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Phrases And Their Origins

On Tenter Hooks

We've all been on tenter hooks at some time or another. It's that uneasy feeling when you're waiting for something to happen and you're all anxious about it.

But what is a tenter hook? Indeed what is a tenter? And why do we say we're on one when we're waiting to see if the big thing that's about to happen is good or bad?

The winner gets to ponder what their prize might turn out to be.

Rachel:

I thought it was "on tender hooks", like hooks that don't hurt too much. E.g. little ones without barbs.

Matt:

winner!

It's obviously about campers! It refers to the state of worry that you can enter into if you step on a tent peg (or in the USA tent hook!), if it penetrates your shoe and enters into your foot, having been in the ground holding the tent's guy ropes down then it is likely to be covered in dirt. This could cause any number of nasty illnesses, so being on tenter hooks is waiting to find out if you are going to die or not as a result of stepping on a hidden tent peg!

Do I win a pound?

Brian:

loser...

The tenter was the man who stretched cloth over hooks on a machine, while the fabric was drying. He was the man who looked after and maintained the machine used in the process. The holes you see in edges of some fabrics are from the number of hooks that the tenter maintains as the fabric is drying. This is how the saying 'on tenter hooks'was developed.


An unlikely yarn from Brian... oh ho ho ho! geddit? "yarn"... fabric? Hee hee heee heeeee! Oh, please yourselves. Anyway, Matt, before you get your prize you'll need to explain the derivation of "guy" ropes.


Phrases And Their Origins


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