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Lock, stock and barrel!

Last night I was watching a 1969 classic western, “Once Upon A Time In The West,” by Sergio Leone.

There is a scene in this film in which an auction takes place for the landed properties of the widow Jill. In this scene, the bidder launches the auction stating that the land is now for sale “lock, stock and barrel”.

Now I have heard this clich√© “lock, stock and barrel” many times before in my life. It is not like that?

I obtained the essence of its meaning through the context in which it was spoken.

But when I heard it last night, I realized that I could not say in my own words what its expression or history meant, if I was ever asked.

Perhaps “stock” referred to animals (which are farm animals).

Barrels – well they stored flour, sugar and many other basic products in barrels in the old west.

And blocking – maybe that was about getting the keys out of anything or anything (I don’t know – I really get to that here).

I thought this would be an interesting thing to read and share. Here it is.

“Lock, stock and barrel” in normal use means that you get the sale of all or all things and no less. My thesaurus shows “finite quantity” as a synonym for this expression.

The three nouns “lock, stump and barrel” refer to the three parts of a musket rifle. Boy, I was far from that.

The stock and the barrel now make more sense. A rifle has a barrel from which the bullet (or musket ball) flies. A rifle also has a wooden support through which you hold and secure the rifle.

And the lock refers to the firing mechanism of a musket rifle. It seems that the usual firing mechanism was called a fire block.

By no means would I have guessed.

The locking stock and the pipe then refer to obtaining the entire rifle, not just a part of it.

So now you know exactly what someone means the next time someone tries to sell you a farm, a stock and a barrel!

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All rights reserved.

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