Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Money for old rope

I’ve added a Google ad to my blog. Clicking on it probably makes me one two thousandth of a penny or something like that... Not that I can click on the advert – it’s against the rules. Probably unlikely that anyone else will but it seems like as good a way as any of getting money for old rope... I shall also be fascinated to see what adverts end up being put on as ‘appropriate’ to such a wide-ranging subject matter.

The phrase money for old rope has two possible origins. 1) Rope made from hemp had a limited lifetime. When it wore out it was picked apart and recycled. It was used for caulking. Rope fibres (known as oakum) were hammered into the seams between planks of a ship and hot pitch was poured over it. This was done to waterproof the ship. Of course you got money for the old rope. The phrase came to mean money for anything (seemingly) worthless. 2) After a public hanging the hangman cut the rope into small sections and sold them as keepsakes. At one time, this, together with a payment from the ‘hangee’ for doing a quick job and reducing the suffering, was the main source of the hangman’s income.

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