Entimology of rule of thumb

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Rule of Thumb The phrase is almost certainly an allusion to the fact that the first joint an adult thumb measures roughly one inch, literally a rule (or ruler) of thumb.

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The rule of thumb, according to the professor, was a law that allowed a man to beat his wife so long as the rod used was no thicker than his thumb.


ORIGIN: A popular, but untrue, origin of the “rule of thumb” phrase is that it came into popular use from an old English law that allowed a man to beat his wife with a stick or switch, as long as it was no thicker than his own thumb. In our episode on female astronauts, Molly and I perpetuated a myth during our listener mail segment. Say it ain't so! We read an email about the supposed etymology of the phrase "rule of thumb," linking it to an old law about wife beating. As the myth goes, "rule of thumb" relates to a British law, allowing a husband to beat his wife with a stick, as long as it isn't wider than the man's thumb.
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Origin(s) of "Rule of Thumb" Queries about the phrase "rule of thumb" have appeared repeatedly on WMST-L. What follows are some of the responses people have sent to the list over the years.

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Rule of thumb definition, a general or approximate principle, procedure, or rule based on experience or practice, as opposed to a specific, scientific calculation or estimate. See more. "Rule of thumb" is a rude reference to an old law permitting men to beat their wives with a stick no thicker than a thumb, right? Wrong! It's one of the myths of women's history. Well, except that it may still be rude to use a phrase that you know will upset people. It may also be rude to assume that people who use the phrase are being rude.

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