Date: Fri, 7 Nov 1997 16:04:49 -0500

From: Alan Baragona baragonasa[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]VAX.VMI.EDU

Subject: Re: Rima's rule of thumb

I think the wife beating story is one of those chestnuts that hangs on

despite lack of evidence and despite common sense. Wife beating per se was

not illegal in medieval England, at least, but nobody set ridiculous

standards like this. The only regulation of wife beating, as I understand

it, was that a husband could not beat his wife to the point where she lost

control of her bodily functions, because that was a sign she was on the

verge of death, and wife murder was, thankfully, illegal. However, I find

it hard to imagine that lawyers, especially clerics, would come up with

specifications for HOW someone can legally beat his wife.

The other common explanation, which I find more plausible but would not

attempt to prove, is that the rule of thumb was a tailor's rough measure of

a yard, holding a thread or piece of cloth at thumb's length from the shoulder.

At 03:25 PM 11/7/97 -0500, REBECCA GREENHILL wrote:

I hardly think the wife beating story is a fallacy!

I have read in several publications that the "rule of

thumb" originates from an English common law dictating the width of a

strap a husband could use to discipline his wife. The husband would use

his thumb as a rule to measure the width of the strap, hence the expression.

I have to question the validity of the beer story as a "rule of thumb". The

purpose of testing the heat has nothing to do with the thumb really. No

more than testing a baby's bottle could be called the "rule of wrist".

Granted, the popularity of the wife beating story doesn't mean it is

true but it is more believable than the "fingering the yeast


Rebecca Greenhill

On Thu, 6 Nov 1997, Kim & Rima McKinzey