Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chip Off The Old Block

Having written the title, I thought I'd better go straight to The Phrase Finder and probe into the origins of such a delightful saying. This is what I found:-


A person or thing that derives from the source or parentage.


There are at least three variants of this phrase. The earliest form is 'chip of the same block', where the block in question may have been stone or wood. It dates back to at least 1621 when it appeared in a sermon by the Bishop of Lincoln, Robert Sanderson:-

"Am I not a child of the same Adam...a chip of the same block, with him?"

This seems to be interchangeable with 'chip of the old block' (See John Milton's An apology against - A modest confutation of the animadversions upon the remonstrant against Smectymnuus.)

N.B. The author of this gem then pointed out he'd included this book title simply for the pleasure of seeing one which was longer than the quoted line he'd taken from it:-

"How well dost thou now appeare to be a Chip of the old block."

He went on to tell us, it remained 'of ' rather then 'off ' until the 19th century, when the earliest reference he could find was in the Ohio newspaper The Athens Messenger, June 1870:

" The children see their parents' double-dealings, see their want of integrity, and learn them to cheat...The child is too often a chip off the old block."

I shall ignore the use of the verb 'learn' as opposed to 'teach', as well as pray it was not my want of integrity my No.1 Son was copying when he sent me the following lines in an email yesterday:-

Ode to a Biro!
by Q

There was a young Biro in plastic
whose life had been simply fantastic.
It was faithful through all,
with its medium-tip ball,
but unfortunately, I've just gone and snapped it!

I trust my own first-born chip didn't leave too great a dent in his Ma-block...The jury is still out on that one.


  1. Jinksy, you're a marvel, you are! I heard Pop use this through-out my childhood( growing up )but never knew from wence it came. Interesting link to this. Thanks much :)

  2. Oh dear Jinksy - the teacher still lurking in me could not possible comment.

  3. I liked that about the Biro - sounds somehow familiar... :-)

    PS Thank you for the comment!

  4. I hope you're feeling CHIPper this monring.

  5. I love a good limerick! :)

    Drop by and read an interview with a writing master if you get a chance today. :)

  6. I think the jury's liable to remain out - there's never any final agreement in art!

  7. Never thought about the original meaning of 'chip off the old block'....heard it all my life.....thanks for your research, jinksy!

  8. Lovely bit of whimsy (or whimsical bit of loveliness, if you prefer more syllables.) In any case, I got a grin!

  9. Q did very well with his chipping! :)
    Interesting information on the saying, BTW.

  10. Very interesting read!
    Thanks for the smile.

  11. Ah, I see you have a young whippersnapper creeping up on your heels! A true chip off the old block, if ever there was one. (Smile)

  12. There is something about a limerick that touches everyone!

  13. I cant tell you the last time I heard/saw a limerick. Good for you, always keeping it interesting.


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