Dear word Detective: The other night at dinner my wife supplied the expression “bring the hammer down.” my 10 year old son asked what that expression meant. I defined to him that it supposed to deal in a severe, decisive way. Us then started to wonder what the etymology of this phrase would be. Mine wife suggested that it concerned a judge’s gavel, but I have actually a emotion that the expression is older 보다 that. Might you please carry the hammer down on this question? — Edward.

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You’re most likely right, return “gavel” is a pretty old word, an initial appearing in publish in the early on 18th century. There space actually 4 separate “gavel” noun in English: two really old terms having to perform with strongly boring things choose rent payment and department of estates, another one definition corn harvested however not however bound in sheaves for collection, and our usual “gavel,” definition the small hammer or mallet supplied to speak to meetings or justice sessions to order, etc. “Gavel” meaning “mallet” is in reality an American invention, but no one seems to know precisely how we came up through the word.


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Unclear ~ above the concept.


“To a male with a hammer,” mark Twain famously said, “everything looks prefer a nail,” and also as a metaphorical device of construction, destruction, suppression or oppression, the ever-handy hammer has few equals in the English vernacular. Words “hammer” itself comes from Germanic roots through the basic sense the “stone weapon” or “tool v a rock head,” and our contemporary “hammer” very first appeared in Old English already with its current modern definition of a tool v a stone or steel head and also a wooden handle used to lb things.

Almost as shortly as we started using “hammer” in a literal meaning sense, we occurred a wide selection of figurative offers for both the noun type and “to hammer” together a verb. In the 14th century, a “hammer” to be “a human being or agency that beats down or crushes opposition,” a consumption echoed in recent years in the united state government, wherein leaders (most newly Rep. Tom DeLay) known for your ruthless suppression the opposition cultivated the nickname “the Hammer.” us still speak the “going at” a difficult task “with hammer and also tongs,” as a blacksmith would pound warm iron while holding the with metal tongs. The metaphor of a blacksmith’s forge additionally crops up once we speak of “hammering out” an commitment or plan, exhaustively pointing out or suggesting over it till it bring away the desired shape.

Literal hammers (or gavels) have additionally given us metaphorical uses, such together “to go under the hammer,” definition to be sold at auction (from the auctioneer’s laboratory of the gavel ending the bidding). It is feasible that “bring the hammer down” describes this process as well, especially as that carries a sense of “put an end to something v conclusive action.” yet the reality that “bring the hammer down” invariably invokes severe, unpleasant action tends to show that it initially referred to the “ruthless suppression” sense of “hammer,” a crushing action that has actually been delayed for a time for part reason, however that is ultimately decisively exercised. The hammer that is gift “brought down,” in this saying, has been poised over the victim’s head for quite a while.

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It’s unclear on as soon as “bring the hammer down” appeared, however a similar phrase, “to autumn the hammer on,” an initial appeared in publish in the so late 1970s. Both phrases, however, are most likely much older 보다 that.