[Ads-l] Speaking with "the bark off" (not in OED)

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Sun Dec 6 17:39:36 UTC 2015

New to me ... and I'm close to New Hampshire.


Lexicon[no author credited]

‘With the bark off’
When Joe McQuaid, publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader, appeared on “Meet the Press” this week, he explained that his newspaper had endorsed Chris Christie for president in part because Americans are “looking for somebody who speaks with ‘the bark off,’ as we say in New Hampshire.” With the bark off? Turns out, the phrase was originally the opposite: In the 19th century, truth-tellers were said to speak “with the bark on” — meaning in plain, unpolished words, like wood that hadn’t been smoothed out or otherwise refined. Later, the phrase flipped: Speaking “with the bark off” came to mean telling the truth found at the core of the wood, beneath the protective covering. The phrase also sounds a lot like “talking the bark off a tree” — which is to say, speaking a lot. Whatever McQuaid meant, it was clear he doesn’t think Christie is barking up the wrong tree.


Boston Globe, Dec. 4, 2015, E5.  (Online at http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/10/01/good-week-ann-romney/jPLbIlzatqwpVG92gzzmpN/story.html, which is erroneously dated Oct. 2, 2015.)


This may be a rich lode for the miners.  "Talk with the bark off/on" vs. "talk the bark off".  Historical variations in meaning of each of these.  Regionality.


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

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