phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Grandfather Clause

Posted by R. Berg on December 22, 2004

In Reply to: Grandfather Clause posted by ESC on December 21, 2004

: : From

: : A grandfather clause is one that allows someone who previously had the right to do something to continue doing it even though the law
: : forbids it to others. For example, when I turned nineteen, the state of New Jersey allowed me to drink alcohol. Later than year, they raised
: : the drinking age to twenty-one, but since I was already of legal drinking age, I was grandfathered and could continue to legally consume
: : alcoholic beverages. But why grandfather?

: : The term comes from discriminatory practices of certain Southern states against blacks. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some
: : Southern states had laws requiring payment of a poll tax or taking of a literacy test before one could vote. The poor and illiterate were
: : denied the right to vote. This was race-neutral except for clauses in the state constitutions that exempted someone from poll taxes or
: : literacy tests if their grandfather had had the right to vote. This meant that virtually all whites, whose grandfathers could vote before the
: : imposition of these laws, were allowed to vote, while most blacks were denied the right to vote. Over the years, the term has lost the racial
: : stigma and no longer connotes racial bias.

: : The term grandfather clause dates to 1900. The verb form, to grandfather, is more recent, dating to 1972

: Merriam Webster agrees with you. But I'm still not convinced. I thought it was a work-related phrase. Allowing an older craftsman, for example, to continue working without having to meet new licensing requirements, etc.

I understand its origin as Jim Crow-related, not work-related.

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