Antedatings and new sense of "cut the stick"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 15 08:47:42 UTC 2014

"cut the stick", to depart (OED: 1825)


Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1823, page 107 --
but not in the 1788 or 1796 editions) by Pierce Egan simply says:

CUT ONE'S STICK. To be off. Cant.


Further antedatings can be found in Othello-travestie: In Three Acts,
with Burlesque Notes in the Manner of the Most Celebrated Commentators
and Other Curious Appendices by John Poole ("and William Shakespeare")
(page 8):


Why not cut your stick ? (b)

And page 29 just before Cassio leaves:


I'll cut my stick.

Also in the extensive footnotes from pages 60 to 62 by "Johnson",
"Theobald", "Warburton" and "Steevens", which I won't quote but you
can see here:

Given the subtitle of the book -- "with Burlesque Notes in the Manner
of the Most Celebrated Commentators" -- I don't think we can trust
them to be real, and therefore the last 1597 is likely fictional, but
they are clear 1813 examples of "to leave".


The same meaning is found in the US, but also another sense of "to die".

Maximilian Schele de Vere's Americanisms; the English of the New World
(1872) says on page 594:

To cut one's sticky used in England instead of to leave, has been
enlarged in its meaning by American vigor of speech, and here often
means to die. " I'm blowed if he cut stick" (N. Hawthorne.)

I'm not sure where the N[athaniel?] Hawthorne quotation comes from.



The American Dialect Society -

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