Adam's off ox

Posted by ESC on May 12, 2002

In Reply to: Clinton Phase posted by Sue Koseck on May 12, 2002

: Several years ago, Bill Clinton used a phrase in a public speech that I am having a heard time remembering both the phrase and the meaning of the phrase. It was something like "Adams off Ox". I recall at the time, there was some discussion in the media about the phrase and what it means, since most people were unfamilar with it. If anyone can help, I would appreciate it.

That's because the media is made up of a lot of city people.

To access more discussion, search the archives under "Adam's." I first heard this phrase in Kentucky.

ADAM'S OFF OX - "The form commonly used is 'not to know one from Adam's off ox,' meaning to have not the slightest information about the person indicated. The saying in any form, however, is another of the numerous ones commonly heard but of which no printed record has been found. But in 1848 the author of a book on 'Nantucketisms' recorded a saying then in use on that island, 'Poor as God's off ox,' which, he said, meant very poor. It is possible that on the mainland 'Adam' was used as a euphemistic substitute. The off ox, in a yoke of oxen, is the one on the right of the team. Because it is the farthest from the driver it cannot be so well seen and may therefore get the worst of the footing. It is for that reason that 'off ox' has been used figuratively to designate a clumsy or awkward person." From A Hog on Ice by Charles Earle Funk (1948, Harper & Row).