"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."

Monday, 17 May 2010

Getting the hang of it

The phrase 'getting the hang of it', meaning to find the knack of doing something, seems to date from around the 1820s. It is said to originate with public executions where a poor executioner would leave a [person hanging for ages while they strangled to death. A good executioner (who had got the hang of it) would drop the victim in such a way that their neck broke, making a quick and clean job of it. (Well, perhaps not clean but we won't go into that...)

1 comment:

  1. The book I'm reading right now, Cutting for Stone, has several "hangings" in it. How awful if it's NOT done right!!! Yikes!