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A Book of phrase origins...

Posted by Bob on July 25, 2001

In Reply to: A Book of phrase origins... posted by Robert Kostevc on July 25, 2001

: Hi All,

: A Book of phrase origins was quoted some time ago in the Sydney Morning Herald as a text that was (is still) quite recently given to new officers of the Britsh Police Force. It's purpose is to shed some light on the meaning of some common expressions especially hang over words from colonialism and other racial and class expressions.

: Has anyone heard of this tect or know where I can get a copy (even an online one would be good)? The only other info I can offer is the origin of 'Nitty Gritty' which was quoted in the article (note: not hardly verbatim): Nitty Gritty refers to the black female slaves left in the hull of the slaving ship once the men have been taken ashore and sold. Hence, 'let's get down to the nitty gritty.'

: Please email me if there is any info available.

: Kind Regards,
: Robert Kostevc.

There are many books of dubious scholarship and fanciful invention available... but I doubt you'd want to rely on one that places "nitty gritty" back with the slave trade: no legitimate text references seem to exist for this phrase prior to 1963. People seem to love "folk etymologies" and they spread quickly (note the many, many inventive ways people explain "the whole nine yards," each explanation absolutely certain, but none with actual text evidence to back it up.