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Not all it's cracked to be

Posted by ESC on May 30, 2005

In Reply to: Not all it's cracked to be posted by ESC on May 30, 2005

: : Where and when did the phrase, "it's not all it's cracked to be" originate?

: Not all it's cracked UP to be.

NOT WHAT IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE - "Disappointing; less than one expected. It is largely unremembered today that one of the meanings of the verb 'crack,' is to boast or to praise. That usage dates to at least the 15th century. Furthermore, 'cracked up' was not always used as a negative: Charles Dickens wrote this passage to 'Martin Chuzzlewit' : 'Our backs is easily ris. We must be cracked up or they rises, and we snarls.' The negative version was in the language by 1884, when the American magazine reported ' not all it has been cracked up to be.'" From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985).

CRACK - "First-rate, excellent, as 'a crack regiment' or 'a crack shot.' Formerly the word was used as a noun for a lively young fellow, a wag. Indeed, La! 'tis a noble child; a crack, madam. Shakespeare: Coriolanus, I, iii ." To "crack up" can either mean "to praise highly" (As in, "He's not what he's cracked up to be.") or (the more common usage in the U.S., at least) "to break down in health or mind." This phrase is also under "crack" but it doesn't say if it's a related phrase: .Cracking, to get. "A popular expression, meaning to get moving or going; to start something promptly and energetically." From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition).

CRACKER -- Grady McWhiney, in "Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South," (The University of Alabama Press, 1988) tries to reclaim the term that is now used as a slur. He says that "cracker," in Scotch-Irish dialect meant "a person who talked boastingly." Later the term Crackers came to mean a Scotch-Irishmen, a particular group of people.

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