phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Lick your calf

Posted by Steve on November 09, 1999

In Reply to: Re: Tight as... posted by ESC on November 09, 1999

: : : : Any clues as to origin? Used in the southern US to mean very tight.

: : : West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky are the only places I've heard this expression.

: : It is in fairly common usage in Alabama. Mostly by 50+ age bracket. This one has always bugged me.

: Here's a theory:
: From "Heavens to Betsy" by Charles Earle Funk : "as queer (or tight) as Dick's hatband -- Absurdly queer, or as the case may be, inordinately tight. The 'Dick' alluded to in this metaphor was Richard Cromwell, 'Lord protector' of England for a few months, September 1658 to May 1659. He had been nominated by his father, the powerful Oliver Cromwell, to succeed him in this high office, and was actually so proclaimed. But whereas the father had served, at least from the death of Charles I in 1649, as quasi-king of England, king in fact if not in name, Richard would gladly have accepted both title and crown, had not the army been hostile to such action and, indeed, to Richard, who was shortly dismissed from office. The crown was the 'hatband' in the saying, which was deemed a 'queer' adornment for the head of one so briefly in highest office, and too 'tight' for him to have worn in safety. (Let me add, however, this account is not accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, though no better substitute is offered.)"

: And have you heard the expression "You're going to have to lick your calf over again," meaning you're going to have to do a task over. I've never heard it outside of southern West Virginia.

This is a common saying in this part of Alabama. It is commonly used by small businessmen to mean having to go back on a job again. A warranty. Usually it is just said "I'll have to lick my calf on this one". I have always assumed that it meant a disagreeable task required by honor or duty. A cow licking it's calf after giving birth.
Thanks for the information on Dick's hatband. Now I know.