Dear Word Detective: The various other night at dinner my wife supplied the expression “lug the hammer dvery own.” My 10 year old son asked what that phrase meant. I described to him that it expected to deal in a significant, decisive way. We then began to wonder what the etymology of this phrase would be. My wife argued that it concerned a judge’s gavel, but I have a feeling that the expression is older than that. Could you please carry the hammer dvery own on this question? — Edward.

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You’re more than likely best, although “gavel” is a pretty old word, first appearing in print in the early on 18th century. Tbelow are actually four separate “gavel” nouns in English: 2 incredibly old terms having actually to do via strongly boring points choose rent payment and also department of chateaus, one more one interpretation corn harvested yet not yet bound in sheaves for collection, and our prevalent “gavel,” meaning the tiny hammer or mallet supplied to contact meetings or judicial sessions to order, etc. “Gavel” interpretation “mallet” is actually an Amerihave the right to development, but no one seems to know precisely how we came up via the word.


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Unclear on the concept.


“To a man via a hammer,” Mark Twain famously shelp, “whatever looks like a nail,” and as a metaphorical tool of building, devastation, suppression or oppression, the ever-handy hammer has actually few amounts to in the English vernacular. The word “hammer” itself comes from Germanic roots through the general feeling of “stone weapon” or “tool via a stone head,” and our modern “hammer” initially appeared in Old English currently with its current modern interpretation of a tool via a rock or metal head and a wood handle used to pound points.

Almany as quickly as we began making use of “hammer” in a literal feeling, we occurred a broad selection of figurative supplies for both the noun develop and also “to hammer” as a verb. In the 1fourth century, a “hammer” was “a person or agency that beats down or crushes opposition,” a intake echoed in recent years in the US government, wright here leaders (many freshly Rep. Tom DeLay) known for their ruthless suppression of opplace cultivated the nickname “the Hammer.” We still speak of “going at” a challenging task “via hammer and tongs,” as a blacksmith would pound warm iron while holding it with metal tongs. The metaphor of a blacksmith’s build likewise crops up as soon as we speak of “hammering out” an agreement or setup, exhaustively mentioning or arguing over it till it takes the desired form.

Literal hammers (or gavels) have actually likewise offered us metaphorical supplies, such as “to go under the hammer,” definition to be offered at auction (from the auctioneer’s rap of the gavel ending the bidding). It is possible that “bring the hammer down” refers to this procedure too, especially as it carries a sense of “put an finish to something through conclusive action.” But the truth that “lug the hammer down” invariably invokes serious, unpleasant action often tends to show that it initially referred to the “ruthmuch less suppression” sense of “hammer,” a crushing activity that has actually been delayed for a time for some factor, yet that is lastly decisively exercised. The hammer that is being “carried down,” in this saying, has been poised over the victim’s head for rather a while.

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It’s unclear on as soon as “lug the hammer down” showed up, yet a comparable phrase, “to drop the hammer on,” initially showed up in print in the late 1970s. Both phrases, however, are more than likely a lot older than that.