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A lick of difference

Posted by ESC on June 17, 2007

In Reply to: A lick of difference posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 17, 2007

: : Hi, I'm chasing where this saying came from, country, by whom or any info at all - "a lick of difference". I'm thinking it means "won't make any difference" of course, but what has the "lick" got to do with it?

: Every since the 18th century "lick" has had several related slang meanings: "a hasty wash", "a quick tidy-up", "a casual amount of work". In the mid-19th century a new meaning evolved from these in the US: "a bit, a cursory amount". That's the sense we have in this phrase.

"Lick" is the subject of a long entry in "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume III by Frederic G. Cassidy and Joan Houston Hall (1996, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England). Page 340-342. A couple of meanings:

Various negative phrases. The smallest amount of work; a bit of work. Earliest citation 1902. A small amount, bit; the smallest amount (of something); hence in quasi-adverbial use; a bit, at all -- usually in negative contexts. Earliest citation 1853.