Posted by Li Yar on October 20, 2005
In Reply to: A well turned calf posted by Victoria S Dennis 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 A s s 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.
The real origin is found back in the Old Testament - when Moses came back down the mountain with a couple of tablets for his headache, he noticed the Israelites worshiping a Golden Calf. He was so annoyed, he turned it over, hence the expression "well-turned calf".
It's true - I read it on the internet.