Posted by ESC on March 12, 2004
In Reply to: Re: Lick and a promise posted by Sean on March 12, 2004
: : : I have always believed this comes from an old romany tradition. when romany people trade animals, such as horses they always spit on their hands before shaking on the deal which makes it binding. therefore, " a lick and a promise" this also applies to many dealings even today but especially at horse fairs.
: It's an old Irish saying meaning a cursory wash - usually with a damp cloth - rather than a full blown bath. Never heard it amongst the travelling people who do, of course, seal a deal with a handshake having first spit on their own hands. Not very hygenic but there you have it.
My mother should to say it about housework -- give it a quick once-over with a promise to do a more thorough cleaning later. I thought it referred to a cow licking a calf.