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Caught red-handed

Posted by David FG on May 28, 2007

In Reply to: Caught red-handed posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 27, 2007

: : : : I was told by a teacher that the phrase "caught red-handed" came from medieval times when the king own all the land and nobody was allowed to hunt animals. The king's men could not prove that you had killed the animal unless you had its blood on your hands. Is there any truth to this?

: : : 'I was told' usually isn't a promising start to a query. The last 'I was told' that I was mailed before this one (which didn't get through the daftness filter) was an ('absolutely definitely true') account that the word 'pissed' originated because poor peasants couldn't afford alcohol and had to buy and drink the piss of those who could, at a penny a gallon (which also explained 'spend a penny' you understand).

: : : Back to sanity. 'Red-handed' does appear to derive from suspects of crime having blood on their hands. I don't know about the requirement that a suspect had to have bloody hands in order to be proven guilty - that seems fanciful.

: : : See

: : Although the King (or 'The Crown') did - and indeed still does - own all land in the United Kingdom, there has never been a time when there has been a blanket ban on hunting.

: : It has been (and still is) seriously restricted in many places, but has had a continuous (I believe) history.

: : DFG

: That was a thoroughly stupid idea of your teacher's. Can you imagine the manorial court, faced with a serf in whose cottage an illegally-killed hare or deer had been found hung up ready to be cooked, letting him go unpunished because there was no blood on his hands? Really imagine it? But, DFG, for most of the Middle Ages there *was* a blanket ban in England on anyone but the king or noblemen to whom he had given permission hunting in the (extensive) royal forests; peasants were forbidden to own dogs capable of hunting (their dogs had by law to be maimed by the removal of several claws). And well into the 19th century, men owning less than a fixed minimum of land were forbidden to shoot game - even on their own property! (VSD)

There was a ban on hunting im Royal forests, certainly. There still is. This is not the same, to my mind, as a 'blanket ban':