Grammar, etymology, usage, and more, brought to you by Patricia T. People working with victims of such abuse frequently use that explanation in building awareness of a HUGE social and moral problem. Instead of debunking this so casually, it would have been helpful if you had taken just a moment to explain what you meant.
Sharon Fenick first heard the figure of speech "rule of thumb" cited as a sexist pejorative during her freshman year at Harvard seven years ago. The phrase was invoked in a lecture as an example of domestic abuse permitted by British common law. The rule of thumb, according to the professor, was a law that allowed a man to beat his wife so long as the rod used was no thicker than his thumb.
I remember reading it had something to do with being permitted to beat your wife with a rod no thicker than your thumb. Is this correct? A This sounds like the invention of somebody desperately trying to make sense of a traditional phrase — what linguists call folk etymology.
A rule of thumb is a means of estimation made according to a rough and ready practical rule, not based on science or exact measurement. The 'rule of thumb' has been said to derive from the belief that English law allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick so long as it is was no thicker than his thumb. InJudge Sir Francis Buller is reported as having made this legal ruling and in the following year James Gillray published a satirical cartoon attacking Buller and caricaturing him as 'Judge Thumb'.
It's one of the myths of women's history. Well, except that it may still be rude to use a phrase that you know will upset people. It may also be rude to assume that people who use the phrase are being rude.
Top definition. The first and original use of the saying is as simple as the words. The thumb was used as a readily available tool of measuring.
First par first. In the various American colonies, laws differed from place to place and year to year. Dependents included indentured servants, slaves, children, and wives.
The English phrase rule of thumb refers to a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory. This usage of the phrase can be traced back to the seventeenth century, and has been associated with various trades where quantities were measured by comparison to the width or length of a thumb.