The English phrase rule of thumb refers to a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory.
This usage of the phrase can be traced back to the seventeenth century. A modern folk etymology holds that the phrase derives from the maximum width of a stick allowed for wife-beating under English law ; this belief may have originated in a rumored statement by the eighteenth-century judge Sir Francis Buller that a man may beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb.
The rumor produced numerous jokes and Rule of thumb beat cartoons at Buller's expense; however, there is no record that he made such a statement. The English jurist William Blackstone wrote in his Commentaries on the Laws of England of an "old law" that once allowed "moderate" beatings by husbands, but did not mention thumbs or any specific implements.
While wife beating has been officially outlawed for centuries in England and the United States, it continued in practice; several nineteenth-century American Rule of thumb beat rulings referred to an "ancient doctrine" that the judges believed had allowed husbands to physically punish their wives using implements no thicker than their thumbs.
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The exact phrase rule of thumb first became associated with domestic abuse in the s, after which the spurious legal definition was cited as factual in a number of law journals, and the U.
Rule of thumb beat on Civil Rights published a report on domestic abuse titled "Under the Rule of Thumb" in In English, rule of thumb refers to an approximate method for doing something, based on practical experience rather than theory.
Historically, the width of the thumb, or "thumb's breadth", was used as the equivalent of an inch in the cloth trade; similar expressions existed in Latin and French as well.
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He says that "Ladies often measure yard lengths by their thumb. Indeed, the expression 'sixteen nails make a yard' seems to point to the thumb-nail as a standard" and that "Countrymen always measure by their thumb". A modern folk etymology   relates the phrase to domestic violence via an alleged rule under English law that allowed for wife beating provided the implement used was a rod or stick no thicker than a man's thumb.
While wife beating has been officially outlawed Rule of thumb beat England and later, the United States for centuries, enforcement of the law was inconsistent, and wife beating did continue.
However, such a rule of thumb was never codified in law. The English jurist William Blackstone wrote in the late s in his Commentaries on the Laws of England that by an "old law", a husband was justified in using "moderate correction" against his wife, but was barred from inflicting serious violence.
According to Blackstone, by the late s this custom was in doubt, and a woman was by then allowed "security of the peace" against an abusive husband [a] Blackstone did not mention either thumbs or sticks. Prosser wrote that there was "probably no truth to the legend" that a husband was Rule of thumb beat to beat his wife "with a stick no thicker than his thumb".
The association between the thumb and implements of domestic violence can be traced to the yearwhen the English judge Sir Francis Buller was ridiculed for purportedly stating that a husband could beat his wife, provided he used a stick no wider than his thumb.
In the following century, several court rulings in the United States referred to a supposed common-law doctrine that the judges believed had once allowed wife beating with an implement smaller than a Rule of thumb beat. However, all allowed for some degree of wife beating so long as it did not result in serious injury. An court ruling in Mississippi stated that a man was entitled to enforce "domestic discipline" by striking his wife with a whip or stick no wider than the judge's thumb.
In a later case in North Carolina State v.
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Rhodes, the defendant was found to have struck his wife "with a switch Rule of thumb beat the size of this fingers"; the judge found the man not guilty due to the switch being smaller than a thumb. Nor is it true that a husband has a right to whip his wife. And if he had, it is not easily seen how the thumb is the standard of size for the instrument which he may use, as some of the old authorities have said [ Inalso in North Carolina, the judge in State v.
Rule of thumb beat Oliver ruled, "We assume that the old doctrine that a husband had the right to whip his wife, provided that he used a switch no larger than his thumb, is not the law in North Carolina".
By the late 19th century, most American states had outlawed wife beating; some had severe penalties such as forty lashes or imprisonment for offenders. There was a common belief in parts of the United States that a man was permitted to beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb; however, this belief was not connected with the phrase rule of thumb until the s. In the 20th century, public concern with the problem of domestic violence declined at first, and then re-emerged in the s along with Rule of thumb beat resurgent feminist movement.
For instance, the common-law doctrine had been modified to allow the husband 'the right to whip his wife, provided that he used a switch no bigger than his thumb'—a rule of thumb, so to speak. While Martin appears to have meant the phrase rule of thumb only as a figure of speech, some feminist writers treated it as a literal reference to an earlier law.
One of the reasons nineteenth century British wives were dealt with so harshly by their husbands and by their legal system Rule of thumb beat the 'rule of thumb'. Included in the British Common Law was a section regulating wifebeating [ Despite this erroneous reading of the common law which is a set of judicial principles rather than a written law with individual sections the spurious legal doctrine of the "rule of thumb" was soon mentioned in a number of law journals.
In the late 20th century, some efforts were made to discourage the phrase rule of thumb which was seen as taboo owing to this false origin. O'Connerformer editor of the New York Times Book Reviewdescribed it as "one of the most persistent myths of political correctness".
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. One history states, "A witty countess is said to have sent the next day to require the measurements of his thumb, that she might know the extent of her husband's right".
Retrieved 25 October Rule of thumb beat Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. Journal of Legal Education. A complete collection of Scottish proverbs explained and made intelligible to the English reader.
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Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Legal, Medical, and Social Perspectives.
A Recurring Phenomenon Throughout History". A Psychosociological Study of Domestic Violence. Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history. In other projects Wikimedia Commons.
The Oxford English Dictionary states about “rule of. The fact of wife beating, to take one of Ms.
Gordon's examples, was once acceptable if it conformed to the ''rule of thumb'' (no rod thicker than. For a retailer, it's extremely useful to know whether a customer will be back or has abandoned you for good. Starting in the late s.
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The English phrase rule of thumb refers to a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation.
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Who's the Queen of Comics? In our episode on female astronauts , Molly and I perpetuated a myth during our listener mail segment. Say it ain't so! We read an email about the supposed etymology of the phrase "rule of thumb," linking it to an old law about wife beating. As the myth goes, "rule of thumb" relates to a British law, allowing a husband to beat his wife with a stick, as long as it isn't wider than the man's thumb. But Molly and I should've fact checked first.
As a number of listeners have since written in to tell us, that "rule of thumb" theory is pure fiction. In English common law, "rule of thumb" was never the law of the land, either. WordOrigins found one judge who, in , thought that husbands should be allowed to beat their wives -- and was publicly criticized as a result.
The Straight Dope also offers a comprehensive explanation of how the "rule of thumb" roots became tangled, pointing out that while wife beating has never been legal in the United States, the NOW Task Force on Battered Women claimed that "the common-law doctrine had been modified to allow the husband 'the right to whip his wife, provided that he used a switch no bigger than his thumb'--a rule of thumb, so to speak.
Listener Mat also cites linguist William Safire, who wrote that "The idea that rule of thumb is derived from an early form of spousal abuse is in error.
A MEANS OF ESTIMATION MADE ACCORDING TO A ROUGH AND READY PRACTICAL RULE, NOT BASED ON SCIENCE... RED TAPE, WHITE LIES. THE ENGLISH PHRASE RULE OF THUMB REFERS TO A PRINCIPLE WITH BROAD APPLICATION THAT...
Rule of Thumb
Rule of thumb - Wikipedia Sharon Fenick first heard the figure of speech "rule of thumb" cited as a sexist... I have heard it was a common law rule about the thickness of...
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Should I be put off by this? What's the origin of the phrase 'Rule of thumb'?. Rule of thumb The 'rule of thumb' has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat. For a retailer, it's extremely useful to know whether a customer will be back or has abandoned you for good. Starting in the late s..
Feminists often make that claim that the "rule of thumb" used to mean that it was legal to beat your wife with a rod, so long as that rod were no thicker than the. The fact of wife beating, to take one of Ms. Gordon's examples, was once acceptable if it conformed to the ''rule of thumb'' (no rod thicker than. An American friend has suggested that the term "rule of thumb" derives from an archaic English law forbidding a man from beating his wife with anything thicker. The rule of thumb, according to the professor, was a law that allowed a man to beat his wife so long as the rod used was no thicker than his. What's the origin of the phrase 'Rule of thumb'?. Rule of thumb The 'rule of thumb' has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat. For a retailer, it's extremely useful to know whether a customer will be back or has abandoned you for good. Starting in the late s. 'Rule of thumb' - the meaning and origin of this phrase Where does "rule of thumb" come from? Not legalized wife beating. | Stuff Mom Never Told You Rule of Thumb - Freakonomics Freakonomics
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Despite this erroneous reading of the common law which is a set of judicial principles rather than a written law with individual sections the spurious legal doctrine of the "rule of thumb" was soon mentioned in a number of law journals.
It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory. Mesuring lengths by the thumb. Commission on Civil Rights published a report on domestic abuse titled "Under the Rule of Thumb" in The English phrase rule of thumb refers to a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation.
Even if there wasn't a rule, did an infamous judge's ruling establish "thumbstick" guidelines for would-be wife beaters?
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