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Cut out of whole cloth

Posted by ESC on December 29, 1999

In Reply to: Made of whole cloth posted by Pete Daggett on December 29, 1999

: Is the phrase to describe a half-truth or web of lies "Made of whole cloth" or "Not made of whole cloth?"

CUT OUT OF WHOLE CLOTH - "Wholly false; without foundation of truth. Back in the fifteenth century, 'whole cloth' was used synonymously with 'broad cloth,' that is, cloth that ran the full width of the loom. The term dropped into disuse along in the eighteenth century, except in the figurative sense. In early use, the phrase retained much of the literal meaning, a thing was fabricated out of the full amount or extent of that which composed it.But by the nineteenth century it would appear that tailors or others who made garments were pulling the wool over the eyes of their customers, for, especially in the United States, the expression came to have just the OPPOSITE meaning. Instead of using whole material, as they advertised, they were really using patched or pieced goods, or, it might be, cloth which had been falsely stretched to appear to be of full width." From "A Hog on Ice" by Charles Earle Funke (1948, Harper & Row)