phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Never cracks a book

Posted by Pamela on October 25, 2006

In Reply to: Never cracks a book posted by pamela on October 25, 2006

: : : : : : : : : : what is the literal meaning of "never cracks a book" and also what is the figurative meaning of "never cracks a book".

: : : : : : : : : Never opens a book. Literal and figurative. It refers to cracking the spine of a book. Not a good thing.

: : : : : : : : I was taught (maybe by my mother, maybe by a librarian) to never lay a book page-side down. It would crack the spine. Here's some information from a site on antique book care:

: : : : : : : : Always use bookmarkers. Avoid folding corners or pages. Pens, pencils, any objects left in books can cause the spine to crack and break. Very thick book markers or gem clips are also not a good idea.

: : : : : : : : Remove from the shelf properly. Reach to the rear to push slightly toward you, then grab the sides with all fingers. Avoid the temptation to pull on the top spine, which is the first visible place of wear and freigh.

: : : : : : : : Opening any book more than 190 ° (flat) causes the spine to break and crack over time. Always support the book's spine while it is open, never forcing it to lay open.

: : : : : : : : Wash hands before and after handling all books. Lotion, sweat, etc. can cause soil stains. Germs can also be passed to you from used, library, and antique/vintage books.
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: : : : : : : Literally, then, the "cracked" spine indicates the book was opened. Figuratively, "she never cracked a book before the test" means she didn't do any of the reading she was expected to do; she did not study.

: : : : : : A number of Websites devoted to definitions think one of the more general definitions of "crack" is involved, namely, to crack open, to open up for use or consumption--or for reading and study. I have often heard the phrase as "crack open a book," and I believe this is what is meant by cracking a book, that is, opening it. Cracking the spine is relatively rare collateral damage when you crack open a few books. The two are not connected except insofar as they involve books.
: : : : : : SS

: : : : : I understand "crack a book" the way Smokey does. In a car, "Would you crack that window for me?" is a request to open a window "just a crack," not to break the glass. ~rb

: : : : A couple of factlets. The term "crack the books" dates back to the 1930s, U.S. ("Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green, Wellington House, London, 1998). "Crack" comes from the German "Krach" meaning a loud noise. ("The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers, Wings Books, Originally New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985). I am sticking to my original theory, slightly amended. That to crack a book refers to the cracking sound when one opens a new book, the cracking being a precursor to actually cracking the spine.

: : : : At the ESC household, we always have bookmarks at the read. Friends don't let friends crack the spines of books.

: : : Sorry, but I'm going against you too ESC. It means she didn't open a book even the tiniest bit as in "Will you crack open the window just a crack?". By your new definition, I hardly ever crack a book as I get mine at the library - they're already all softened up and "pre-cracked".

: : I didn't think "crack a book" (i.e. open a book) had anything to do with physical damage to the spine. I thought (to myself, if I fancy) that it came from the noise that a hardback sometimes makes when it is opened for the first time. If so, the sound comes from the hinge (the part between the spine and the cover)and not the spine. Hardbacks are normally bound in such a manner that they c an be opened and read with very little visible damage to the spine, the damage coming from the types of mistreatment that's been mentioned. I must admit that I didn't consider paperbacks in this. FIY, I was taught that the correct way to r emove a book from the shelf (when preservation is an issue), is to push the adjoining books back and then grasp it by the sides. Pamela

: I'll modify the above slightly, by saying that the spine may be implicated in the cracking sound - the spine would be flexing outward (i.e. curving) for the first time). Pamela

As a final note "crack a window" to mean "open a window just a crack" is not something I've ever heard, so this common use of "crack" meaning to open (i.e. not related to the sound of a book cracking) is something that I'm unfamiliar with. In Australia, we do crack a codie (meaning to open a beer), but I assumed that this was to do with the noise of a beer opening. Pamela