old wives' tale » old wise tail

Variant(s):  wise tail

Classification: English

Spotted in the wild:

  • Dear Cecil: Sometimes when I am sleeping I will jerk and wake myself up. My friends say that I am dreaming about falling, and that if I hadn’t jerked and woke myself up I would have died. Is this true? I mean, the only thing I could fall off of when I am sleeping is my bed. But I don’t believe I could die. Uncle Cecil, is this an old wise tail? —Sandy K., Phoenix
    Dear Sandy: An “old wise tail,” whatever that is, no. An old wives’ tale, quite likely. (Cecil Adams, More of the Straight Dope, 1988)
  • There’s an old wise tail that says use vinegar and water to clean anything. (The Carpet Doctor)

A double eggcorn, combining wives » wise with tale » tail.

Like “wise tale” and “wives tail,” this can occasionally be found without “old,” as in:

I loved ginger ale when I was pregnant. I hope this works for you. Remember this is a wise tail but it worked for me. (Epinions, Sep. 8, 2000)

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/02/17 |

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