Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shank's Mare

I enjoy finding terms from the old Appalachian dialect. The first one I wrote about was 'Woods Colt'.

Here is another from my Appalachian dialect advisor, 'Shank's Mare'.
 I've been advised the proper use of this term would be as follows:
" the "proper way" is to say "I'm takin or took shank's mare." "

One's legs, used as a means of transport.

Shanks' (or shanks's) mare (or nag or pony) derives from the name of the lower part of the leg between the knee and ankle - the shank, nowadays more often known as the shin-bone or tibia. This was alluded to in the early form of this term - shank's nag. This originated in Scotland in the 18th century. There are several early citations in Scottish literature, as here in Robert Fergusson's Poems on Various Subjects, 1774:

"He took shanks-naig, but fient may care."

When it crossed the Atlantic, the expression migrated into 'shank's mare', which remains the common form in the USA. It was first referred to there in the 1860s. This rather unfortunate prediction was made in the Iowa newspaper The Dubuque Daily Herald in May 1869:

"A public exhibition of the velocipede [a predecessor of the bicycle] was given on the streets last evening by Mr. Clark, who managed the vehicle with considerable skill... They are a toy, and will never come into general use in competition with Shank's mare."

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