"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Take down a peg

To 'take down a peg (or two)' is to lower someone's high opinion of themselves. Ever wondered where it comes from?

Various quantities and qualities have been measured by the use of pegs. It has been suggested that the pegs in question here were those used to regulate the amount of drink taken from a barrel, or those that controlled the hoisting of the colours of ships. However, the most logical sounding one to me is the pegs in a tankard.

This 18th century tankard had pegs and the idea was that you drank from one peg to another and then passed the tankard on. If you took more than your fair share you were taking your fellow drinker down a peg or two.

(The reason the tankard had a lid was to stop the press gang drugging your drink and carrying you off to sea.)

1 comment:

  1. The pegs is true but the press gang did not drug people.

    They used to put a schilling in the mug, if you drank down to the bottom and your lips touched the schilling it was classed as taking the kings schilling, that is to join the navy.

    Later, tankards had glass bottoms so people could check to see if there was a schilling in the bottom.

    It was an oath.