phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Lamb's tail

Posted by Henry on January 30, 2004

In Reply to: Lamb's tail posted by Lotg on January 29, 2004

: : : : : : : : : : : : anyone know the origin of this phrase, as in "I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail"?

: : : : : : : : : : : : thanks

: : : : : : : : : : : TWO SHAKES OF A LAMB?S TAIL ? "One who has seen a lamb shake its tail, sees readily that this saying means with no loss of time, for a lamb can shake its tail twice 'before one can say Jack Robinson.' Usage appears to be entirely American, going back a hundred years or longer. (Note publication date of Mr. Funk's book.) The probabilities are that the saying is a humorous enlargement of the older 'in a couple of (or brace of, or two) shakes,' a saying first record by Richard Barham in 'Ingoldsby Legends' in 1840, but probably much older. This latter saying has been variously interpreted ? as alluding to a double shake of the hand, two shakes of a dice box, two shakes of a dustcloth, or whatever it may be that takes little more time in shaking twice than in shaking once." From "A Hog on Ice" by Charles Earle Funk (Harper & Row, New York, 1948).

: : : : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : : : : As a kid growing up on farms, I always thought it was to do with the process of docking a lamb's tail. Which is far less attractive than your theory. Although, I have to admit that even as a kid I struggled to see the connection because that process has nothing to do with shaking, and was always rather cruel I thought. So there's a big chance I was being conned, as farmers are wont to do to kids from time to time.

: : : : : : : : : Quote from above:
: : : : : : : : : "Usage appears to be entirely American, going back a hundred years or longer."
: : : : : : : : : The phrase is very well known in the UK and was around in my youth before WW2

: : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : : Yes I think it more likely to have a UK origin, given it seems to have been handed down through my ancestry too, and we white Aussies obviously owe most of our language to our original Anglo/Irish/Scottish heritage.

: : : : : : : : Plus, and now I'm probably showing my ignorance, I didn't think sheep were as big a deal in years gone by (farming-wise) in the US as in Australia, NZ, the UK and parts of Europe. Am I wrong there?

: : : : : : : Sheep in the US were never as numerous (percentage of grazing animals) as in NZ or Oz, but the 19th century saw huge range wars in the Western states and territories between sheepherders and cow ranchers. The ranchers perceived that sheep would ruin the then-open range with their sharp hooves, cutting through the grasses' roots, thus forcing cattle to starve. Some of these ranchers' great-grandsons now object to bison (one of the West's burgeoning populations) for similar reasons (despite miles of barbed wire fencing), yet it's all economic: if bison becomes the preferred red meat, what happens to cattle ranchers?

: : : : : : The idea that an accurate reflection of a country's history can be divined by watching a few old B movies churned out by Hollywood hacks just beggars belief.

: : : : : Which old B movies??

: : : : Why any old B Movie you care to name. I've never known the plot of any to accurately reflect reality. Come to think that same comment probably applies to all Hollywood movies - especially any movie featuring sheep.

: : : All you every wanted to know about sex (but never dared ask)

: : : I think Gene Wilder is an accurate reflection of reality...

: : You may say that: I couldn't possibly comment.

: Gene Wilder? Reality? Who cares, I just love him anyway. Hey Silver Surfer, when did pdianek say he/she got his/her info from a B grade movie? Or are you assuming that by the response? Must say it does sound familiar.

: Still one comment did strike me. "if bison becomes the preferred red meat, what happens to cattle ranchers?". Guess the same thing that ought to happen here. If Australians (and I'm talking about the consumers) and other nations who like to stick their bibs in, woke up to themselves we'd be eating more kangaroo, emu and other native meats. 90% lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, just as yummy and high in all the good stuff, and these animals are designed to live here... As it is, roos and other native animals are killed for no other reason than to make way for foreign stock and plantations. Derr, if everyone figured that out and roo for example became the preferred red meat, then our cattle farmers would become roo farmers. And the same I assume would be said in the US. I don't know a thing about bison, except that I believe they're much harder to handle than domestic cattle. But if Bison became the preferred red meat, your cattle ranchers would become bison ranchers. I suspect that's what would happen.

Do you know the diference between a buffalo and a bison?

You can't wash your hands in a buffalo.