Posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 18, 2005
In Reply to: A well turned calf posted by Smokey Stover on October 18, 2005
: : : : Can anyone tell where the phrase 'A well turned calf' comes from?
: : : I don't know who said it first. Well-turned = symmetrically shaped or rounded. Calf = the fleshy back part of the leg below the knee. (Merriam-Webster online)
: : I think it came from someone who forgot that the classic phrase is "a well-turned ankle." SS
: Although "well-turned calf" is a choice. OED: " 2. Of the body or limbs: Symmetrically shaped or rounded. [citations:] 1616 B. JONSON Devil an Ass II. vi, To play with this smooth, round, And well torn'd chin, as with the Billyard ball.... 1693 DRYDEN Ovid's Met. I. 670 Her well-turn'd Neck he view'd. 1728 RAMSAY Bonny Kate iv, How straight, how well-turn'd and genteel, are Her limbs! 1835 W. IRVING Tour Prairies 29 They are a well-made race,..with well-turned thighs and legs. 1886 J. CORBETT Fall of Asgard ii. 66 Her well-turned form, so girlish and dainty still."
The underlying metaphor here is of turning wood on a lathe to shape it, e.g. into chairlegs.