Posted by R. Berg on March 11, 2002
In Reply to: Rod in pickle posted by TheFallen on March 11, 2002
: : : I came across "rod in pickle" in a magazine article dated 1923. The reference books show it as being a scolding or punishment in waiting, as a rod is kept in pickle to preserve it, apparently.
: : : The context in which I read it concerned a sportsman whose form was so good that the opponents would be unpleasantly surprised. The allusion is clearly there (we're going to thrash the opposition), but has anyone any more information about this phrase, please?
: : : psi
: : Never heard it. But soaking a whip in salt brine would make the lashes even more painful, right? Rubbing salt in a wound.
: I've never heard of it either - it's catalogued in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable , and has I suspect spectacularly fallen out of use. To me it definitely suggests, as psi said, the element of surprise, of a sudden turning of the tables, and maybe of grudges longe borne and revenge finally exacted. I found a reference to the phrase "to put a rod in pickle" which suggests definite elements of preparation of retribution for a later date. Whether this was ever literal, I don't know... maybe placing some sort of wooden switch in a solution of brine did preserve it and stop it from going brittle and fragile... or maybe it's purely figurative.
I think we discussed "rod in pickle" once before, but archive searches under "rod" and "pickle" turn up nothing about it. As I recall, it does mean a switch, for punishment, soaked in brine.