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Posted by Douglas on November 29, 2005

In Reply to: COTTON PICKING HANDS posted by ESC on November 25, 2005

: : Please, what is the origin/meaning of COTTON PICKING HANDS? Thanks for your help!

: COTTON-PICKING - as an adjective cotton-picking "is widespread as a term of disparagement. Damned, darned." From the "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume 1 by Frederic G. Cassidy (1985, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England).

: A variation is "pea picking" hands. I am guessing both phrases have their origins in agriculture. Indicating that someone with rural roots, who has actually did stoop labor and picked the above, is a lesser being.

While the agricultural references certainly have legitamacy, there is another that is also well regarded. Legendary folk guitarist Elizabeth Cotton was left-handed and performed by playing with the guitar strung in the normal manner, but merely switching the position of the instrument, thus plucking the bass notes with her little finger rather than thumb. This unique and unusual method of playing became known as "cotton-picking". As we know the odd and the different are often disparaged, and this could easily be the reason for the tenor of the phrase.