Pay through the nose, spitting image, not to say

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11 comments on this post.
  1. Frank:

    In regard to the man who was curious as to the origin of the term “paying through the nose.” According to the History channel the term derived from the Vikings in the 9nth century, they put a tax on the Irish, the Irish paid the Vikings to not raid their towns. If they did not pay the taxes the Vikings would slit the noses as a punishment and warning.

  2. Aredt:

    I bumped here thru google searchin for origins of “payin thru nose”. Nice explanation. Good site. Would book mark it. :-)


  3. Jm:

    When a log is split, both of the insides look the same, but mirror imaged. Same thing when making wood verniers, when split the two half look identical, but mirrored. Same with splitting marble, each face now being a mirror of the other one.

    The identical mirrored image you get when you split something shows that the two came from one source and look like mirrors of each other. What one would see if looking at them selves in a mirror.

    Splitting image is simply the almost identical mirror image you get when you split something.

  4. David:

    I recall reading once that the expression “spittin’ image” was actually a dialectic contraction of the words, “spirit and image”, meaning the same in looks and deeds. In other words, “He’s the spittin’ image of his father” means, “He’s just like his father.”

  5. Cathy Britt:

    David, you are right…back in slave days, they pronounced spirit as spi-ut, and the word “and” came out like the letter “n”. So, spirit and image sounded like spi-ut-n image…hence “spittin’ image”. I always laugh when people think they are being proper by saying spitting image…it has nothing to do with spit and everything to do with a culture from bye-gone days.

  6. Rich May:

    It was on a special on the history of SF. It was a corrupt politician who took payoffs and he had a big nose.but can’t recall name. It was on PBS or the history channel a few years ago.

  7. jodi:

    I agree Frank thats the same story i was told

  8. Roxana Cowen:

    Oh stunning colors, love how you mixed different shades of blue together.

  9. Harmon:

    A conversation over time! But my late contribution is that Cathy’s observation about “spirit” strikes me as correct. But the original pronunciation does not derive from “slave days.” The Elizabethan pronunciation was “spurit” – almost “spuit” – and just as “ask” was pronounced “ax” by the Elizabethans, it appears to me that the pronunciation of spirit was faithfully preserved by the slaves. And “spirit and image” makes much more sense as a derivation than the other theories.

  10. Eileen Q:

    I heard if a crop sharer did not meet their expected yield the land owner would crack them on the nose. It was a shaming & painful punishment. Are you familiar with the Lakeoffs? They are both linguists I know at least one is a UC Berkeley professor.

  11. Tihomir:

    According to a quick survey I conducted in my two-member household, the expression “spitting image” exists in both french and serbo-croatian languages. This makes me think that it would have originated a long, long time ago and would have been in widespread use in Europe way before first immigrants came to the new world. Extending my survey a little, I just found out that the same expression exists accross India. Perhaps other commenters can speak for other languages and other world regions?

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