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Cut to the chase

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 16, 2008 at 07:38

In Reply to: Cut to the chase posted by Edward Manges on May 15, 2008 at 19:08:

: The phrase - "cut to the chase" dates to SH
: hakespeare and Henry the VIII, well before the 1930's film industry. The reference is a tennis like game called court tennis or real tennis. There are hash marks on the court not unlike yard lines in US football. After Each mark or Chase is created, it is then defended. To win one it is best to cut the ball to the chase, or cut to the chase. Shakespeare makes several references in his plays about tennis and "chaces".

Certainly there are references to real tennis and "chaces" in Shakespeare. What there is not, is any example of "cut to the chase". This theory has, to me, all the flavour of an "explanation after the event dreamed up by a practitioner of the activity concerned" (like all those falconers who are convinced that cadge, gorge, hoodwink, etc. derive from falconry). Unless you can produce an actual historical occurrence of the phrase in a tennis-playing sense (which I assume you can't, or you would have cited it), this remains an unsupported assertion. A strong argument against it is that all respectable dictionaries of slang and sayings that I know of say it is first recorded in the 1920s - not exactly a boom time for real tennis. The only book in which I have seen this theory advanced is called "Well I Never Knew That! Did Noah Invent Tennis?" by Peter Ryding, which is a very trashy compilation full of hoary old myths such as "Elephant and castle" being derived from "Infanta of Castile", and "No room to swing a cat" being about naval floggings, and can't possibly be relied on. (VSD)