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Monday, January 26, 2015

An Old Saying

"Take down a peg or two"
Ever wonder where this saying came from? I did, so I went looking. All the early citations of the phrase have a religious context; for example:

Pappe with An Hatchet, 1589 - "Now haue at you all my gaffers of the rayling religion, tis I that must take you a peg lower."

 Joseph Mead's Letters, 1625 - "A-talking of the brave times that would be shortly... when... the Bishop of Chester, that bore himself so high, should be hoisted a peg higher to his little ease."

Samuel Butler's Hudibras, 1664 - "We still have worsted all your holy Tricks,... And took your Grandees down a peg."

If the pegs were some religious artifact, it isn't clear what they were. Various quantities and qualities have been measured by the use of pegs. It has been suggested that the pegs in question here were those used to regulate the amount of drink taken from a barrel, or those that controlled the hoisting of the colors (flags) of ships. Either of these might be correct 

In all my wanderings, I really didn't come up with a satisfactory explanation. But, when I hear that expression used, I have no problem understanding its meaning, do you?

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