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Smart as a whip

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 20, 2009 at 18:54

In Reply to: Smart as a whip posted by Joe on February 17, 2009 at 16:55:

: : What is the origin of 'Happy Horse s h i t' and 'Smart as a whip'?

: Dictionary of the American West By Winfred Blevins Very clever; first used in Salt Lake City in l860, was common ny 1965.

: The other dates to the late 1950's...

"Smart as a whip" does not in precisely this wording in the Oxford English Dictionary, or at least I wss unable to discover it. On the other hand the meaning it assigns to the adjective "smart" is: "I. †1. a. Of a whip, rod, etc.: Inflicting or causing pain; sharp, biting, stinging. Obs."

"Smart" in the meaning of causing pain or being the source of pain is very old, much older, for instance, than this line from an Elizabethan lute song:

"O, 'tis a crack to my back, 'tis a smart to my heart, and to my belly."

The meaning "painful as a whip" has been supplanted by "clever as a whip" because of the shift away from the original mening of smart, which is no longer used as an adjective. Or so I conjecture.