Student or Learner
Would you be kind enough to give me your considered opinion concerning the interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?
Nothing was even seen so fine…since creation. It takes the rag off quite. (T. Halliburton, “The Attaché”)
take the rag off = surpass all other, be head and shoulders above, be way and above, bring distinguished results
It's a shortened form of "take the rag off the bush", an Old West (as in cowboys, the untamed frontier of the18th and 19th century....) AmE saying. At that time virtually every man carried a gun, and impromptu shooting contests were common (especially after a few drinks at the local saloon). A quick "measure" of shooting prowess was to put a handkerchief or scrap of cloth on a bush or shrub in the distance to use as a target. A good shooter could hit the rag so that it visibly jumped or moved. A great shooter would literally knock the rag right off of the bush, thus ending the contest.
So yes, it does mean "superlative", "head and shoulders above", etc.
Last edited by BobK; 24-Aug-2011 at 11:40. Reason: Quietly (-ish) fixed a typo