Posted by Lewis on April 14, 2003
In Reply to: Re: "From pillar to post" posted by James Briggs on April 14, 2003
: : : Mordock & Korash's "Word Origins" says From Pillar to Post originated with the Puritans when they placed wrongdoers first in the pillory then the whipping post.
: : : Anyone have further information? The connection of pillar to pillory is tenuous.
: : : Frank Please email if you have information - firstname.lastname@example.org
: : This reference has a couple of theories:
: : PILLAR TO POST ? ?This means back and forth monotonously; from one thing to another; hither and thither. It is a very old saying, perhaps as old as the game of tennis ? court tennis, that is, not lawn tennis. We who are familiar only with the rather new game of lawn tennis forget that it was invented as recently as 1874, whereas court tennis was certainly played in the thirteenth century and perhaps earlier?prior to the fifteenth century one feature of the game lay in some form of volley which, at the time, was called ?from post to pillar,? apparently referring to a post that supported the net (though a rope was used in those days, rather than a net)?the name of the volley passed into a common saying ? always ?from post to pillar? until the sixteenth century when, the original allusion having been forgotten, it gradually became reversed to the present usage, ?from pillar to post.??? A second theory is that it relates to ?the old-style riding academy, the pillar being the center of the ring and the posts being upright columns?? But the author says this theory is ?groundless.? From ?2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance? by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993).
: The term 'Court tennis' confused me. I've checked, and it's known as Real(=Royal) tennis in much of the non-US world. It started in the outbuildings of various royal courts, full of beams, small roofs, pillars etc. Modern courts are standardised replicas of such a building.
Real tennis (Spanish Real=Royal, I recall - as in Real Madrid, Real Sociedad etc) was knocking a ball around a courtyard. I do not recall there being any nets or particular posts in the original courts, as they bounced the ball off walls and the roof. cannot discount the origin, but the Pillory to Whipping Post sounds quite credible too, but I'm not sure that a person would be punished on them consecutively. It may mean that they are recidivists and keep going back for more punishment. The expression seems to be more often along the lines of "pushed from pillar to post". Anybody fancy a mail-service origin or one based inside a church? (pillar box/post box) (pillar/door post)