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The meaning and origin of the expression: Bone idle

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Bone idle

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Utterly lazy.


bone idleRobert Forby didn't quite define 'bone idle' in his glossary The Vocabulary Of East Anglia, 1830, but he did almost everything but:

"Bone-lazy, bone-sore, bone-tired, adj. so lazy, sore, or tired, that the laziness, the soreness, or the fatigue, seem to have penetrated the very bones."

(Note: Forby also provided the earliest known definition of 'bone dry' in the same work, although the two terms are unrelated).

The earliest citation that I can find of the precise 'bone idle' phrase comes from Thomas Carlyle's New Letters, 1836:

"For the last three weeks I have been going what you call bone-idle."

Another early citation that is worth including for the interesting Yorkshire dialect words 'slake' and 'rauk', is The Dialect of Leeds and Its Neighbourhood: by C. Clough Robinson, 1862:

SLAKE. Badly-washed things are "just slaked ower." A "bone-idle" youth takes a wet towel and "slakes" over his face instead of washing himself properly, leaving a "rauk" from ear to ear, or visible line of demarcation, and having, as an observant comrade remarks, "a neck fit to set tatties in."