Posted by ESC on November 02, 2001
In Reply to: Origin of saying more than you can shake a stick at posted by David on November 02, 2001 at
: more than you can shake a stick at. Anyone know the origin.
More discussion in the archives under "shake" or "stick."
SHAKE A STICK AT - "Although this does have a literal meaning, to threaten with a stick, we in the United States give it much more fanciful interpretation. If we say, 'There are more filling stations in town than one can shake a stick at,' we mean nothing more than that the town contains an abundance of places at which one may purchase gasoline for one's motorcar. That American usage dates from early in the nineteenth century. One may speculate that it arose from the play at warfare by small boys - George Washington Jones flourishing a triumphant wooden sword over the considerable number of British soldiers who surrendered at Yorktown, more, in fact, than he could wave his 'stick' at. Then, too, we use the expression to indicate a comparative that may express derogation, and have done so for well over a hundred years. David Crockett, in his "Tour to North and Down East" , wrote of one place at which he stayed, 'This was a temperance house, and there was nothing to treat a friend to that was worth shaking a stick at." From "Heavens to Betsy" (1955, Harper & Row) by Charles Earle Funk.