Calf Rope

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Calf Rope

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:58 pm

What is the origin of the term "Calf Rope" meaning as I understand it "to give up" or "I've had enough"

Clarence from Texas
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Calf Rope

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Aug 23, 2004 1:13 pm

Clarence, The complete expression I found was ‘cry/call/holler/say/yell calf-rope.’ For those [me!] who are unfamiliar with it, it means pretty much the same thing as the familiar (at least to one who was brought up in N.Y.C) ‘cry uncle’ or just ‘uncle,’ or ‘I give’ (short for ‘I give up’), which was originally a schoolyard admission or cry of defeat – meaning to give up, surrender, say you’ve had enough.

Your expression is mainly used in the South Midland and Gulf states (all or part of 15 states) and dates back to the 1800s. The origin is uncertain, but I would guess that if a roped calf (hogtied calf?) could talk, it might cry, depending on where it was from, ‘I give,’ ‘uncle,’ or ‘calf rope.’ The origin, however, is listed ‘officially’ as ‘uncertain,’ meaning that there may be some guesses, but no one knows for sure.

There are dozens of quotes under ‘calf-rope’ in the following reference (I’ve only listed two), which you might be able to find in a public or college library:
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Dictionary of American Regional English (Volume I):

CALF-ROPE, HOLLER verb phrase. Also ‘call/cry/say/yell calf-rope; also used as the exclamation ‘calf-rope.’ [origin uncertain] chiefly South Midland and Gulf States. Cf ‘uncle.’ Especially in children’s games: to give in, surrender, capitulate.
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“Calf-rope—This is what you make the other fellow say if you want to stop and you’re winning; very humiliating to have to say this; I give.”

1878: “. . . . . was forced to ‘hollow [sic] calf-rope,’ that is, to signify by gestures that he was beaten.”
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Ken G – March 11, 2003



Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Calf Rope

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Aug 23, 2004 1:27 pm

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Calf Rope

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Aug 23, 2004 1:41 pm

calfrope, can be weaker, its easier to rope and hold a calf, to say calfrope is exactly the sames as to say uncle. Either way the person in 'control' has forced the 'loser' to admit defeat.
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