Posted by ESC on November 02, 1999
In Reply to: Don't know squat posted by Judy Taipale on November 02, 1999
: Does anyone know where that (don't know squat) came from? Or diddly squat??
From Why You Say It: The Fascinating Stories Behind over 600 Everyday Words and PhrasesBy Webb Garrison (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1992): "Diddly-squat.Strictly American in origin, that expression sounds suspiciously like a pair of modified barnyard terms - but isn't. Carneys (carnival workers) who traveled from town to town working one county fair after another developed their own private language. They had to do so in order to attract potential gamblers who would pay for a chance at a gimcrack prize. 'Diddle-e-squat' seems to have entered the carnival talk to name money - often a nickel or a dime, since that was the going rate for a game of chance. Frequently used to hide talk about a small amount of money, it was an easy and natural transition for the carnival term to indicate very little of anything."