Posted by R. Berg on October 24, 2006
In Reply to: Never cracks a book posted by Smokey Stover on October 24, 2006
: : : : : what is the literal meaning of "never cracks a book" and also what is the figurative meaning of "never cracks a book".
: : : : Never opens a book. Literal and figurative. It refers to cracking the spine of a book. Not a good thing.
: : : I was taught (maybe by my mother, maybe by a librarian) to never lay a book page-side down. It would crack the spine. Here's some information from a site on antique book care:
: : : Always use bookmarkers. Avoid folding corners or pages. Pens, pencils, any objects left in books can cause the spine to crack and break. Very thick book markers or gem clips are also not a good idea.
: : : Remove from the shelf properly. Reach to the rear to push slightly toward you, then grab the sides with all fingers. Avoid the temptation to pull on the top spine, which is the first visible place of wear and freigh.
: : : Opening any book more than 190 ° (flat) causes the spine to break and crack over time. Always support the book's spine while it is open, never forcing it to lay open.
: : : Wash hands before and after handling all books. Lotion, sweat, etc. can cause soil stains. Germs can also be passed to you from used, library, and antique/vintage books.
: : : http://www.hstreasures.com/articles/bookcare.html
: : Literally, then, the "cracked" spine indicates the book was opened. Figuratively, "she never cracked a book before the test" means she didn't do any of the reading she was expected to do; she did not study.
: A number of Websites devoted to definitions think one of the more general definitions of "crack" is involved, namely, to crack open, to open up for use or consumption--or for reading and study. I have often heard the phrase as "crack open a book," and I believe this is what is meant by cracking a book, that is, opening it. Cracking the spine is relatively rare collateral damage when you crack open a few books. The two are not connected except insofar as they involve books.
I understand "crack a book" the way Smokey does. In a car, "Would you crack that window for me?" is a request to open a window "just a crack," not to break the glass. ~rb