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October 01, 2004

Wordorigins.org; Rope a Dope

I came across Wordorigins.org, a good site about terms like the ones below. I was looking up "Rope a Dope", so the three excerpts below are from the "R" section:

Ring Around the Rosie...

The common folkloric explanation is that this is a rhyme about the bubonic plague. "Ring around the rosie" refers to buboes on the skin. "A pocket full of posies" refers to flowers kept in the pocket to ward off the disease. "Ashes, ashes" is a reference to death, as in "ashes to ashes, dust to dust." The common variant of the third line, "Atishoo, atishoo," is a reference to sneezing and sickness. Finally, falling down is a representation of death.

A neat tale. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support it...


The term dates to the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman. Ali spent the early rounds against the ropes in a defensive posture, taking a series of blows from Foreman. After Foreman had tired himself out, Ali went on the offensive and beat the exhausted Foreman. It wasn't a pretty victory or a fan-pleasing strategy, but it was effective. So to employ the "rope-a-dope" strategy is to feign being weak and on the defensive, like a dopey boxer who is on the ropes, in hopes your opponent will exhaust himself in the early going. The term was coined by Ali.

Rule of Thumb

The phrase is almost certainly an allusion to the fact that the first joint an adult thumb measures roughly one inch, literally a rule (or ruler) of thumb. Since human dimensions vary, any measurement so taken would be only a rough approximation and not to be trusted where precision was required.

Posted by erasmuse at October 1, 2004 08:02 AM

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