Idioms for “easy.”

One of the most popular 19th century slang terms for “something very easy” or “a sure thing” is simple to explain in itself, but it bore a mysterious descendant. “Cinch,” meaning the strap that secures a saddle to a horse, appeared in English in 1866, adapted from the Spanish “cincha.” Within a few years, “cinch” was being used as slang to mean “a sure thing, easily done” (“The recent progress in bacteriological science … seemed to make the diagnosis a cinch,” 1911), invoking the security of a saddle tightly “cinched.” So far, no problem. But within a few years, “cinch” in this sense had been extended into “lead-pipe cinch” for reasons that remain a major etymological mystery. There have been dozens of colorful explanations proposed, but no one has ever actually proven where that “lead pipe” came from or how it adds to “cinch.” It may come from the solidity of anything made of lead, or the use of a lead pipe as a very convincing weapon in a fight, but we may never know for sure. I guess that proves not everything is so easy after all.

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

Leave a comment