Posted by James Briggs on May 30, 2005
In Reply to: Re: Pay through the nose posted by ESC on May 28, 2005
: : : I can't find the phrase "to pay through the nose" on this site. Anyone got any ideas or even enough information to make this into an entry on the site?
: : Just a guess.
: : Blood is a very valuable commodity to things living.
: : Blood can leave the body via the nose very easily.
: : I am not 100% on this but I think your phrase may have to do with bleeding,paying for something with a high value contentlike blood.
: I always think of the guy who got his nose slit in the movie "Chinatown."
: PAY THROUGH THE NOSE - "Be charged an exorbitant price. Why nose? One superstition is that this kind of paying is as irksome as a nosebleed. Another tale has it that the Danes levied a tax on the Irish in the 9th century, and that anyone who failed to pay it was punished by having his nose slit. In any event, we find Andrew Marvell writing in 1672 (in 'The Rehearsal Tranposed' (: "Made them pay it most unconsciously and through the Nose." From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers
I have found a couple of possible origins, one of which I reckon to be a little "anaemic"; it goes as follows. As early as the 17th century "rhino" was slang for money; "Rhinos" is Greek for "nose". Noses bleed and someone who pays over the odds can also be said to bleed.
The other explanation goes back to the days of the Danish invasion of Britain. 9th century Danes were particularly strict with their tax laws, especially where "foreigners" were concerned. They levied a particular tax against the Irish called the "Nose Tax"; failure to pay was met by harsh punishment - the debtor had his nose slit open.
The expression only seems to have come into English at the end of the 17th century and so the "anaemic" version is the most likely to be correct.