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Two shakes of a lamb's tail

Posted by ESC on January 24, 2004

In Reply to: Two shakes of a lamb's tail posted by NealW on January 23, 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).