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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Up the Creek with Two Oars

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas MARCH. 20, 2021

[231-365] 20th. March 2021- Living up a creek, I thought I would look up the origin of the original idiom which started life as "Up Sh*t Creek". There seems to be some debate on the origin and on how it evolved over time but the most likely explanation I can find is as follows.

"Up Sh*t Creek" you will not be surprised to learn started in the US military and there is a printed reference to it as far back as the 1860's, as it appeared in the transcript of the 1868 Annual report of the [US] Secretary of War, in a section that included reports from districts of South Carolina: "Our men have put old [Abraham] Lincoln up shit creek."

Later as the phrase became more common The Sh*t part was lost and then ultimately the "without a paddle" was added. So the idiom most people now use here in Britain is "Up the creek without a paddle".

In Lincoln's day, as now, 'sh*t creek' wasn't a real place, just a figurative way of describing somewhere unpleasant; somewhere one wouldn't want to be.

The 'without a paddle' ending is just an intensifier, added by later wags for additional effect. This dates from the middle of the 20th century. The American novelist John Dos Passos used the phrase in Adventures of a Young Man, 1939:

In Britain the OED traces it's first known use back to 1941 after it crossed the pond in all likelihood during the war, brought by US troops.

This paddler below is part of the Kingsbridge town mosaic and I will be doing a separate post about that.

Meanwhile this paddler came up on the tide this morning which is a bit of a novelty as there has been very little activity through the winter with most of that period being in lockdown.

Our lockdown restrictions start being eased in the next few weeks as part of the government "Roadmap to recovery".

With half the adult population now vaccinated and hospital admissions plummeting the first easing of restrictions was schools going back at the beginning of March.

All being well we return to the "Rule of six" outdoors on 12th June. No indoor mixing of households. All shops will re-open. Serving and consuming of food outdoors will be permitted.

From 17th May we can go to restaurants and pubs indoors and stay in hotels or B&B's. Rule of six or two households still applies.

The big one is 21st June. No legal limits on social contact. Larger events. And no legal limits on all life events.

At the moment I don't think anyone quite believes it, although we are learning how to add things to our diary again. So far one day trip arranged, two tables booked in May for restaurants and one night away booked for May.

So if being up the creek without a paddle is bad news, I can only assume that being up the creek with two oars is great news.

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