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Fork out

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 13, 2005

In Reply to: Fork out posted by withnail on December 13, 2005

: Hi me again... any ideas where "fork out" comes from i.e; fork out ten quid for a bottle of wine?

: much obliged

England, like the U.S., was primarily an agricultural country until the late 18th century, and of course agriculture didn't just stop when the Industrial Revolution came along. I say this because so many of our idioms and secondary meanings come from agriculture (those that aren't nautical, that is). Forks of various kinds are used in agriculture, amd forking things over, up and out is a necessary, if not always nice, part of agriculture. I think that's the origin of all those requests to "Fork something over." But see what the OED has to say. "[Fork]. transf. (colloq. or slang.) a. to fork out, over, or up: to give up, hand over, pay.
1831 E. J. TRELAWNY Adv. Younger Son. xvi, Fork out something better than this. 1839 Observer & Reporter May 18 The gambler should fork over his illgotten gains. 1843 Punch V. 86/2 'Oblige me with that hod', and 'Have the kindness to hand me that gimlet', are phrases which might be well substituted for a request to 'chuck' or 'fork up' 'this here' and 'that 'ere'. 1849 D. NASON Jrnl. 113 As he was the biggest man I had to fork over $1·25. ...1839 Observer & Reporter Nov. 23 Well then, fork up, and be quick."