In the groove...

Posted by ESC on October 26, 1999

In Reply to: In the nick of time posted by Bob on October 26, 1999

: : : Does anyone know the origin of the phrase - "in the nick of time"?

: : Something to do with sundials I think.

: One dictionary I found said it had to do with the notches (nicks) made in a stick to mark the passage of time, but that didn't sound very convincing to me.

That's what Mr. Funk says. Maybe people pre wrist watches used a stick to mark time? From A Hog on Ice by Charles Earle Funk (1948, Harper & Row): "in the nick of time - It means, of course, at the critical or precise moment; just at the instant when our hero was saved at the last moment from onrushing death, for example. The expression about three centuries old, formed when someone added the redundant 'of time' to the older expression, 'in the nick,' which meant the same thing. A nick is a groove, a notch, as made with a sharp knife when one cuts a V in a stick of wood. Nothing could express precision more accurately than a notch so formed, especially when applied to time."