"_Cut_ the fool" and "_cut_ the slave" (not really interesting)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Aug 6 04:05:49 UTC 2012

On 8/5/2012 11:02 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> ....
> On Aug 5, 2012, at 9:13 PM, Neal Whitman wrote:
>> Is it the same "cut" as in "Everybody cut footloose"?

Is there really an expression "cut footloose", that is prior to the
recent film/play? Seems to me this may be invented for the musical
purposes of the film/play, modeled on "cut loose", but maybe I'm wrong

Anyway, it's not obviously comparable IMHO, "cut [adjective]" as opposed
to "cut [noun phrase]". I think the "cut" in "cut loose" is probably
just plain "cut" although figurative. Please correct me if necessary.

> Or "cut a caper"?

Not obviously comparable IMHO since "cut a caper" does not seem to mean
anything like "act as a caper". As for "cut a dido", I'm not sure.

More likely comparable IMHO: "cut a hog". ["Cut a rusty" also? I can't


> .... On Sun, Aug 5, 2012 at 7:26 PM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> My feeling is that _cut_ is pretty much the same in both cases. It's like
>>>> "act."  But I could be persuaded otherwise.    (I'm familiar with "cut the
>>>> fool" from reading, and I'm doubtful concerning the part that says,
>>>> _"esp...White people...tricks."_)
>>> What I had in mind was the road traveled by _cut_ on its way to
>>> meaning something like "act (like), do like." ....

An interesting question. "Cut" isn't a usual equivalent of "act" etc.
AFAIK. [Maybe the OED says something?]

There is a possible old model in "cut a figure" (also "cut a fine
figure", "cut a sad figure", etc.), which dates from 18th century or
earlier. Here "cut" is apparently interchangeable with "make" which
seems comparable to German "Figur machen", French "faire figure" on my
brief and perhaps ignorant review.

I don't know why "cut" is used in "cut a figure", maybe the image is
that of making a sculpture or engraving? [Can somebody say why "cut"
here?] Anyway, the later expressions in question ("cut the fool" etc.)
might have followed this one with "cut" taken as "act as" based on
"figure" taken as "person[age]" or so.

DARE shows "cut the fool" ("chiefly SAtl") from 1933, the earliest
citations not labeled "Black".

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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