Saturday, December 02, 2006

Silly Saturday Challenge

To the Editor of the Argus:

Sir – Allow me to point out to your correspondent “J Sibbald” that the derivation of the expression “not worth a tinker’s dam” is this.

In Flanders during the middle ages a “dam” was the smallest coin of the existing currency, and as tinkers in those days were itinerant, and little better than vagrants, their services were generally rewarded by a “dam” and as no other tradesman would take such small remuneration it became the custom to say if anything was of very small value it was not worth a tinker’s dam.

I noticed recently in an article in one of the magazines the expression “not worth a tinker’s malediction” the writer evidently not caring to use the word “dam” for fear of a “swear word” offending some of his readers.

- Yours &c, J. W. THOMAS

Readers are cordially invited to provide suitably colourful explanations for the expressions “flash as a rat with a gold tooth” or “cunning as a shithouse rat”. Or any other expression of your own choice.

2 comments:

FXH said...

Where I came from it was: "...a tinker's cuss"

zoot said...

And I (ever the pedant) was given the derivation that appears in Wikipedia:
Ages ago tin smiths did part of their work by using clay to build a dam around the focus of their work. Inside of that dam, they could pour (and thus retain) molten tin until it cooled and solidified. When they were ready to clean up that part of the job, they salvaged the unused tin, very expensive at the time. They disposed of the dam because clay was so plentiful as to be worthless after having been used once.