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    #1

    Spare your thigh

    Hi, in Twains' "The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm" we can find,
    Spare your thigh; this kind light only on the box, and seldom there, in fact, if my experience may be trusted.
    What is the meaning of this statement?

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Spare your thigh

    I really don't know. I've tried to read that story, and the mixture of archaic language (e.g. "I beg you will not...") and typographical errors (e.g. "be" for "he" and "bad" for "had") make it incomprensible. I suspect that the nature of those errors points to OCR software (Optical Character Recognition); this may suggest what original printed words have turned into "thigh", "light", "box" etc. (which make for a very confusing context) - but nothing springs to mind.

    The other possibility is that one of the characters is known (from some wider context) to have a bad leg - which would give "spare your thigh" some meaning. Another possibility is that we are dealing with an old meaning of light as a verb meaning "land". The possibilities, given the two huge variables (archaism and possible typos), are endless.

    My advice is to buy a book.

    b

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    #3

    Re: Spare your thigh

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    My advice is to buy a book.
    Hi Bobk,
    I actually have the book on me, and the statement I gave is exactly the one in the book.
    I think the "thigh" is mentioned because maybe he would light the match with it. I know they used to light matches with their shoes on those days, I am not sure about the thigh, though.
    So it might mean spare your thigh the friction of the matches, because I have a light, or something like that.
    Secondly, I think the light he is using is not a verb, because it would be "lights" for the subject verb agreement.
    Anyways, I am still trying to decipher its meaning, and I hope someone would figure it out before I do.
    Last edited by karitaru; 28-Oct-2006 at 19:55. Reason: spelling

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    #4

    Re: Spare your thigh

    Quote Originally Posted by karitaru View Post
    Hi Bobk,
    I actually have the book on me, and the statement I gave is exactly the one in the book.
    I think the "thigh" is mentioned because maybe he would light the match with it. I know they used to light matches with their shoes on those days, I am not sure about the thigh, though.
    So it might mean spare your thigh the friction of the matches, because I have a light, or something like that.
    Secondly, I think the light he is using is not a verb, because it would be "lights" for the subject verb agreement.
    Anyways, I am still trying to decipher its meaning, and I hope someone would figure it out before I do.
    You are correct. Back in Twain's day, lots of rough-and-tumble type men wore the original Levi's, which were made to last a lifetime. The denim was stiff and tough, and men would swipe a match across their thigh (or backside) to light their cigarettes. In this story, a man is being advised to strike his match on a box, because it won't work on his trousers. Once in a while, if a guy didn't swipe the match quickly enough, or if the match was of poor quality, he would burn his leg just a bit, which is why the man in the story is advised to "spare his thigh."
    3

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    #5

    Re: Spare your thigh



    ps
    In my defence, there was a third factor operating against comprehensibility: the cultural background. In Mark Twain's time we didn't have Levis here; I've heard of people striking matches on their Levis, but it's not something that makes enough sense to a UK reader for it to spring to mind.
    Last edited by BobK; 29-Oct-2006 at 10:55. Reason: PS added

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    #6

    Re: Spare your thigh

    Quote Originally Posted by Ouisch View Post
    You are correct. Back in Twain's day, lots of rough-and-tumble type men wore the original Levi's, which were made to last a lifetime. The denim was stiff and tough, and men would swipe a match across their thigh (or backside) to light their cigarettes. In this story, a man is being advised to strike his match on a box, because it won't work on his trousers. Once in a while, if a guy didn't swipe the match quickly enough, or if the match was of poor quality, he would burn his leg just a bit, which is why the man in the story is advised to "spare his thigh."
    3
    This sure makes sense. Thank you very much.

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