"pins & needles"?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 11 01:15:45 UTC 2002

At 5:53 PM -0700 10/10/02, Peter Richardson wrote:
>I've heard "tenderhooks" in the expression, an apparent folk etymology
>that would impute an understandable meaning to _tenter_--although the
>combination of _tender_ with _hook_ sounds like a stretch to me.
as in the iron fist in the velvet glove?  FWIW, there's a song of the
same name (Tenderhook), with lyrics viewable at
http://www.stellar.co.nz/song-tenderhook.html.  Not that many google
hits for "tenderhook" per se, but one that mentions (in a line of
poetry) "everyone hanging from a single tenderhook".  There are 331
hits for "on tenderhooks" (with quotes incorporated in search), with
the usual gentle query "Did you mean _on tenterhooks_?"

larry, who doesn't recall his very traditional English grammar school
classes spending much time on the difference between "on tenterhooks"
and "on pins and needles"

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