up sticks/up stakes: eggcorn origin?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri May 18 14:20:45 UTC 2007

FWIW, "cut out" = "depart" in BE.

WAG: I've always associated the "stakes" with setting out stakes to
secure mining rights. Things don't pan out, you pull up stakes and
move on. I also like the pulling-up-tent-stakes" idea, though, in my
day, we called them "tent pegs" in the Army.


On 5/17/07, Douglas G. Wilson <douglas at nb.net> wrote:
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> Poster:       "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>
> Subject:      Re: up sticks/up stakes: eggcorn origin?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Am working on a blog entry on BrE 'up sticks' (to pick up one's things and
> >move), which seems related to AmE 'to pull up stakes'.  The OED supports a
> >relation between the 'move oneself & one's belongings' meaning of 'up
> >sticks' and the 'put up the mast of one's boat' meaning.  'Stakes' could be
> >seen as referring to tent stakes.
> >
> >Is there any evidence that AmE 'pull up stakes' is an eggcorn based on 'up
> >sticks' (or vice versa)?  Or are they just coincidentally very similar in
> >sound and meaning?
> >
> >Both phrases are claimed in different places to have originated in the
> >early 1800s, though there is a lone early example (1703) for 'up stakes' in
> >the OED.
> There's also (related?) "cut stick" (also "cut one's stick") = "depart"; I
> see this from the 1830's (US and UK); I don't see it in my OED at a glance,
> but maybe it's there somewhere.
> OED has examples of "cut it" = "depart": does "it" originally mean "stick"?
> This also appears as "cut [one's] sticks", which I see from the 1850's.
> This seems less sensible if "stick" basically = "walking stick".
> -- Doug Wilson
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