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Broke the Back of It

Posted by James Briggs on July 28, 2005

In Reply to: Broke the Back of It posted by ESC on July 28, 2005

: : : Hi All,
: : : I'm trying to find the origin of the phrase: Broke the Back of It, as in nearer completion of a task or getting the worst over and done with. I've asked where I work and have been given the following suggestions: linked to back breaking work; breaking the back of a book as you're reading through it, something to do with straws and camels; breaking someone's back as in rendering them impotent.
: : : Does anyone know if any of these are correct or what the real answer is?
: : : Any help and seuggestions very welcome.
: : : Cheers
: : : Mike

: : Well, if you are trying to kill something -- human or animal -- a good start is to break its back. (And I don't know that from personal experience.) That's a guess but I feel I'm on pretty firm ground.

: Kind of related phrase:

: I WISH THAT THING WAS IN THE FER FORK OF HELL WITH ITS BACK BROKE - An old mountaineer "cussing his mowing machine." From "Mountaineers would 'cross hell on a rotten rail' to be colorful," a column by Byron Crawford, late 1981, The Courier Journal, Louisville, Ky.

Surely this is a reference to 'the last straw that broke the camel's back'. This certainly stopped the camel being even more loaded - his back was broken and his task was ended. By extension, all tasks coming to and end may be associated with a metaphorical 'broken back'.