Narrows to catch metal toes

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Wed Nov 12 09:32:16 UTC 2003

Could "layovers to catch meddlers" be lurking here? It was used
(widely) in older US English. It was used to put off an unwelcome
question, e.g.,

Hi. What are you doing?
I'm making layovers to catch meddlers.

Since many nonnative speakers came to work in the mines in the UP of
Michigan, such modification could have arisen.

My personal favorite of such, however, is "Making a handle for a duck's nest."


>At 9:04 PM +0000 11/11/03, Michael Quinion wrote:
>>A subscriber has written in with a most intriguing question:
>>>  Have you heard the expression "narrows to catch metal toes" said in
>>>  mockingly warning way to mean "mind your own business." The person
>>>  asking me recalls being told this when trying to pry into Christmas
>>>  presents. Where does this come from? The grandparents who said it were
>>>  of English ancestry. This expression has been maintained in the Upper
>>>  Peninsula of Michigan.
>>Any thoughts, anyone?
>I wonder if this can be right.  It seems like it might be a
>reanalysis, but of what?  There are no hits on google for "catch
>metal toes", let alone the full expression, and my northern Michigan
>informant (OK, Leelenau County, not U.P.) has never heard of it or
>any reasonable permutation.  Maybe a nonce form?  I guess it worked,
>if your informant understood it as a warning.

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