Posted by Antony on October 21, 2000
In Reply to: By Hook or by Crook posted by James Briggs on September 28, 2000
: : What is the origin of the phrase 'by hook or by crook' which I understand to mean that the end will be pursued by any and all means..
: By hook or by crook is a phrase which suggests that something is done by any means possible; by some means or other; one way or another. This goes back to medieval Britain when there was a custom for tenants of the Lord of the Manor to be allowed to collect firewood from the trees, but only as much as could be cut off with a bill-hook or pulled down with a shepherd's crook.
James I think you're guessing. Seems to me this is to do with a battle in Ireland, a town called Hook and another called Crook and the assertion by the attacking commander that he would secure victory by either taking Hook or Crook.
I've used a bill-hook and you don't cut tree branches with it and no self-respecting shepherd would attempt to wrench branches from trees with his crook - it would not succeed and he would become a laughing stock.