sammy asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 decade ago

Starting from scratch ?

we don't start everything by scratching.. then why the phrase ?

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Actually "scratch" in this expression does NOT refer directly to "nothing" or to "chicken scratch" (that is, very little).

    Rather it means to start from the BEGINNING.

    This use of the expression came from the 19th century use of "scratch" to refer to the STARTING LINE for a race (that is, to the line scratched in the ground). A competitor who was made to "start from scratch" had no advantage, whereas others might be allowed to start ahead of the line (that is, with a handcap).

    Actually, "scratch" as a starting line for a sporting event goes back another century, being first attested (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) for cricket, but also used for bare-kuckled fighting. In the latter use it referred to the line drawn across the ring to which the boxers are brought to begin their bout. From THIS use arose another idiom "up to scratch", meaning to meet the required standard (ready to begin/take on the challenge).

    In fact, as near as I can tell, a whole host of extended uses of scratch go back either to the literal activity of scratching (shallow digging) -- from "chicken scratch" (or "scratch feed"), so called because the chickens were forced to scratch to get it, to someone being "scratched from a race/lineup" (that is, a line is scratched through their name on the list).

    See also (and choose "scratch [2,noun] from the box.

  • 1 decade ago

    Means starting with very little - scratch!@

  • 1 decade ago

    It means starting from very little, chicken scratch.

  • 1 decade ago

    "scratch" in figurative terms can mean "nothing". So, to start from scratch would mean to start with or from nothing.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I like to scratch my butt.

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