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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Emma B Folklore: Don't touch them with a barge pole (12) RE: Folklore: Don't touch them with a barge pole 02 Nov 10


Got me thinking - and searching for a possible 'origin'

One contender is William Byrd, American politician, statesman and writer who joined an expedition in 1728 to survey the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia
In his 'History of the Dividing Line', published in 1738, is possibly the earliest reference to a 'ten-foot pole' used as a simple surveying instrument

"We found the ground moist...insomuch that it was an easy matter to run a ten-foot pole up to the head in it."

Later it seems to have been employed as a more metaphorical measure of social, political, or legal distance.
"Can't touch him with a ten-foot pole" was in an 1848 list of "Nantucketisms."


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