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Ne'er cast a clout till May be out

Posted by Baceseras on June 04, 2007

In Reply to: Ne'er cast a clout till May be out posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 03, 2007

: : : Though the verdict seems to be unanimous in that "clout" refers to clothing, is there not a possibility that "casting a clout" does, in fact, refer to turning of the soil - "clout / clod"? This would give us a meaning of "Don't turn the soil until the May blossom can be seen", which would impart important agricultural information, as opposed to being a phrase concerned with when to take off or discard items of clothing, which should be fairly obvious.

: : That's certainly a possibility. I'd say that 'cast' seems more a more appropriate verb for the removal of clothing than it does for the turning of soil.

: Unlikely. It appears to be a translation of a Spanish proverb which exists in various forms, e.g.:
: Para mayo, guarda el sayo (During May, keep your coat on)
: Hasta mayo, no te quites el sayo (Until May, don't take your coat off)
: En mayo, no te quites el sayo (In May, don't take your coat off)
: En mayo, busca la vieja el sayo (In May, the old woman goes looking for her coat)
: Hasta el cuarenta de mayo no te quites el sayo. (Until the 40th of May, don't take your coat off)
: The last two are a little obscure in detail but the general drift is clear; it's all about clothes. NB that "mayo" in Spanish is definitely the month; may-blossom in Spanish is called somethign quite different. (VSD)

> On the contrary, "cast" is precisely the word for the action of a plow in turning soil (as it is also for the action of earthworms passing soil through their bodies as they go). Furthermore, "clout" could be a variant form of "clod", meaning a lump of earth. The suggestion that the proverb is agricultural seems somewhat probable as well as possible.