Old Words and Sayings

     I was just sitting around wondering just what I would do for a Feature Story for June 1, 2012. No one seems to take pity on me so I have to come up with something. While I was mauling around a few thoughts my grandson came in and asked if I would I drive him to his friend’s house. It is only a few blocks so I told him to go “Shanks’ Mare”. He looked at me with that puzzled look of a 14 year old.

      I thought I would tell him a short story that my grandfather told me while growing up. He lived on Bingamon Creek and he said he would go to Shinnston every Saturday to shop or pick up things he needed. I asked, “Grandpa, how did you get there"? He told me he went “Shanks’ Mare”, and he told me this story.

      His uncle lived with him for a short time and on this particular Saturday, uncle Melvin wanted to go with him. Melvin was what we call now “mentally challenged”. Grandpa could not find Melvin so he began looking around for him and when he found him, Melvin was standing in a very large apple butter copper kettle. Melvin was standing in the kettle with the bale over his shoulder, so Grandpa asked him what he was doing and he said, "Shinnston is a long way to walk so I am going to carry myself". So anytime in my family someone does something a little odd, we say, “That’s the Melvin in you.”

      Back to the meaning of Shanks’ Mare. Shank’s Mare with it origins first appears in print in the 18th century in Scotland.

      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 (1750 – 1774 ) poems on various subjects

"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:

      Since that time it has been handed down from generation to the generation. I just have passed it down to my grandson but I don’t think he will use the phase much because everyone rides everywhere we go and it has been forgotten that “Shanks’ Mare” has gone the way of old.

Maybe the phase should be part of Mrs. Obama's vocabulary since she says, eat less, eat well, exercise more and walk instead of riding everywhere we go.

Eat healthy, and go “Shanks’ Mare"

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