Posts Tagged ‘marmaduke coghill’

Rule of Thumb Not as Creepy as I Thought

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Many women have been told that the term “rule of thumb” has its origins in ancient English law and that it was a rule limiting the thickness of a stick with which a man could use to legally beat his wife. I was told this by a professor of legal history at Cambridge University in England, so I saw no reason to doubt the tale.

Kate Dolan tests the rule of thumb

My husband seems to have found an acceptable switch!

If I’d read more recent research on the subject, I’d know better.

To begin with, the Oxford English Dictionary shows the first use of the phrase “rule of thumb” occurring in 1692. This is far from an ancient legal concept—in fact, for British law, I’d say it’s relatively recent. But in 1692 the phrase was not used with a legal connotation at all. (more…)