Where does the expression “to give a lick and a promise” come from and What does it mean?

If small Johnny has taken the facecloth and lightly washed his mouth and cheeks, he has given himself a lick and a promise, about what the cat could do in one hasty swab of the tongue and a promise of a complete job in the dim future.

We say that one who has worked half heartedly or in a slovenly manner has given the work a lick and a promise.

The homely saying is common in both England and America; it is undoubtedly several centuries old, but examples of literary use are not recorded.

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.

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