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Keeping your hand in

Posted by R. Berg on August 04, 2004

In Reply to: Keeping your hand in posted by Lotg (OZ) on August 04, 2004

: I recently told my Swedish-Aussie friend that I had to 'keep my hand in'. While she speaks perfectly fluent and almost flawless Australian (with a smigeon of American influence from a past life in America), she'd never heard that term before.

: So I explained that it meant I had to remain practiced, familiar, experienced. ie. Even if I'm no longer doing a particular aspect of my job that I used to do - eg. training, I occasionally like to take on a training job - just to 'keep my hand in' - to keep in touch, keep practiced, stay familiar with it, ensure that if I need it again one day, I can just jump back into it.

: OK, so that was my explanation, but as for the origins, well I have no idea. I'm guessing it's something to do with cards - as in a card hand - but I really haven't got a clue. So I'd appreciate it if anyone can enlighten me. Thanks

"Get one's hand in" is defined as "to practise so as to become proficient: coll[oquial].: from ca. 1875. [From] much earlier cognate [Standard English] phrases" (Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English," 5th ed.). Keeping one's hand in, if strictly parallel to that, would mean maintaining an activity so as to remain proficient. I think the hand is literal, as in cooking, surgery, sculpting, tailoring,...