Q From Raymond Hogg, Edinburgh: I was wondering if anybody knew the place the time period exhausting graft came from, as within the British sense of hard work. I imagine in the US the time period has a unique, pejorative, meaning. A There are a number of senses of graft in the language, such as the gardening, medical and the bribery and corruption one from the US that you simply point out, all from completely different sources. Yours began life as another phrase for spit, the depth of earth that can be thrown up at one time with a spade. This comes from the Old Norse groftr, digging, and is also linked with the verb grave, an ancient Germanic one also that means to dig (from which we get the noun grave in the physique-burial sense). Mostly, graft turned up in the phrase spadeâ€™s graft for one spitâ€™s depth, as on this from the Transactions of the Society of Arts in 1792: â€œWe dug one spadeâ€™s graft (about nine inches deep, and seven inches vast) into the short sand.â€ Graft was also used for a trench or ditch, something that had been grafted, and for a narrow, crescent-shaped spade workmen lower drains with. The implication is that grafting is hard work. The English Dialect Dictionary noted, nevertheless, that in some counties, graft had taken on a broader sense of work of any form, but not significantly arduous work. The proof strongly suggests that it was in Australia and New Zealand that it came to mean heavy labour and the place the phrase arduous graft first appeared. John Rochfort, writing in 1853 in Adventures of a Surveyor in New Zealand, mentioned, â€œI might make more money by â€˜hard graftâ€™, as they call labour in the colonies.â€ An Australian work of 1873, Christmas on Carringa, consists of, â€œMy name is Jim the Cadger. Iâ€™m a downy cove, you see.
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