Smart as a Whip

Posted by ESC on September 29, 2003

In Reply to: Smart as a Whip posted by Cathy on September 29, 2003

: Does anyone know the origins of this phrase? Thank you. Cathy

SMART AS A WHIP - "Bright, clever, alert. A whip 'smarts' and operates with snap. In the days of horse-drawn vehicles one was often able to urge on the horse merely by flicking or cracking a whip near the animal, and if that failed, you could be sure of results by seeing that the flick or crack touched him lightly. The transfer must have arisen from that widespread exercise. An expression in use early in the 19th century was 'smart as a steel trap,' which does indeed operate smartly too, but by 1860 the 'Mountaineer' in Salt Lake City was printing: 'Mr. A___ was a prompt and successful businessman, 'smart as a whip,' as the Yankees say." From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).