Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘shake a stick at’

Shake A Stick At

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 5, 2011

Have you ever heard someone say, “There are more clichés here than you can shake a stick at?”  Have you ever wondered how many clichés that would have to be and why anyone would want to shake a stick at clichés in the first place … or anything else for that matter? 

In Ohio, back on February 15, 1951 the Portsmouth Times newspaper reported on the golf tournament being held in Harlingen, Texas in an article entitled, “Hottest Putter May Win Open At Harlingen.”  The first paragraph read:

The $10,000 Rio Grande Valley Open began today with more favorites than you could shake a stick at.  The Harlingen municipal course with its par 71 is quite short — only 6,095 yards — and the man with the hottest putter probably will be the follow taking home the $2,000 first money.  But the field of 137-119 professionals and 18 amateurs bulges with fellow who are death on the greens.

At the turn of the century, residents of Aurora, Illinois couldn’t help but love the serialized story, “All Short Of Wind” written by C.B. Lewis and published in the Aurora Daily Express on July 25, 1900.  In this chapter, Pap Perkins, the Postmaster of Jericho told about the meeting that discussed the advisability of starting a brass band.

But the meetin shouted him down, and it was five minits before Deacon Spooner could make his voice heard, and then he said, “There’s more p’ints bobbin up here than you kin shake a stick at, but we might as well hev one more. S’posin we hear from Lish Billings.   He’s the only man in Jericho who kin play on an accordion.  What d’you say, Lish?”

Jumping back to August 26, 1858, the New York Times ran a rather amusing yet politically charged news story entitled, “The Great Binghamion Programme Plots For The Capture of New York City.”  It addressed what had happened since a curiously accidental gathering at the house of Daniel S. Dickinson resulted in the appearance of a group acting contrary to the agenda of those authorized to act for Collector Schell in the City of New York.  The extensive reporting included the following :

Bill McConkey rose, terrible as Ajax in his wrath, wearing he “knew Fernando’s style, and that he would bet money — more money than Genet and Russell could shake a stick at together — that the original Report of the Committee in favor of fusion with the People’s, on the terms proposed, had been drawn up in Fernando’s hand.”  Messrs.  Beck, “Porcupine” and others rose clamorously, and cried, “That’s so!”  Mr. Orr said he was there “because he was opposed to the present close corporation in control of Tammany Hall; but dominant and tyrannical as he believed that body to be, it had never conceived, even in its secret heart, such a high-handed and flagrant outrage on popular rights as was the proposition before that meeting.

Frontiersman Davy Crockett, wrote and published a book in 1835 entitled “Tour to North and Down East.”  In the book, he wrote the following about an inn where he had stayed:

This was a temperance house, and there was nothing to treat a friend to that was worth shaking a stick at.

Just 5 years before that, on August 5, 1830 the Lancaster Journal in Pennsylvania published a news story that stated:

There’s no law that can make a ton of hay keep over ten. cows, unless you have more carrots and potatoes than you can throw a stick at.

And in that same Lancaster Journal in 1818 the following was published:

We have in Lancaster as many Taverns as you can shake a stick at.

Interestingly enough, it would seem that from that throughout the 1800s, the Lancaster Journal loved to shake or throw a stick at all manner of things regardless of the nature of the story published.  This leads Idiomation to believe that it was a more common expression in Pennsylvania than in other states at the time.  However, Idiomation was unable to find this American colloquialism in use prior to the 1800s.

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