Narrows to catch metal toes

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 12 17:45:55 UTC 2003

At 4:32 AM -0500 11/12/03, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>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.
In support of this, google turns up the following.  No specific
region identified, and I'm still not sure how we get from
layovers/layrolls to narrows or from meddlers to meddle-toes.  Talk
about loss of transparency...

Posted by Bruce Kahl on November 14, 1999 at 14:32:23:

In Reply to: Layrolls to catch meddlers posted by Jewel Bragg on
November 14, 1999 at 07:06:08:

: As a small child when I asked my Grandmother, What is that?", she
would often reply, "Layrolls to catch meddlers.". What is a layroll
(spelling?) and what is the orgin of this phrase?

: Please email to: Bejeweledi

It is "layovers to catch meddlers on".
I don't know the history or origin but the "layover" would be an item
placed by a parent or grandparent in or on an out of the way or hard
to reach shelf to "catch a meddler" or inquisitive kid looking for a
preview of a Christmas present.

From: "Douglas/Ungaro" <dasha at>
Subject: 'Layovers to catch meddlers'? folk saying & variations
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002 11:50:50 +0300

"Layovers to catch meddlers", "layrolls to catch meddlers", etc.

This saying is used in various American communities, in particular it
seems, among a significant number of Black Americans.

Is it used in the English-speaking Caribbean?

Did it come from England?

Can folks on Caribbean-L help? Do you recognize it too?

We need to hear more on from academic communities on 'cultural
puzzles'in the Americas, like this one.

 From a discussion on main genealogy list, it seems
many folks' have family members and ancestors who used it.  It is
also found in some American or Black American literature.

You will find some USA and other usages if you do an Internet search on
the phrase-piece "catch meddlers".  It's most interesting!

One website reference lists this saying as a part of the dialect of the
village of MAWDESLEY, in Lancashire, Northwest England.

The saying is listed on this website:

"LAYOVERS. to catch meddlers. The answer to an inquiry about the contents
of a bag or parcel."

Lancashire and York, England gave their names to LANCASTER & YORK
in Pennsylvania.  Later, Lancaster & York counties in SOUTH CAROLINA
were formed by people who left Lancaster and York counties, PA.

Does use of this phrase in America trace back to the Caribbean? South
Carolina? Or perhaps early Pennsylvania?

Marian Douglas

More information about the Ads-l mailing list