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Re: Don't give 'em any ideas

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 23, 2008 at 17:20:

In Reply to: Don't give 'em any ideas posted by Greg on February 22, 2008 at 22:14:

: Does any have a clue on the origin of the much overused and probably misspelled expression "don't give 'em any ideas"?

Why do you think it is misspelled? It isn't. As for overused, I think it likely that it is overused by a few people, possibly including someone you can't avoid.

Without any context given that might contradict me, I would say that the meaning of the phrase is the same as another phrase, "Don't put any ideas into their head(s)."

The ideas are the same ones at work in the phrase, "Get ideas (in your head)." This phrase, going back to the 19th century, is defined thus by the Oxford English Dictionary.

"c. Colloq. phr. to get (or have) ideas (into one's head): to conceive notions of a particular kind, usually undesirable or harmful; specifically to entertain a notion or intention of being rebellious, violent, etc."

Some of the examples cited are:

"c1848 F. A. KEMBLE Let. in Rec. Later Life III. 322 A young boy..brought up in a girl's convent, and taken out for a week, during which he..sups and gets tipsy at the mess, and, in short, 'gets ideas' of all sorts. 1932 H. C. WYLD Universal Dict. Eng. Lang., To get ideas into one's head, to cherish illusions. 1935 J. C. SQUIRE Reflections & Memories 10 Babus would get ideas into their heads, but the Mutiny had taught its lesson and the redcoat had the situation well in hand."

The last exmple, in which Babus would get ideas into their heads, could be rephrased with "put," i.e., Babus would put ideas into their heads. Or otherwise said, he gave them ideas.