Rule of thumb

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

Rule of thumb

Post by Mel » Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:00 pm

The archive has this explanation....

Rule of thumb, which was coined in the late 17th century, means 'a method or procedure derived entirely from practice or experience, without any basis in scientific knowledge; a roughly practical method. Also, a particular stated rule that is based on practice or experience.' It seems to originate in the use of the thumb as a very rough aiming guide when attempting to assess distance or direction in navigation. An alternative, and equally likely view is that the adult thumb measures very nearly one inch or 2.5 cm.

I recently heard it explained that in the middle ages you were not permitted to beat your wife with a stick any thicker than your thumb. Any comments?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Another season another reason....

Re: Rule of thumb

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Aug 31, 2008 1:46 pm

ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Re: Rule of thumb

Post by JANE DOErell » Sun Aug 31, 2008 4:17 pm

Mel wrote: I recently heard it explained ...
Mel, [big grin here] as a rule of thumb, don't rely on explanations that you recently heard.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Rule of thumb

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Sep 01, 2008 1:53 pm

Mel said:
"... and (sic) equally likely view is that the adult thumb measures very nearly one inch or 2.5 cm.
.. this is not quite correct .. it is generally held that the distance from the tip of the thumb to the first joint is approximately one inch ..
In Roman times it was estimated that the measure of the last part of the thumb above the top joint would fit roughly 12 times into the larger measure of a foot. Thus the foot was split into 12 "inches" (the French called them pouces, meaning thumbs) and remained a standard measure for centuries. Careful measuring required a standard rule but, where an estimated length would do, the thumb sufficed. A rule of thumb has been in figurative use since the late 17th century.
Source: dictionary of idioms and their origins, L&R Flavell, 2006.
.. so there you go .. thumbs up she'll be right mate, you can thumb a lift with me if you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb or you can just stand there twiddling your thumbs like you're under the thumb ..

WoZ in Aus
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: Rule of thumb

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:35 pm

I recently heard it explained that in the middle ages you were not permitted to beat your wife with a stick any thicker than your thumb. Any comments?
Wasn't that the Rule of Thump?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Rule of thumb

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Sep 04, 2008 3:33 pm

.. yes Edwin .. see Erik above ..

WoZ
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply