egg on

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egg on

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Dec 11, 2004 10:07 am

To EGG ON may or may not be related to the ‘jacked up your widgers’ question two postings back. It is an expression we probably are all familiar with, but which I had never given a thought as to where it came from.
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To EGG ON means to incite or urge on, or instigate an action, especially with regard to something foolish or dangerous, encourage, provoke. <“He egged his brother on to throw a snowball at the teacher.”> The earliest recorded use of the verb ‘egg’ in this sense was in 1200, but ‘egg on’ did not appear in print until 1566 in Drant’s ‘Horace Satyres: “Ile egge them on speake some thynge.”

The expression ‘to egg on’ has nothing to do with hen’s eggs or any kind of eggs as one might suspect. It also is not derived, as one bogus story claims, from the Norman invaders pricking Anglo-Saxon prisoners in the butt with their ‘ecgs’ (their spears) when urging them to move faster. The verb ‘egg’ before 1200 was ‘eggen’ which was borrowed from the Old Norse verb ‘eggja,’ to incite, or ‘to edge’ (as in ‘push toward the edge’ until some action is undertaken). To ‘egg’ someone meant the same thing as to ‘to edge’ someone and was used that way until circa 1566, when the expression was lengthened ‘to egg on.’ ‘Egg on’ and ‘edge on’ were used interchangeable but the verb ‘edge’ eventually became obsolete and today only ‘egg on’ remains.
<1594 “Sibils and Bacchants . . . men think are EGGED ON by some divine inspiration.”—Huarte's Examination of Men's Wits (1596) by Carew, page 45>

<1613 “The Duke EDGED his soldiers, by declaring unto them the noble works of their ancestors.”—in Harl. Misc. (Malh.). III. page 141>

<1691 “Mathew Hazard [was] a main Incendiary in the Rebellion, violently EGGED ON by his wife.”—Athenæ Oxoniense by Wood, II. page 328>

<1852 “Schemers and flatterers would EGG HIM ON.”—The History of Henry Esmond (1876) by Thackeray, II. x. page 207>
(Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Oxford English Dictionary, Barnhart Concise Dictionary of etymology, Urdang’s Picturesque Expressions)
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Ken G – November 23, 2004
Submitted by Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Re: egg on

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:09 pm

In Danish (a language descended from Old Norse), the word æg means both 'egg' and 'knife-edge' or 'edge of a blade'. Evidently 'egg' has evolved into distinct morphological forms in English, whereas this is not the case with the Danish word.
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Re: egg on

Post by JerrySmile » Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:14 pm

Interesting origin.
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Re: egg on

Post by Shelley » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:38 pm

Interesting, but which came first?
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Re: egg on

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:44 am

OPL Shelley.

I wish I had said that. But then again, I probably will given the right circumstances.
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Re: egg on

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:50 am

Yes, Bob, you'll have to keep chicken into it.
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Re: egg on

Post by Shelley » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:27 am

I wouldn't brood about it, though.
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Re: egg on

Post by Tony Farg » Thu Jan 15, 2009 6:37 pm

Henuff!
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Re: egg on

Post by Shelley » Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:19 pm

Yokay, Tony.
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Re: egg on

Post by violablue » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:08 am

Shouldn't that be "yolkay"?

By the way, according to a book I finished reading recently, the chicken must have come first as the there had to be an actual chicken to lay an egg that would be considered to be a "chicken egg". Natch.
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Re: egg on

Post by Shelley » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:12 am

Ah. Of course: Yolkay, Tony!
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Re: egg on

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jan 16, 2009 4:12 am

These endless puns are getting me a little down. Wattle it take for it all to stop?
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Re: egg on

Post by trolley » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:06 am

They just capon coming.
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Re: egg on

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:48 am

They also range freely and widely.
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