Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 06, 2005
In Reply to: More [BLANK] than you can shake a stick at... posted by ESC on March 26, 2005
: : WTF?!
: : I know it means an ample amount, but what is the origin?
: From the archives:
: SHAKE A STICK AT - "Although this does have a literal meaning, to threaten with a stick, we in the United States give it much more fanciful interpretation. If we say, 'There are more filling stations in town than one can shake a stick at,' we mean nothing more than that the town contains an abundance of places at which one may purchase gasoline for one's motorcar. That American usage dates from early in the nineteenth century. One may speculate that it arose from the play at warfare by small boys - George Washington Jones flourishing a triumphant wooden sword over the considerable number of British soldiers who surrendered at Yorktown, more, in fact, than he could wave his 'stick' at. Then, too, we use the expression to indicate a comparative that may express derogation, and have done so for well over a hundred years. David Crockett, in his "Tour to North and Down East" , wrote of one place at which he stayed, 'This was a temperance house, and there was nothing to treat a friend to that was worth shaking a stick at." From "Heavens to Betsy" (1955, Harper & Row) by Charles Earle Funk.
: : How about "Falling off the wagon"
There's another theory that it refers to shepherds who used to count their sheep with a tally-stick. In other words, nobody really knows, and anybody who says they do is full of it!