Posted by ESC on September 21, 2001
In Reply to: Phrase posted by amanda on September 21, 2001
: where did the phrase"squat' come from? as in "don't know squat?"
From, "You don't know diddly-squat (or doodly-squat)."
From "Why You Say It" By Webb Garrison (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1992): "Diddly-squat.Strictly American in origin, that expression sounds suspiciously like a pair of modified barnyard terms - but isn't. Carneys (carnival workers) who traveled from town to town working one county fair after another developed their own private language. They had to do so in order to attract potential gamblers who would pay for a chance at a gimcrack prize. 'Diddle-e-squat' seems to have entered the carnival talk to name money - often a nickel or a dime, since that was the going rate for a game of chance. Frequently used to hide talk about a small amount of money, it was an easy and natural transition for the carnival term to indicate very little of anything."
For more discussion, search the Phrase Finder archives under "squat."