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Shank's mare - Part III

Posted by Bruce Kahl on September 27, 2000

In Reply to: Re: Shank's mare - Part 2 posted by ESC on September 27, 2000

: : : : what does "ride the shank's mare" mean. And Also what is the origin of this phrase. I have but 1 hour to find this information out. So PLEASE EMAIL me back with the information

: : : I dont know the origin but your phrase means to go on foot, to walk.
: : : The link below may help with the origin.

: : From "A Hog on Ice" (1948, Harper & Row) by Charles Earle Funk: "To ride shanks' mare (or pony) -- This means to walk; to use one's own legs, for the shank is the part of the leg below the knee. It has been a jocular expression for two hundred years or so. Possibly it arose from playful allusion to a Mr. Shank who had no other means of conveyance, but more likely it was an invention of some Scottish wit."

: : This expression is along the same lines as today's "sneaker net." When the computer network is down, people have to resort to walking around to deliver messages.

: : Since "Hog on Ice" was first published in 1948, it would make "shanks' mare" around 250 years old. A couple of things -- since the phrase refers to the shank, it should be shank's mare (not shanks'), in my opinion. And Mr. Funk doesn't say why he thought it was invented by a Scottish wit.

: "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997) agrees that the expression "going by shank's mare" is ".probably Scottish in origin." But Mr. Hendrickson doubts that there was ever a Mr. Shank. "Neither is there any proof that the expression refers to King Edward I, nicknamed 'Long Shanks' because whenever he rode a pony his long legs reached to the ground. The 'shank' is the leg, or that part of the leg below the knee, and a mare is usually slower than a stallion. Going by 'marrow-bone stag,' a play on the once-real Marylebone (pronounced 'Marrybun') stage in London, means the same."

Could this phrase have a nautical origin?
I say this 'cause Webster's has the phrase within a definition of an anchor of which a shank is a part. I just dont get the connection--maybe someone else can see the link!

The common anchor consists of a straight bar called a shank, having at one end a transverse bar called a stock, above which is a ring for the cable, and at the other end the crown, from which branch out two or more arms with flukes, forming with the shank a suitable angle to enter the ground.

Shank painter (Naut.), a short rope or chain which holds the shank of an anchor against the side of a vessel when it is secured for a voyage. ---To ride shank's mare, to go on foot; to walk.