erasmus and translated into English by Nicholas in 1548, the command given to Abraham with regards to sacrificing his son, Isaac, is given as:

He made no bones about it but went to offer up his son.

Going back almost another 100 years, the Paston Letters reveal that a version of the expression was used in a letter written in 1459.   For those who may not know about the Paston Letters, it is a collection of letters and papers, consisting correspondence from members, friends and acquaintances of the Paston family, written between 1422 and 1509.  In 1459, a dispute arose between Paston and Sir John Fastolf’s family.  When the verdict in the case was rendered with no objection from either side, Paston wrote:

And fond that tyme no bonys in the matere.
Translation:  and found that time no bones in the matter

This is a significant passage since the expression during the 1400s was that people were making bones about things which indicated that people were raising a fuss over things.  There’s some discussion that the original expression relates to soups with bones in them, with implication being that soups with bones in them were unpleasant to swallow.

In any case, the fact that the expression was already in common usage, having found a place in Paston’s letter of 1459, indicates that the expression is most likely from at least two generations before it was used. This puts the saying to at least 1400.

Posted in Idioms from the 15th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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