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Re: For Good Measure

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 23, 2011 at 21:51

In Reply to: Re: For Good Measure posted by ESC on June 23, 2011 at 17:13:

: : "For Good Measure" - does anyone know how and when this phrase entered the English language? I would hypothesize it has to do with merchants compensating for inaccurate weights and measures by adding extra quantities of goods so their customers don't complain, but I have yet to find a source to back this up!

: I found "for good measure" in a couple of phrase books. But neither gave a date of first use. One reference calls "for good measure" the "more recent cliche" for "baker's dozen." The source of "baker's dozen" (sixteenth century) is the law passed by English Parliament in 1266 which defined the weight of a loaf of bread and imposed a heavy fine for short weight. (From “Facts on File Dictionary of Cliches,” second edition, edited by Christine Ammer, Checkmark Books, New York, 2006. Page 18 and 151.) Another reference says penalties for short weight went back to ancient times. Egyptian bakers could be nailed by the ear to their shop door if found light in the loaves. And it gives details about the 1266 law. It was imposed on the Company of White Bakers and the Company of Brown Bakers. The 13th loaf was called the "in-bread" or "vantage loaf" and was added to each shipment of 12 sent to a shopkeeper or retailer. (“Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins” by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997. Page 46.)

As always, the OED comes to the rescue. In its definition of "measure" it says: "With preceding distinguishing adjective (as full, good, etc.): an ample or generous quantity of what is sold or given by measure. Similarly with poor, etc.: a quantity below what should be sold or given by measure (see also short measure at short adj. 15a). Also fig., esp. in (to throw in) for good measure : (to include) as an additional extra.

"A good mesure" is first cited in Wycliffe's Bible of c1384. Luke vi. 38: Thei schulen ȝyue in to ȝoure bosum a good mesure [L. mensuram bonam], and wel fillid.

"For good measure" is first cited in the figurative sense in 1850: "Give him another for good measure’-‘Hit him again’".