Where does the expression “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” come from and What does it mean?

One who has seen a lamb shake its tail, can see that the saying “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” means with no loss of time, for a lamb can shake its tail twice “before one can say Jack Robinson.”

Usage appears to be entirely American, going back a hundred years or longer.

The probabilities are that the saying is a humorous enlargement of the older “in a couple of (or brace of, or two) shakes,” a slang saying first recorded by Richard Barham in Ingoldsby Legends in 1840, but probably much older.

This latter saying has been variously interpreted, as alluding to a double shake of the hand, two shakes of a dice box, two shakes of a dustcloth, or whatever it may be that takes little more time in shaking twice than in shaking once.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “Where does the expression “in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” come from and What does it mean?”

  1. this phrase reminds me of the other one in pulp fiction

    I’ll be back before you can say Blueberry pie

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