The Phrase “Rule of Thumb” Is Actually About Domestic Violence?
We've all called something a "rule of thumb" at some point . . . but I think it's safe to say none of us realized where that expression came from. Here are the horrible origins of three very common clichés we say all the time.
"Rule of thumb." In Scotland in the 1800s, the way a man could legally solve arguments with their wives was to . . . beat them with sticks that were the width of their thumbs. Thankfully, the beatings ended, but people kept using "rule of thumb" to describe a standard solution to a problem. .
"Pulling your leg." That phrase comes from the early 1900s, and refers to how thieves used to tackle their victims and pull them to the ground by their legs. So, in a way, the thieves were "tricking" them, by literally pulling their legs.
"Meeting a deadline." Now, a deadline is when we have to get something done. The word comes from the Civil War, when there was literally a "dead line" . . . if prisoners of war tried to cross a certain line, they'd be shot.
No one's quite sure how that became used as a word for a time when we had to get things done. Maybe a guy was so worried about turning something in on time, he felt like he'd die if he didn't?