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Fwd: Chewing the fat

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  • Iustinos Tekton called Justin
    From the thread we had the other day about origin of English phrases. I was curious enough about this to do some further research. My own dictionaries of word
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2003
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      From the thread we had the other day about origin of English phrases.
      I was curious enough about this to do some further research. My own
      dictionaries of word history didn't have anything interesting, and the
      Internet had numerous theories but nothing authoritative.

      So I asked for help from my lady wife, Milica, who is a librarian in the
      modern world. Here's what she had to say:

      ---------- Forwarded Message ----------

      Subject: Chewing the fat
      Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2003 14:00:02 -0400
      From: Katherine Courtney <courtnka@...>
      To: courtney@...

      Barb and I put our heads together and came up with the following print

      Christine Ammer. Have a nice day - No problem! a dictionary of cliches
      Dutton, 1992

      chew the fat/rag, to.

      To converse, or to chatter in informal fashion. In Great Britain chewing the
      rag originally (late nineteenth century) was a colloquial term for
      complaining or grumbling, although one source holds it was an army term for
      persisting in an argument, and another believes the rag in question was a
      piece of cloth used when soldiers ran out of tobacco. Chewing the fat, more
      common in America, may have meant chewing on salt pork or fatback when
      supplies were low. Today both are colloquial cliches that simply mean talking
      in a relaxed manner.

      Marvin Terban. Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms
      Scholastic, 1996

      Chew the fat

      "My friend and I sat up half the night just chewing the fat."

      Meaning: to have a friendly, informal talk; to chat in a relaxed way.

      Origin: In the late 1800s this expression was popular in the British army and
      then it came to the United States. One possible origin might be that military
      and naval people were given tough meat to eat and they had to chew the fat of
      the meat as they talked. The action of chewing is like the action of speaking
      (see "chew someone out"). At any rate, if you're just hanging out, talking
      with your friends in an easy, relaxed way, you're "chewing the fat" (or
      "rag"). A similar expression is to "shoot the breeze."

      It seems that even the authoritative sources consider the origin of this
      phrase to be uncertain. We kept encountering phrases like "one possible origin"
      and "one theory", suggesting there might be alternatives. This was true on the
      Internet as well; the only "sources" that seemed sure of their "facts" were the
      ones like personal home pages that really aren't authoritative. The authorities
      are less certain.

      I wish I could provide something definitive, but it apparently doesn't exist.
      I do thank Milica and her friend Barb (non-SCA) for trying. The explanation
      Milica provides, which is very similar to the one from Snopes, appears to be
      the prevalant accepted theory.


      ()xxxx[]::::::::::::::::::> <::::::::::::::::::[]xxxx()
      Maistor Iustinos Tekton called Justin (Scott Courtney)
      Gules, on a bezant a fleam sable, on a chief dovetailed Or, two keys
      fesswise reversed sable.

      Marche of Alderford (Canton, Ohio) http://4th.com/sca/justin/
      justin@... PGP Public Key at http://4th.com/keys/justin.pubkey
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