Rule Of Thumb

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 allowed a husband the right to beat his wife with a stick, or the right to whip his wife, as long as the stick or switch was no wider than his thumb.  However this saying may not be about spousal abuse at all, as the phrase probably came from carpenters who used their thumbs as a quick, handy measuring tool alluding to the fact that the first joint on an adult thumb measures roughly one inch, literally allowing it to take the place of a ruler and becoming a rule of thumb.

Written for Linda G. Hill Life in progress One-Liner Wednesday – February 13 prompt.

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