"second-hand"--(possible blend)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jan 22 21:54:58 UTC 2005

At 3:00 PM -0600 1/22/05, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>Original message from Jonathan Lighter, Jan. 21, 2005:
>>  Around 1979 I heard a student using "second-hand" to mean "second
>>nature" : "You keep doing it till it becomes second-hand."
>>  Since then I've heard this many times. [...]
>         *********
>This may be a blend:
>"...until it becomes second nature" + "until you know it like the
>back of your hand."
Is the latter clearly involved?  I'd certainly think that besides the
meaning of "second nature", the existence of "second-hand" is
relevant.  The sense of 'at one remove' is common to both, albeit in
somewhat different ways:  the standard term "second-hand" is glossed
'Not original or obtained from the original source' which seems not
that distant in meaning from 'second nature':  If you learn something
second-hand and absorb it, it becomes second nature to you.
"know...like the back of one's hand" may be involved, but I don't see
it as necessary.


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