Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’

Days On End

Posted by Admin on September 26, 2011

When something happens or continues for days on end, it means it’s continuing without any sign of stopping.  It’s an expression with a fair bit of history and reaches back several centuries.

In 1949, the expression was used in “The Royal Engineers Journal” where the following can be found with regards to the post D-Day invasion of northern France.

Often frozen and wet through by night, they proceeded to march and fight at top speed for days on end. This was the 6th Airborne, with wings on its feet as well as its shoulders, and a spirit which said, ‘Bash on regardless.’

Jack London (1876 – 1916) wrote and published “Adventure” in 1911.  In Chapter XVII entitled, “Making The Books Come True” the following passage is found:

The steamer from Sydney, the Kammambo, broke the quietude of Berande for an hour, while landing mail, supplies, and the trees and seeds Joan had ordered. The Minerva, bound for Cape Marsh, brought the two cows from Nogi. And the Apostle, hurrying back to Tulagi to connect with the Sydney steamer, sent a boat ashore with the orange and lime trees from Ulava. And these several weeks marked a period of perfect weather. There were days on end when sleek calms ruled the breathless sea, and days when vagrant wisps of air fanned for several hours from one direction or another. The land-breezes at night alone proved regular, and it was at night that the occasional cutters and ketches slipped by, too eager to take advantage of the light winds to drop anchor for an hour.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s book “A Study In Scarlet” which was published in 1887, the following is found in Part I, Chapter 1 where Dr. Watson, late of the Army Medical Department, reminiscences about Sherlock Holmes in this fashion:

Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms with me. “I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street,” he said, “which would suit us down to the ground. You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?”

“I always smoke `ship’s’ myself,” I answered.

“That’s good enough. I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally do experiments. Would that annoy you?”

“By no means.”

“Let me see — what are my other shortcomings. I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end. You must not think I am sulky when I do that. Just let me alone, and I’ll soon be right. What have you to confess now? It’s just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together.”

I laughed at this cross-examination. “I keep a bull pup,” I said, “and I object to rows because my nerves are shaken, and I get up at all sorts of ungodly hours, and I am extremely lazy. I have another set of vices when I’m well, but those are the principal ones at present.”

Various books, documents, stories, newspaper accounts et al make use of the expression days on end.  Idiomation’s research unearthed that the word end comes from the Old English word ende which is from the Old Norse word endir which means “the opposite side” or “boundary.” The original sense of the word means “outermost part” and dates back to the 900s however this sense is obsolete except in phrases such as days on end.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the expression dates back to some time in the 1300s.

Posted in Idioms from the 10th Century, Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Brook No Truck With You

Posted by Admin on July 2, 2010

The expression “I brook no truck with you” is a double whammy expression in that both “brook” and “truck” have literal meanings as well as figurative meanings.  On a literal level, the expression makes no sense whatsoever.  However, figuratively, there’s quite an interesting history to be uncovered!  

Let’s deal with “truck” first and then come back to “brook.”   Truck comes from the French “troquer” meaning “to barter”.  So “to truck” is to become involved with something or someone.  This meaning comes from the Middle English word trukien first used in 1175.

Mark Twain’s book The True Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was set in Missouri in the 1830’s and first published in February 1885.  In the novel, Huckleberry Finn says:

It was just like I thought, He didn’t hold no truck with the likes of me.”

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,’s novel The Sign of the Four was the second novel he wrote that featuredSherlock Holmes.  It was published in 1890 but set in Victorian England in 1887 while referencing the Indian Rebellion (in India) of 1857.  In the novel, readers find the following passage:

‘How can I decide?’ said I. ‘You have not told me what you want of me. But I tell you now that if it is anything against the safety of the fort I will have no truck with it, so you can drive home your knife and welcome.’

Now on to the word “brook” which also has an interesting history.  Brook comes from the Middle English word brouken which means “to use.”  Brouken comes from the Old English word brucan which is akin to the Old High German word bruhhan which means “to use.”  The word “brook” in this sense came to mean “to tolerate.”

When “brook” and “truck” are coupled in the expression “I brook no truck with you” it means the individual speaking tolerates absolutely no dealings with and completely rejects any association with the person or persons with whom — or of whom — he or she is speaking.

Posted in Idioms from the 12th Century, Idioms from the 15th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »