english

I know the expression "beck and call"; but where can I find it's origin?
For example, "mind your p's and q's" (pints and quarts).
Where could I find the origin of beck and call?
Thanks!

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asked by jules
  1. Check these sites.

    http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/32/messages/290.html

    http://www.word-detective.com/100699.html

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  2. http://www.word-detective.com/100699.html#beckandcall

    To have someone "at your beck and call" means to have complete control over every action that person takes, to command their constant attention, and to have them standing ready to obey your slightest whim. (As you can probably deduce from that definition, it's a heck of a lot more fun having somebody "at your beck and call" than being the beck-and-callee.)

    The "call" part of the phrase is pretty straightforward: if your master calls, you had better answer pronto. The "beck" part is a bit more obscure. "Beck" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "A mute signal or significant gesture, especially one indicating assent or notifying a command; e.g., a nod, a motion of the hand or forefinger, etc." If you've ever worked (as I have) for a boss who graduated from the "point and grunt" school of management, that "motion of the forefinger" business will conjure up all sorts of fond memories.

    Although the word "beck" used outside of "beck and call" is archaic and rarely heard today, it's really only a shortened form of our familiar word "beckon," meaning "to make a mute signal or gesture," especially to call a person over to you. "Beckon," in turn, comes from an old Germanic word meaning "signal," from which we also derive the modern English word "beacon."

    As a verb, "beck" first appeared around 1300 A.D. ("beckon" is a bit older, first showing up around 950). The phrase "beck and call" is much more recent, dating only to about 1875.

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    posted by GuruBlue
  3. THANK YOU!

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    posted by jules

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