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Two Shakes

Posted by R. Berg on April 17, 2001

In Reply to: Two Shakes posted by Vicki Simmons on April 17, 2001

: Do you know the origin of "two shakes of a lamb's tail"?

It's a homey (if your home is rural) way of saying "in a very short time"--from watching lambs wag their tails, which they do quickly. But "shake" has a history of meaning a short time, with or without the lamb: sometimes one shake, sometimes a pair of shakes. The Oxford English Dictionary has "In the shake of a hand I received my sight" ; "He'll be up at the church in a couple of shakes" ; "Wait a shake, and I'll undo the side gate" .