Give me some leadway!

neil neil at TYPOG.CO.UK
Mon May 22 08:16:58 UTC 2006

on 21/5/06 19:08, Arnold M. Zwicky at zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Fwd: Give me some leadway!
> originally sent, by digital misadventure, only to michael quinion:
> Begin forwarded message:
>> From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at>
>> Date: May 21, 2006 11:00:52 AM PDT
>> To: wordseditor at
>> Subject: Re: Give me some leadway!
>> On May 21, 2006, at 10:42 AM, Michael Quinion wrote:
>>>> Perhaps this isn't an eggcorn, but I often hear (and admittedly use)
>>>> "no rest for the wicked" for "no rest for the weary."  I'm not a
>>>> googler, but are both common?  And which was the original, if
>>>> that can
>>>> be determined?
>>> I'd argue for "wicked", because that was the version my old dad
>>> used about
>>> 50 years ago in west London when he was dragged from his armchair
>>> by some
>>> need for immediate domestic action. The OED has its first example
>>> from
>>> 1935, but that's easily antedated by a century. The Huron
>>> Reflector of 2
>>> Oct. 1832 has: "We soon reached the jungle, dashed through a path
>>> that had
>>> been recently cleared with a cutlass, or bill-hook, for the twigs
>>> were
>>> freshly shred, and in about ten minutes reached the high wood.-
>>> However,
>>> no rest for the wicked, although the row seemed lessening now."
>>> However,
>>> I've found an example of the other dated 1871, so that's pretty
>>> old, too.
>> "wicked" wins handily in raw google webhits, 418,000 to 190,000.
>> more important. however, is this from Isaiah 57:21 (no, i don't
>> have bible verses memorized; i found this via a google search):
>> ... no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
>> the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms gives the idiom as
>> "no peace/rest for the wicked" (though without the biblical
>> verse).  no listing for the "weary" version that i can find.
>> in general, "authorities" seem to be inclined to cite it according
>> to which version they find most natural, as here:
>> ------
>> The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.  2002.
>> No rest for the weary
>> You must keep persevering no matter how tired or overworked you are.
>> Ω A variant is „no rest for the wicked,‰ which implies that the
>> devil will not allow his followers to rest from their evil doings.
>> -----
>> there's no scholarship here (shame on you, E.D. Hirsch et al.!),
>> just the implicit claim that the "weary" version is original, the
>> "wicked" version a variant.  in light of Isaiah i very much doubt
>> that.
>> arnold (zwicky at
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

I recently overheard a co-worker remark to an elderly lady working at a
charity shop till: "No rest for the wicked."

To which came the response: "An even less for the righteous."

--Neil Crawford

The American Dialect Society -

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