Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Alive And Kicking

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 30, 2010

The phrase “alive and kicking” has had some interesting limelight time over the decades.  It’s been used as a film title for the Richard Harris movie in 1959 and as a Broadway title in 1950 for a musical revue and a pop song by Simple Minds in 1985 and an album title by Scottish rock band Nazareth in 2003 and more. 

In 1877, Benham & Harrison & J.B.  Harvey in collaboration with E. Durrant and Co published “The Tendring Hundred in the Olden Time: A Series of Sketches by J. Yelloly Watson, F.G.S.”  In the book, the following is written:

The result of this transaction was that the King’s favourite obtained a grant of the reversing of Lord Darcy’s estates, sold one-half to Lord Darcy’s son-in-law, kept half for another bargain, and put, meanwhile, £24,000 in his pocket.  But Lord Darcy was alive and kicking, and he afterwards himself found favour at Court, and was made Lord-Lieutenant of Essex, and on the 5th July, 1621, created Viscount Colchester, with remainder to the aforesaid Sir Thomas Savage, Baronet, of Rochsavage (who had married his eldest daughter) and their issue with a grant of £8 per annum out of the fee-farm rent of the town of Colchester.

In the 1850 book “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions” by Charles Mackay, he wrote:

After such prophets as they, the almanac-makers hardly deserve to be mentioned: no, not even the renowned Partridge, whose wonderful prognostications set all England agog in 1708, and whose death, at a time when he was still alive and kicking, was so pleasantly and satisfactorily proved by Isaac Bickerstaff.  The anti-climax would be too palpable, and they and their doings must be left uncommemorated.

That being said, the earliest published use of the phrase “alive and kicking” appeared in court documents in England that date back to 1801 wherein a crab-boy was reported to have said in a court of law:

I left them [the crabs] all alive and kicking, your honour, when I came to church.

While I couldn’t find an earlier reference to the phrase “alive and kicking” that the one in 1801, the fact that it was part of the vernacular wherein even crab-boys felt the court would understand what was meant by the phrase indicates that the phrase has been around much longer than just 200 or so years.

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One Response to “Alive And Kicking”

  1. […] Alive And Kicking « Historically Speaking […]

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