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"tying a dish-cloth to your tail"

Posted by Hanni on October 20, 2003

From that same (hyacinths) biography -
one of Darwin's sons remembers his childhood and the cook:

'Francis remembered her kindness in spite of constant threats of "tying a dish-cloth to your tail",
which he never understood.'

...and neither do I.
Does anyone here understand this threat? know where it comes from?
The child failing to understand the cook's words -
could it have to do with Victorian class differences?
Could she be threatening to spank him with a kitchen towel?

I'll be very thankful for any suggestion, information or guess!