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Old Oct 18, 2003, 12:36 AM   #7
Sun King
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Join Date: Jun 11, 2000
Location: Louisiana, USA
Posts: 9,705

Default Re: By Hook Or By Crook !

As far back as Mosaic times, the less fortunate members of society (widows, orphans, the elderly, and the lame) were by law free to pick up whatever harvested items fell to the ground behind those who harvested the crops for the wealthy, so long as no extraodinary efforts on the part of the unfortunate were required other than bending over and picking them up. It was quite illegal to actually pluck from the plant or tree itself, as anything still attached belonged to the landowner or crop owner himself.

Of course, those who couldn't bend over for themselves, for presumably health reasons, were allowed to use their walking staff. Being mostly shepherdic societies, those disabled who found themselves in need of such a staff were also normally too disabled to cut themselves a new staff, and would use their old shepherd's staff.

To use the staff legitimately was okay - but those who didn't need the staff were guilty of using extraordinary means.

In medieval times, the laws of the land also entitled the destitute to fruits and nuts that had fallen naturally from the trees in the landowners' orchards. While it was perfectly okay to "hook" the fallen fruit, it was decidedly illegal to use the crook-end of the shepherd's staff to shake the live fruit from the trees.

"By hook, or by crook" simply is a restatement of the obvious - by fair means (by the allowed hooking of fallen items to a reachable place) or foul (by the unentitled crook, or using the crook in the wrong way.)

An interesting side note: another derivative of the old "by hook or by crook" was "hooky-crooky", just a short phrase to describe someone who would use any means, legal or not, to acheive their own ends. This phrase later shortened to "hookey", and was used to describe those who shagged off work or lessons by the use of deception.
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