Posted by Marcus on December 24, 2000
In Reply to: Hightail it posted by ESC on December 23, 2000
: : : : : Where does the phrase high tail it come from? As in my mom used to say,, You had better high tail it home right now.
: : : : I believe it comes from watching deer run away from danger. Here's is a previous discussion.
: : : : "HIGHTAIL -- a slang expression meaning 'to leave in a great hurry,' is a Western expression and was originally used to describe the way a herd of mustangs will break and race away when 'spooked' or frightened by the approach of cowboys." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).
: : : : : May also have something to do with the fact that tails are raised when in flight
: : : : I hate to disagree with such authorities as the Morrises, but I am convinced that the phrase originated with the white tail deer, whose short, sturdy tails are white on the underside, and raised high when fleeing as a danger sign to other deer in the area. The phrase may have migrated West with the pioneers, who were certainly acquainted with the behavior of the white tails they knew in the Eastern states. If any reader has had the privilege of seeing a deer leave in a hurry, they'll know what I'm talking about.
: : : : I certainly agree "hightailing" was in reference to fleeing white-assed deer and may have migrated West with settlers, but it's not much of a stretch to apply it to fleeing, white-assed mustangs either. Those cowboys hunted deer too.
: : ESC: we're dealing in small details here, but it's rather hard for a mustang to raise its tail, given that it's a bunch of long hair - the "flag" of a fleeing deer is quite obvious.
: I vote "deer."
: Even though it may be more obvious behind an addled deer running for it's life, a horse will too indeed raise it's tail in flight.