In the first place

Posted by R. Berg on September 17, 2005

In Reply to: In the first place posted by Ron Kendall on September 16, 2005

: What is the origin of the expression, "in the first place"? Donald Howard, in his book on Geoffrey Chaucer life (which won the national book award for biography some 20 years ago,) inferred that it had to do with how medieval people used mental placemarks as mnemonic devices.

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes "in the first (second, next, etc.) place" to this sense of the word: "A step or point in the order of progression." The first cited use is dated 1639. No support there for Howard's idea.