Date: Tue, 8 Mar 1994 14:06:40 EST From: Larry Horn Subject: Re: Adam's off ox Sorry; I should have checked DARE first. For some reason, I thought the entry would be coming out under O, instead of being already out under A. And sure enough, a typically great entry, complete with variants, many of them wonderfully folk-etymological: Adam's old ox, old fox, all fox [!]; Madam's off-ox [as in Madam, I'm Adam?]; Bettashazur's/Gabe's/devil's off-ox; Adam's off-bull/brother/hat(band)/pet monkey/house cat. The earliest citation is 1894: He didn't know me from Adam's off ox. The others are in the same vein (I wouldn't know him from Adam's all fox, etc.). The principal expression is "chiefly west of the Appalachians", the house cat variant largely found in the South Atlantic and Gulf states, where off oxen are presumably rare. (Neither is attested in the Northeast.) Then there are the symptoms of decreasing transparency: slow/poor/stubborn as Adam's off ox. Best citation, from Yankee magazine a few years back: "One of my mother's favorite expressions was, 'He doesn't know any more than Adam's off-ox.' Never could figure out what it was all about." What I still don't know is whether my speculation is right: if I don't know him from Adam's off ox, he's even farther from my ability to identify/recognize him than if I (just) don't know him from Adam. And I'm still not sure why it's the off, or farther, ox--if that's the one that's harder to make out or recognize by virtue of being farther away, you'd think it was the closer one (the on ox?) that would figure in the collocation. Larry