phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Lick into shape ... error?

Posted by Chris Wilson on December 21, 2003

Nice collection, a comment though if I may...

Currently ...

Meaning To make something work properly. Origin From the belief that bear cubs are born shapeless and have to be properly formed by their mother's licking.

I'm trying to find the cite, however I believe your meaning is only partially correct and that the origin is all wrong.

Origin ... Naval, the "lick" is a stroke from a "cat of nine tails" used up until the very late 19C to discipline a naval defaulter, and "shape" is a shortened version of "shipshape"

Thus to "lick into shape" specifically refers to a person and its meaning is to coerce a reluctant or poorly performing person by means of some degree of force into performing to the best of his ability.

HTH

Chris Wilson
to email me replace "bounce" with "cwilson"