Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Send Him Packing

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 18, 2010

If you want to dismiss an individual peremptorily, it’s as  simple as sending him or her packing.  The book “Popular Antiquities of Great Britain: The Origin of our Vulgar and Provincial Customs, Ceremonies and Superstitions” written in 1872 by John Brand, M.A., Fellow and Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London (England) contains the phrase on page 59 in the story “Sorcerer or Magician.”

GARDENER:
If he can once compass him, and get him in Lob’s pound, he’ll make nothing of him, but speak a few hard words to him, and perhaps bind him over to his good behaviour for a thousand years.

COACHMAN:
Ay, ay, he’ll send him packing to his grave again with a flea in his ear, I warrant him.

However, the phrase, “send him packing” goes back to William Shakespeare’s Henry IV written in 1596 where, in Part I, the following exchange is found between Falstaff and Henry:

FALSTAFF:
What manner of man is he?

HOSTESS QUICKLY:
An old man.

FALSTAFF:
What doth gravity out of his bed at midnight? Shall I give him his answer?

HENRY:
Prithee, do, Jack.

FALSTAFF:
‘Faith, and I’ll send him packing.

Shakespeare thought the phrase was so effective that he also used it in his play King Lear written between 1603 and 1606 in which we hear Ragan say:

“My father with her is quarter-master still,
 And many times restrains her of her will:
 But if he were with me, and served me so,
 I’d send him packing somewhere else to go.
 I’d entertain him with such slender cost
 That he should quickly wish to change his host.”

So once again, the prize goes to William Shakespeare for having penned the phrase “send him packing” that is now solidly entrenched in the English language.

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